The Hoopes Mansion
In 2015 the house at the northeast corner of 18th and Spring Garden was sold by an owner who had been there for almost 100 years. Prior to this owner, the house had been built by the nuts and bolts king of Philadelphia in 1878, and then owned by the pavement king of Philadelphia. Here is its history.
1733 Spring Garden Street in 1900.
Barton Hoopes was born on a farm near West Chester in 1827. In 1849 he established a machine shop in Wilmington, Delaware, and in 1852 he relocated to Philadelphia, on the east side of Broad at Buttonwood Street. In partnership with S. Sharpless Townsend, he manufactured mainly nuts, bolts, washers, wood screws, and rivets, but also boilers and iron work for bridges. An 1868 trompe l'oeil advertisement for the factory is below.
In 1872 Hoopes bought the block from 17th to 18th Streets and from Spring Garden to Brandywine Streets. He sold off most of the block in residential parcels, including 1701 Spring Garden where chocolatier Stephen F. Whitman lived, and 1717 where John B. Stetson built a still-standing mansion. He kept the property at the northeast corner of 18th and Spring Garden, and in 1878 he built a massive four-story mansion on this lot. Mahogany, stained glass, marble sinks, three fireplaces, and richly tiled floors marked the interior. Including the carriage house, it had 7,567 square feet. Barton's partner, Samuel Sharpless Townsend, lived a few blocks away at 1723 Wallace Street. Townsend died in 1877, and Barton himself retired a few years later. Hoopes sold his house at 1733 Spring Garden Street in 1879 to one Elizabeth Downing, and moved 5 blocks north to the southwest corner of North Street and 18th (now the site of the Spring Garden community garden plots), where he died in 1895.
In 1852 Hoopes & Townsend moved to Broad and Buttonwood Street, on the east side of Broad, across from the Baldwin Locomotive Works. The factory expanded to ten times its original size by the time of Hoopes' death in 1895.
The display at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Fairmount Park.
The house passed through two more owners before being purchased in 1900 by Ludwig Spang Filbert MD. Born in 1825 in Bucks County, Filbert graduated from the Pennsylvania Medical College in 1848, practiced medicine locally, and retired in 1870. He established the Vulcanite Paving Company in 1871 with an office at 1902 Green Street. He had developed a method to vulcanize coal tar and asphaltum for the purpose of paving. His company paved many, some say most, of the streets in Philadelphia and regionally, as well as doing sidewalk work and waterproofing of roofs.
The avuncular Ludwig S. Filbert in 1905.
Rumors that Filbert Street is named for him are incorrect. Filbert Street, like most east-west streets, is named for the tree and antedated the American Revolution.
Filbert's business expanded nationally and in 1894 he built a new office at 1710-12 Market Street. The simple but powerful name on the building reveals Filbert as a fan of either Roman mythology or Star Trek. This building stood for 34 years before being torn down to build a planned massive post office, which ultimately ended up being built at 30th and Market, leaving a surface parking lot on Market Street for 37 years. More...
Photo from 1898 of the bridge on Broad Street over the Callowhill Cut being paved with Vulcanite asphalt. Baldwin Locomotive Works is on the left. Hoopes and Townsend is just out of the frame on the right. Around 1898 Belgian block was replacing cobblestone as street pavement, but Broad Street was paved with asphalt since 1894.
Filbert died in 1903, and his family sold the house to the Russian Brotherhood Organization (RBO) in 1922. The RBO was set up in July 1900 by a group of immigrant Russian coal miners in upstate Pennsylvania in order to pay sick or death benefits, since fringe benefits were rare in the early coal industry. The organization still exists as a non-profit fraternal benefit society , geared towards insurance and scholarships for children of members. In 1922 the carriage house facing Brandywine Street became the home of the presses for the nationally distributed Russian language newspaper, Pravda. "Pravda" means "truth" and this paper was not affiliated with today's Pravda in Russia. As a side note, the Russian Orthodox Church discussed in these pages also moved nearby in 1957.
Plaque on the front of 1733 Spring Garden Street in 2019.
Ad from the 1930s
The RBO Carriage House Apartments at 1732 Brandywine Street in 2019, across the enclosed courtyard from the main home. This building was the former home of Pravda.
The RBO moved to Yardley in 2015 and the building with carriage house, then advertised with 12 bedrooms, five baths, and a walled-in courtyard, was sold to an entity called 1733 Spring Garden LLC. The current occupant of the basement, first floor, and rear of the second floor of the main building is Our House Montessori, while the upper two floors in the main building and the entire carriage house are designed as apartments. Extensive renovations including a commercial kitchen and modern safety features were completed before the school opened.
Stone-framed window on west side of the main building. For more interior views of the house before the April 2015 purchase for $1.6 million, see here.
In Philadelphia today there are some remnants, besides the house, of the former inhabitants at 1733 Spring Garden Street. The Hoopes remnant is large, and the Filbert remnants are small and underfoot.
This is a view looking northeast from the southwest corner of Broad and Noble Streets in 1894. Notice that the rail line along Pennsylvania Avenue had not been put underground yet in 1894, as talked about in the article on the Callowhill Cut. The leftmost rail car in the photo would now be where the rail car at the start of the Rail Park (Phase I) is standing. The Hoopes and Townsend wall sign on the building in the distance is on the building that still stands at the northwest corner of 13th and Noble Streets, with the Cafe Lift on the ground floor. Some of the western wall of this building has been replaced by a panel of modern windows. This building sits just behind you when you face the "You are Here" mark on the historical panel at the start of the Rail Park, and on that panel the reproduction of the 1910 Bromley map shows the site of Hoopes and Townsend.
If you walk up 19th Street between Spring Garden Street and Green Street, you will see the three brass markers pictured below encased in the sidewalk on either side of the street. There were multiple sidewalk finishes as noted by the markers.
West side of 19th between Brandywine and Green Streets
East side of 19th between Spring Garden and Brandywine.
East side of 19th between Brandywine and Green Streets
Sidewalk marker in front of 2112 Green Street
Vulcanite Paving Co
1710 Market St. Phil
Considering the average lifespan of a sidewalk is 34 years, most of these medallions were probably carefully preserved when the older sidewalks were replaced.
There is one other paving plaque in the neighborhood, a competitor's, at 421 North 20th Street.
The modest gravestone, befitting of a child of Quaker parents, of Barton Hoopes in West Laurel Hill Cemetery.
The somewhat less modest family plot of Ludwig Filbert in West Laurel Hill Cemetery.
This marker is embedded in the sidewalk leading up to Filbert's gravesite obelisk
One last word (or letters) about Barton Hoopes.
These symbols are seen on the stone window lintels around most of the windows at 1733 Spring Garden Street. Do those lateral symbols look like the letter B, and the central symbol like the letter H, as in Barton Hoopes?
And one last word about filberts.
At the southeast entrance of Matthias Baldwin Park there is a pink granite plaque commemorating the artist Athena Tacha, who designed the Park. It is seldom noticed, embraced as it is by the crooked limbs of a contorted filbert, or hazelnut, bush, a plant commonly known as Harry Lauder's Walking Stick. The plaque matches the plaque embedded in the wall on the west side of the Park.
authored by Joe Walsh, July 2019