(all maps are oriented with north at the top of the map - the south side of the block is highlighted in each map for identification)
By the late 1700s, Philadelphia was growing into the largest city in the United States. A population that first lined the Delaware River to the east
slowly began to
drift westwards in search of space. By 1796, John Hill's map shows the 800-block of Arch St being on the cusp of development; there were only a couple of buildings
present, and it is unclear whether they were outbuildings for other structures or independent dwellings.
Jumping ahead sixty years, one can see that Arch St no longer was on the cusp - that had swept by long before. The block was entirely built up with row houses
independent dwellings. Arch St had become a major commercial district by this point, lined with prominent shop fronts. Side streets were equally developed but with
more variety in building size, indicating a greater mix of uses on these streets. Often times, shop owners on Arch St lived nearby on these adjacent streets.
The Hexamer insurance maps continue in 1896 to give a clear picture of prospering commercial activity on Arch St. The variety of colors indicates more
and industrial intensions for certain parcels, as opposed to the mixed residential/commercial use that was prevalent before. The block at this point was starting to change
from small-scale shops into larger stores with greater storage or fabrication capacity. This map also gives the first indication that parcels were being combined into larger
While the Smith gives a slightly less detailed view from the Hexamer maps, it nonetheless shows the continued consolidation of parcels into larger commercial
Millinery and department stores were becoming the norm for the block, pushing out the specialty stores in which the 800-block initially thrived. Also, one can see how many
parcels were often owned by the same family and connected internally.
The Franklin Insurance map continues where the Smith map left off; the block was still highly commercially developed, leaving no room for private residences.
consolidation of property seems to have halted after World War I...
By 1959, the block had undergone only a few changes. Multiple adjacent parcels continued to be held by the same owner, and some more consolidation of
parcels is apparent
on the east corner of the block. What the map doesn't show directly is the economic downturn this commercial district was suffering in the wake of city-wide suburban exodus.
The most obvious change by 1967 was the addition of Strawbridge and Clothier's department store, a sprawling complex that extended south and crossed 8th Street.
flight had finally caught up to the block's architectural fabric, resulting in the razing of pre-existing structures that had either been abandoned or allowed to fall derelict. The
north side of Arch St showed the first 'missing tooth' of the block, which the south side continued to insist on ownership of each parcel, if not inhabitation.
By 2004, the destruction was complete -- the entire block, save for Strawbridge's parking garage, had been razed. Without funds or city-wide interest, the government
not save any of the parcels left derelict or abandoned for so long. And this is how the block stands today, more barren today than it was found originally.
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