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"Emlenton" to Mantua

The Life of Everly's Estate After His Death


1872
1878
1886

1895
1916
Present ( Google maps)

By 1916 every regular and irregular corner of Mantua, was filled with one of Philadelphias famous brownstone row houses: over a hundred and forty separate lots took the place of Everlys country estate (Sanborn 1916). The details and lives of every house and the many residents are beyond the scope of this project, but a single surviving 1893 Fire Insurance survey of one of them, that at 601 North Thirty-Third Street, the southwest corner of Everlys original property, gives the impression of a firmly middle class, comfortable home. To read the full survey, including a plan of the house, click here.

But as the city continued to grow, the fortunes of West Philadelphia began to decline. The 1916 Sanborn map (above left) shows a prosperous area of 10-25 year old houses, all single family dwellings replacing Everlys once-suburban country seat; but by 1951 (above right), many of these had been converted to apartment buildings (Sanborn 1951). Today the area of Mantua is considered to be West Philadelphia's area of greatest need, and it is described by the city as a large blighted area containing many hundreds of vacant lots (Philadelphia City Planning Commission [C]). Many of these buildings are no longer standing, and many others are in need of repair.


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City leaders had plans for the development of West Philadelphia for some time, and this is evidenced by the 1848 Sidney map. The area was dubbed Mantua after the Italian city, perhaps in an effort to inspire images of country ease and stateliness; this would prove to be a goal thwarted by its own success as that area and all of West Philadelphia began to be crowded by those seeking relief from the crowds of center city. This name was applied before 1845, when A Strangers Guide to the Public Buildings, Institutions, and other Objects Worthy of Attention in the City of Philadelphia and its Environs describes the area as a Beautiful Little Village (Appleton 1845 p. 110), but one containing no other sites worthy of comment.

By Everlys death in 1865, changes in the geography and demography of the city were already well underway. The city had, by that time, expanded to include all the townships of the County, including Blockley, the township where Emlenton was located. The city grew in many more ways than this, and from its population of 120,000 in 1850, the city became the second largest in the country by 1860 with more than half a million residents (US Census Bureau).

The Hopkins 1872 map at left shows the land much as Everly left it. The west side of the northwest of Everlys three blocks was apparently subdivided before his death, and has a few houses on it. But already by the 1878 Scott map, just six years later, this land is entirely taken up by row houses.

Throughout this time, Everlys lots sat vacant, but their potential was obvious to investors. As soon as the time limit of fifteen years after the death of his wife has expired in 1885, Everlys heirs sold the property for the high price of $90,000 to a speculative investor named Howard Watkins (Deed Book GGP 103). The Baist map of 1886 (below) already depicts houses being built along Haverford Road and parts of Thirty-Second Streets. Evidently, Mr. Watkins wasted no time in developing the land.