Home

 


Neighborhood Economic Conditions

A few blocks to the north of Almond Street is Dock Street. During the latter part of the 18th Century, Stephens's Philadelphia Directory for 1796 and Stafford's Philadelphia Directory for 1798 give evidence of gentlemen, physicians and schoolmistresses living there side by side. Almond Street was, like Dock Street, home to sea captains, mariners and ship's carpenters. However, rather than the gentlemen and schoolmistresses found living side by side on Dock Street, neighbors on Almond Street included laborers, merchants, tradesmen and others involved in the more gritty aspects of the shipping trade.

By the 19th Century, industrialization had begun to take root in Philadelphia. According to Gopsill's Philadelphia City Directory for 1890, jobs on the wharf were still important, but the sea captains along the street had been replaced by foremen, machinists, pressmen and laborers, giving evidence to the area's decline on the economic scale. With the passage of time and introduction of industry to the area, Southwark had become firmly working class.

The maps below show that by the latter part of the 19th century the blocks between Front Street and the river were becoming crowded with heavy industry and the warehouses that served the factories as well as the waterfront shipping industry. The broad view on the left illustrates that by the late 19th century, factories had replaced many of the homes along the river between Delaware Avenue and Swanson Street, while the block to the west remained residential. The detail map on the right is from a slightly later date and shows the sugar refinery along Almond Street. Other products manufactured in the surrounding blocks included cigars, paper boxes, wool and leather goods.


Click maps to enlarge.

Left: Image showing the blocks between Delaware Avenue and 3rd Street reproduced from City Atlas of Philadelphia by Wards (Philadelphia, C.M. Hopkins, 1875) Vol. 6, Plate A.
Right: Image showing the blocks between Delaware Avenue and Front Street reproduced from Atlas of the City of Philadelphia (Philadelphia, G.W. Bromley & Co., 1887) Vol. 1, Plate E.

By the 1910's Almond Street had been renamed Kenilworth and the docks nearby continued to serve local industries. The images below show the docks as they were during that time. Note the sugar refinery complex and the smoke rising into the air over Southwark.

Left: Image reproduced from Philadelphia City Archives collection, Folder #524. Caption reads: "Site of new pier #30 South, Kenilworth St. Feb. 20, 1919. Negative #436."
Right: Image reproduced from Philadelphia City Archives collection, Folder #524. Caption reads: "Old Piers #30 & 32 South Delaware Wharves: Negative #203. Site of New Pier #30, Kenilworth Street looking north, Delaware Avenue, Jan 8, 1917.
"

It was likely the case in the 19th century that most of the residents of Southwark were transient laborers, though that is difficult to determine without a thorough review of city directories and census data. Clear evidence is available, however, in the records of the 1920 US Federal Population Census that working residents along Kenilworth Street rented the rooms in which they lived. In fact, records indicate that only two homes of 36 between Front and 2nd Streets on Kenilworth were owned by single families with no lodgers. Residents were primarily employed as laborers in the local factories and warehouses as well as along the wharves or ship yard.

The 1950's photos below give further evidence to the industrial context surrounding the street at the time. They show little change in the riverfront's economic fortunes in the years leading up to the introduction of I95.

Top Left: Image reproduced from Philadelphia City Archives collection, Folder #524, August 1950. Caption reads: "SW Corner of Swanson & Kenilworth Street, E. wall."
Lower Right: Image reproduced from Philadelphia City Archives collection, Folder #524, August 1950. Caption reads: "N. on Swanson Street from Catharine Street."