From Taylor's sketchbook, 1861. The caption reads, "West side of Schuylkill opposite Fairmount April 17 1861."
King Hotel
chain of title
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.

City Directories from 1860 list a few addresses for the King Hotel, the most likely found in Boyd's Philadelphia City Business Directory, reading "King, Jeremiah, Fairmount Locks, W P". This address fits the description given in the caption to Taylor's watercolor and gives a good explanation as to why there would be a boat and stone retaining wall in front of the hotel in Taylor's sketch. The locks were located near the downriver end of a strip of land that ran along the west side of the Schuylkill River and met the dam at its upriver end, which can be seen in the map below.

The highlighted area shows the locks and a few buildings that could have been the site of the King Hotel. (Shown courtesy of the Free Library of Philadelphia. A portion of the Plan of the city of Philadelphia and adjoining districts, originally drawn by W. Allen, and revised by E.J. Roberts in 1838. The highlighting has been added.)

The dam still exists today and connects to the Philadelphia Waterworks as it did then. The locks and short canal were probably constructed at the same time as the dam to allow boats to pass the dam and travel upriver on the Schuylkill. Locks are a series of enclosed sections of canal that are stepped to allow boats to pass between two bodies of water at different levels. Although the image below is not of the Fairmount Locks, it can give a basic understanding of the structure of locks.

The plan of the locks at Lockport.

In 1867 the Fairmount Parks Commission was created, and in 1868, Jeremiah King and his wife, Anne, deeded the land to the City of Philadelphia to be "...maintained forever as an open public park..."(found at Philadelphia City Archives in the Philadelphia Deed Book recorded by J.T.O. 1866-69. Book 299, Page 149)

Jeremiah King's name appears on Franklin Fire Insurance Policy number 20359, dated September 22, 1865. The policy gives detailed written descriptions of the buildings on his property, including floor plans, "Of a Three Story Stone Hotel and Dwelling House with a One and a half Story Frame Kitchen attached, and a Three Story Stone Stable standing 19 feet in the rear of the main Building, and Situate on the Bank of Schuylkill River, above the Wire Bridge, near the Locks, in Mantua Village, Philadelphia County. $2000 Insured on the Hotel and Kitchen, & $1500 on the Stable." (Historical Society of Pennsylvania)

The historical society of Pennsylvania has in their collection an etching by Augustus Kollmer of a building that may have become the King Hotel. The engraving shows the locks in front of a building that appears to be a country house. There are two sets of parallel locks, with the western most lock covered by a structure. A tow path or more likely, a road, is cut out of the bank between the locks and house. A man and two horses pause on the road to watch the scene as a full boat passes through the gates and the lock tender holds them open for him. Two men fish off the lock wall into the basin below, and in the distance the Schuylkill River meanders through green hills. The setting in this etching seems to be more pastoral than what is seen in Taylor's sketch. No date is given on Kollmer's etching, but because of the lack of development, it seems that it must have been from an earlier time than the Taylor renderings. (Hardings on Schuylkill by Augustus Kollmer No.5 series Ba 61 k 834d)

The land where the hotel stood is now occupied by the Schuylkill Expressway, Martin Luther King Drive (formerly West River Drive), and a small strip of land with a few trees on the edge of the Schuylkill River.

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

A history of the land ownership can be seen in the "Brief of Title" found in the Fairmount Park records at the Philadelphia City Archives (Box A971). The chain of title lists deed holders as far back as William Penn.

The "Brief of Title" gives a chronological list of owners for this plot of land from the City of Philadelphia to Jeremiah King and all the way back to William Penn. (Found in the Fairmount Park records at the Philadelphia City Archives, Box A971.)