The first of Taylor’s watercolors is that of two buildings on Spruce Street between 2nd and 3rd Streets.  Close examination of the watercolor reveals that the house at the far right of the picture is No. 230, and house No. 228 is immediately to the left.  Both houses have shops at street level, and presumably dwelling areas upstairs. 

At the time of Taylor’s watercolor, 230 Spruce Street was owned by James E. Brown and his wife, Elizabeth.  Though the deed conveying the house to Mr. Brown is of poor quality and difficult to read, it is believed that he purchased the house in 1857 for the sum of $175.    Mr. Brown’s profession is given as “Gentleman” on the deed.  As the Philadelphia City directories for 1861 do not show a listing for James E. Brown on Spruce Street, it is believed that the Browns rented the property, and lived elsewhere in the city.  The sign on the shop at No. 230 displays a boot, suggesting that perhaps Mr. Brown let the space to a cobbler.

Deed records for 228 Spruce Street indicate that this property was also owned by the Brown family during the time of Taylor’s watercolor.  An August 13, 1850 deed conveyed this property from Thomas Stewart to Elizabeth Brown, his daughter.  The property was then bequeathed to Mrs. Brown’s seven children in 1875.   Click Here to Continue

In 1865, 230 Spruce Street was purchased from James Brown by John Quinn, a Dairy Man, for the sum of $355.  An1866 Philadelphia City Directory confirms that Mr. Quinn lived at this residence.   The house remained in the Quinn family until 1907 when it was sold to Joseph Carson Hetherington.  Mr. Hetherington owned 230 Spruce Street until 1913, when it was sold to Nathaniel O’Connell.  Nothing could be found about the property between 1913 and the late 1950s, when deed records reveal it was acquired by the Redevelopment Agency of the City of Philadelphia.  

No. 228 Spruce Street remained in the Brown family until 1884 when it was purchased by John Quinn, then owner of 230 Spruce Street.   Unfortunately, historical records reviewed for 228 Spruce Street reveal little about the property after 1884.  Nothing more is known about the house until it met the same fate of its neighbor, 230 Spruce Street, and was acquired by the Philadelphia Redevelopment Agency in the late 1950s.

A January 1957 photo of the south side of Spruce Street (obtained from the Historical Commission of the City of Philadelphia) and a 1956 Sanborn map (obtained from the Philadelphia Free Library) demonstrate that both properties had changed considerably since Taylor painted the buildings nearly 100 years earlier.  By 1957, 228 Spruce Street was used only as a dwelling, and while it continued to be a two story structure with a dormer window, the masonry material appears to be a more modern-looking cut block, suggesting the original structure was demolished or substantially transformed at some point along the way.

The 1957 photo shows 230 Spruce Street as a three story structure with what appears to be a business on the bottom floor.  Its heavily altered appearance suggests that this structure was also demolished or significantly modified during the preceding century.

The urban renewal that swept through Society Hill in the early 1960s brought much change to the neighborhood.  For 228-230 Spruce Street, 1960s redevelopment meant that the buildings would be restored to a form that more closely resembled their appearance in Taylor’s 19th century drawing.  While both properties no longer retain their mixed use function, a 2005 photo of the properties shows that the structures look substantially similar to those in 1861. 

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