Harding Hotel

From Taylor's sketchbook, 1861. The caption reads,
"Harding Hotel over wire Bridge Torn down 1869 April 1861."

The Harding Hotel was located on the southwest corner of Bridge and 30th streets, on the west side of the Wire Bridge. This location can be seen in the 1862 map below.

The highlighted area shows the Harding Hotel and Tavern. (From Smedley's Atlas of the City of Philadelphia, Samuel L. Smedley, 1862. The highlighting has been added.)

This map offers some clues as to the identities of the other buildings in Taylor's drawing. Following 30th Street south from the Harding building, the other buildings on the street are labeles "Rifle Factory," and "Montezuma Hotel." Business directories from 1860 didn't have any entries that matched either of these names.

The land inhabited by the Harding Hotel was once part of the Harding Estate. According to the first deed on record when the estate was partitioned off, the Harding Hotel land was composed of lots 18, 21, 22, and 23 in the plan of partitions.

The land was willed to Hannah S. Lear (formerly Hannah S. Harding) in September of 1862. The connection between the Lears and the Hardings can be varified through the marriage registers in the Philadelphia city archives. John Lear, in the place of his wife, transferred the deed to a John Ubrick in October of 1868, and one month later Ubrick sold the land to the Pennsylvania Railroad. The railroad sold the land in 1955. It is difficult to determine whom this particular lot was sold to. The Pennsylvania Railroad sold several chunks of land at this time, using longitudes and latitudes instead of addresses in their deeds, which makes it difficult to know which lots were affected. Thus, we are unsure if the land was sold to the city of Philadelphia, Mutual life insurance, or the Firestone Tire Company.
(City Archives, Registry Office, Title Registration Sheets 1865-1956)

A photograph of the area as it appeared in 1910. The caption reads, "Western approach of Fairmount Bridge, showing five levels of traffic: two levels of surface railroad track; upper and lower deck of Fairmount bridge; and elevated freight track over upper deck of Fairmount bridge." By this time it had become a highly industrialized area. (Fairmount Bridge Images pp.12 &13. Philadelphia, Published by City Government Vol II, No.5 May 1910)

It was suprisingly difficult to trace what Harding estate the land came from. There was no deed prior to 1862 on file with the city, and the grantor and grantee files did not yield anything of use. We finally created a list of every Harding that died between the years of 1699 and 1862 that left a will. Unfortunately, due to timing issues it was not possible to acquire a copy of the wills to see if any reference was made to this particular piece of land . To find copies of these wills in order to complete the chain of title, the following names and will numbers should be searched:

Harding, Nathanial 1699.208

Harding, Miles 1727.62

Harding, Margret 1796.335

Harding, Maria 1857.196

Harding, Richard 1859.291

Richard Harding seems a likely match, since an insurance policy for the tavern was issued to a Richard Harding September 8th, 1843 through the Pennsylvania Fire Insurance Company. Policy number 4542 describes the insured building as a "Two story stone building occupied as a dwelling home and tavern situated on the West side of Schuylkill near the Callowhill Street Bridge at the South West corner of Bridgewater Street and Bridge Street." The policy goes on to give detailed descriptions of the building's fabric, including a rough floor plan that shows an entry hall with a bar room to the right and two rooms to the left, each with a fireplace. The stairs are at the end of the entry, and in the rear, behind the barroom is a room that measures 22x33 ft . The insurance was listed at $2000.

(From Pennsylvania Fire Insurance Co., Policy #4542. Cropped .)

The general location of the Harding Hotel in today's landscape can be seen in the image below.

The arrow points to the approximate location of the Harding Hotel. (Map from Google Earth. Arrow has been added.)

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Project research and web design by Christina Burris, Charu Chaudhry, and Amila Ferron.

For Jeff Cohen, HSPV 600, Program in Historic Preservation, School of Design, University of Pennsylvania.

For educational purposes only.