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Off Topic: Is Bridesburg in the Northeast?

As a followup question when I asked Jack McCarthy whether Frankford was in the Northeast, I asked him whether Bridesburg was in the Northeast too.   Here’s what he said:

Bridesburg is an interesting – and confusing – case. Originally, there was a sharp bend in Frankford Creek as it approached Bridesburg, so that Bridesburg was positioned south of the Creek and thus technically not part of the NE. However, the area at the bend was prone to heavy flooding and in the 1950s the Creek was straightened out so that it ran directly to the Delaware River without bending. Since then, Bridesburg has been north of the Creek and so could be considered within the boundaries of NE Phila.

If you consult that City Planning Commission publication, however, you will see that they don’t include Bridesburg in NE, but include it in a Bridesburg/Richmond/Kensington district.

Many people do consider Bridesburg part of the NE and technically it should be considered as such, but you could also make an argument that historically it was not part of the NE and that the City Planning Commission does not consider it in the NE.

I’m about 100% sure that anyone with a real estate interest in Bridesburg would consider themselves to be a river ward and not want to be associated with the Northeast.  I know the crew over on the Pridesburg forum like to consider themselves an island unto themselves.

Full disclosure: My father (and this site’s founder) grew up in Bridesburg, and I’m sure will chime in.

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Is Frankford In Northeast Philly?

Does it matter if Frankford is in Northeast Philly?  If I had my way, Frankford would always be in the same conversation as Kensington, our neighbor to along the El.  I always have the same line that I use when talking about Frankford’s future.  “I don’t mind Frankford being compared to Kensington, ’cause there’s hope in Kensington”.  Kensington’s a dirty word in Northeast Philly but elsewhere I would say most people consider it to be gentrifying.  The rest of the Northeast, however, seems to be scared that they’re in a long, slow decline.  What I don’t like to see is when Frankford gets thrown into the abyss of “North Philly”.  That’s not awesome at all.

So I asked Jack McCarthy, former famed archivist for the Historical Society of Frankford, and winner of Northeast Philly Quizzo over at the Grey Lodge many months ago.  This was his response:

I would say that there is more or less consensus that the southern boundary of NE Phila is the Frankford Creek/Tacony Creek. (Coming out of Cheltenham it’s Tacony Creek, and becomes Frankford Creek at the point where Wingohocking Creek, which is no longer there, emptied into it.) This was the southern border of the old Oxford Township in Philadelphia County before the 1854 City/County Consolidation.

The Phila City Planning Commission calls the area between Frankford/Tacony Creek and Pennypack Creek the “Near Northeast” and the area between Pennypack and Poquessing Creeks the “Far Northeast.” See the following:

The borders of Frankford are a different matter. Frankford was a borough from 1800 to 1854; it had its own government and specific boundaries, with Frankford Creek being its southern boundary. The boundaries were actually changed a couple of times in the early 1800s and then the borough was abolished in the 1854 consolidation. Frankford then became w
hat it is now – just a neighborhood of Philadelphia.

More clues to bolster our case:

  • The Center for Northeast History has been run out of the Historical Society of Frankford’s building
  • I heard that the venerable historian and former Lincoln High principal Harry Silcox put Frankford in the first chapter of one of his books(someone fact check this for me)
  • Wikipedia puts Frankford in Northeast Philly

I would go so far as to say that the consensus is the southern border of Northeast Philadelphia is the Frankford Creek.  And that puts Frankford in Northeast Philly.

Many apologies to Jack McCarthy for just totally taking a nap on this post.  I emailed him for his opinion back in April and am just getting around to this post.

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Jack McCarthy to Resign from Historical Society of Frankford

It was reported by that Jack McCarthy will resign as Archivist from the Historical Society of Frankford within a month. 

We have also heard that Debbie Klak former President of the Historical Society of Frankford will once again take a seat on the board.  More information on these changes may be available at the next meeting of the society on Tuesday April 13th at 7:30 p.m.

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Herman Blum, Blumhaven And Craftex Mills

I started out not knowing too much of Herman Blum.  In fact, I thought his name was Henry.  But an intrepid reader not only figured out that 4651 Leiper Street’s given name is Blumhaven, but they also turned up more interesting information on him and his house.

We aren’t the only ones interested in Herman Blum and Blumhaven.  Karen Stevens, an archivist with Independence National Historical Park asked a question about “the Blumhaven Library in the Frankford section of Philadelphia” on Temple’s Delaware Valley Archivist Group last December 2007.  Now I don’t know a whole lot of about Frankford’s history but I have a good grasp on where all the brick and mortar stuff is and was, and there’s no Blumhaven Library.  But it turns out the Historical Society of Frankford’s own archivist, Jack McCarthey, knew what was what.  He told Ms Stevens:

The Blumhaven Library no longer exists. It was Herman Blum’s rare book and
manuscript collection, which was donated to the PHMC and is now Manuscript
Group MG-169 at the PA State Archives. Herman Blum was a textile executive
and manuscript collector who lived in Frankford. The Library was in his
house which still stands.

I found a listing of the documents he turned over, it’s pretty impressive.  He had property deeds signed by William Penn himself.  Blum himself corresponded with Pierre DuPont.  He’s got James Buchanan writing to all sorts of people, Stephen Girard, and a bunch of other guys that end up in Wikipedia, he had original deeds signed by William Penn.  All of this stuff in what had to have been one mean looking library in that house.

So how’d he earn that house money?  Mr Blum(1885 – 1973) who lived some 88 years, bought his jacquard mill, located in Kensington at  1806 Venango Street, in 1923.  He turned it into Craftex Mills.  Suprisingly, Craftex still exists, and it looks like he still has descendants on the payroll with Robert and Terry Blum listed as executives with the company.  The mill has since moved from Kensington but the building still exists according to which has the whole story of it’s operation.

Mr Blum seemed to leave quite a legacy to his profession, and I might say was a little bit of Renaissance man.  He was a trustee of the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Sciences.  He wrote the three books about looms and textiles.  And just for good measure he banged another book out about William Penn with information he gleamed from his private library collection.  He must have been a riot at parties.

[link] Craftex Mills entry at Workshop of the World

[link] Books By Herman Bloom at Library Thing

[link] Blumhaven library’s collection list at the state archives

The information in this post was compiled with the help of Debbie Klak, current member and former president of the Historical Society of Frankford.  Sources include the archives of the historical society and her recollections.

HSF collects, preserves and presents the history of Northeast Philadelphia and the region. Recognizing the neighborhood of Frankford as the historic and geographic gateway to the region, HSF documents and interprets the history of the people, places, events and traditions of the greater Northeast Philadelphia area and serves as an advocate for the preservation of the region’s historic resources. Through its collections and programs HSF provides opportunities for its members, the surrounding community, and the general public to explore and appreciate the history of Northeast Philadelphia and its place in the world. Check out other posts in our series here.