Places in Time: Project 1: Anna Blinn and Claire Mahler

The Corner


The two pictures below, one a photograph taken in 1854, the other a picture drawn retrospectively in 1861 after the buildings had been demolished, exemplify the structures’ forms on the northwest corner of 4th and Arch streets as they stood in 1854. The buildings are of mixed use with stores on the bottom floor and dwellings on the upper floors. Through the next 150 years, this corner evolved from a mixed use of commercial/dwelling to mixed commercial/manufacturing occupancy and finally to an establishment dedicated solely to manufacturing. We begin the story here, at this building, #401`Arch St:

(Views of the Northwest corner of Fourth and Arch Streets. Left view: Taylor "Views of Old Philadelphia," Winterthur Library, dated 1856. Right View: Anonymous photo of corner taken in 1854, from collections at the Free Library of Philadelpha.)

C.A. Brown and his cheap books

Taylor's representation of the corner of 4th and Arch streets depicts a quaint shop on the corner. A sign at the base of the hipped roof advertises to the traffic passing down Arch Street; one can make out the text, "C. A. BROWN & CO. CHEAP BOOK STORE." A search in the McElroy's Philadelphia Directory for 1850 shows that Charles Brown is a bookseller who lives at 1 Budd Ct. Brown's business is listed as, "BROWN C. A. & CO., booksellers, N W 4th and Mulberry," the exact location depicted in Taylor's print (for a description of how the name street name changed from Mulberry to Arch, see the Surrounding City section) This information tells us that C. A. Brown himself did not live above his shop, but at a 1 Budd Ct. It is likely that Brown rented out the top story of his shop as a residence based on the general trend of mixed-use dwellings at that time. (In an article about the block from the Jane Campbell Collection at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP), the author makes reference to "hatters, skin dressers, bakers, a brass founder, boarding houses, school teachers and a hair dresser, as well as a physician" who were "residents" on the block, suggesting mixed-use buildings. (See The Block section for more about the block as a whole.)

C.A. Brown's business had a fluid history. Unlisted in 1830, the bookshop first appears in the McElroy's directory in 1847 at 36 N. 6th St. At that time, Charles Brown lived at 14 Girard. According to the directory, Brown previously lived at the NW corner of 5th and Mulberry and was a bookseller, but the location of the business is not mentioned (McElroy's 1844). Both the owner and the store moved again by 1850 to 1 Budd Ct and N W 4th and Mulberry, respectively. This location reflects Taylor's print, mentioned above. In 1855, Brown moved to 6 Marshall St. but the bookstore remains on 4th and Arch. Notice the change in name from Mulberry to Arch. This data reinforces another account which was found in the Campbell Collection that discussed the changing name of the street circa 1853. The records indicate that in 1857 Charles Brown lived at the same Marshall St. address but the business on 4th and Arch now belonged to an E. Ketterlinus who lived at 204 N. 6th street. In 1858 Brown moved his home yet again, this time down the street to 312 Marshall St.

We were unable to find the date the building depicted above at 401 Arch was built. Fire insurance records of older buildings are often a great way to learn the dates when the building was built, who owned it at the time, what kind of function it had and what its construction materials were. There were no fire insurance records available for the C.A. Brown building.

However, a fire insurance record issued by Franklin does exist in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP) dated from October 26, 1855 for a five story iron and brick building occupied by a store and printing office owned and built by Eugene Ketterlinus. The fire insurance record states that the building had dimensions of 43 ft. on Arch St. and 64 ft. on 4th St and was insured for $3000. This record verifies that Ketterlinus built a relatively large building in 1855 on the spot where C.A. Brown's bulding stood the year before, meaning that C.A. Brown’s Cheap Book would have had to have been demolished almost immediately after the photograph was taken in 1854.

But where does Taylor’s sketch fit into all of this? The folio of Taylor’s prints held at Winterthur is identified as “Taylor Sketchbook, 1861.” This folio contains 57 sketches completed by the artist between April and October of 1861. The sketch of the NW corner of 4th and Arch is assumed to be drawn in the same time period at the rest of the portfolio. This means it would have been drawn from a photograph- mostly likely the one above, taken in 1854 since their vantage points are nearly identical. This photograph is one of the earliest of the city and is in the Free Library’s holdings. It has been reprinted in a book by Robert F. Looney entitled Old Philadelphia in Early Photographs: 1839-1914 (New York: Published in cooperation with the Free Library of Philadelphia by Dover Publications, 1976).

Even though it is likely Taylor made this drawing from the photograph, it is unclear why he would have dated it 1856 (date at the bottom right corner of sketch). The photograph was dated 1854 but based on the fire insurance record for Ketterlinus’s building one can prove that the buildings depicted in Taylor’s sketch were already torn down by the year 1856.

Given that most of Taylor’s sketches were drawn of extant buildings, why would he have chosen this corner, whose buildings had been torn down to make way for the Ketterlinus building? One theory is nostalgia. The change from C.A. Brown’s two-and-a-half story "Cheap Book Store" to Ketterlinus’s five story store and printing factory was drastic. Ketterlinus’s building was the first building on this block to reach five or even four stories. Perhaps when Taylor found or was given the 1854 photograph, he realized how abruptly the building had been torn down after the photograph was taken and wanted to memorialize the vanishing era that the two-and-a-half story, hipped-roof buildings represented.


The Ketterlinus Era

The first "Ketterlinus Printing House" was built in 1855 according to the fire insurance record found at HSP. We know from this record that this original building was five stories and built of iron and brick. We see this building in the panorama from 1870 (pictured on the main page) and also in an advertisement for Ketterlinus's business here. This advertisement was found in the Philadephia Historical Commission's records on the 400 block of Arch St. Interestingly, this image of the Ketterlinus building is from the same vantage point as the 1854 photograph of C.A. Brown's building and Taylor's print.

In an excerpt from the 1860 Hexamer and Locher fire insurance map to the right, we can see that the building at 401 is marked with an unfilled dot, meaning it is a mixed-use commercial and manufacturing building. From the 1855 fire insurance record, we know that the first floor of the Ketterlinus building was occupied by a store, while the upper floors were printing rooms.

This Ketterlinus building stood for fifty years until 1905 when a new building was built. In an excerpt from the 1958 Sanborn Map to the left, we can see that the foot print of the original Ketterlinus building (app. 43 ft. on Arch St. and 64 ft. on 4th St.) was replaced in 1905 and later expanded to the rear and to the left in 1921. The Ketterlinus building that was built in 1905 was constructed out of reinforced concrete. A newspaper clipping from the Campbell Collection in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's scrapbook collection states that the Ketterlinus Building was the "largest reinforced concrete structure in Philadelphia" (pg 130, Jane Campbell Collection v.1, HSP)

(Both of these map excerpts were digitized from the map collections at the Free Library of Philadelphia. To see the whole 4th and Arch St. block of either of these maps and maps dating from 1885, 1896, 1901, 1908, 1921, 1939 and 2004, go to the Maps Supplement.)


Ketterlinus gives way to manufacturing of another sort

In the 1960's the Ketterlinus Printing House was demolished, along with all the other buildings on the block (see The Block) to make way for the U.S. Mint constructed in 1966-67. The Phiadelphia Mint was then and still is today the largest manufacturer of coins in the world. Together with the Denver Mint, 28 billion coins are produced a year. To learn more about the history of the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia and its locations around the city prior to 4th and Arch streets, see The Block section. (Information and photograph gathered from "History of the United States Mint" at http://www.usmint.gov)

(Note that this photograph is taken looking at the western edge of the Mint on 4th St., which is its "front" side.)


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The Block

The Surrounding City

Maps Supplement