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

The Surrounding City

At the time that the northwest corner of 4th and Arch streets, as well as the whole block, were developing taller buildings and more of a manufacturing focus, the city around it was changing. 4th and Arch was on the outer edge of the city during the 17th and 18th centuries. As the commerical focus began to shift away from the Delaware waterfront in the 19th century, 4th and Arch became more centralized in the city. In the 20th century, the block took on a different role in the city as it was torn down and replaced with the U.S. Mint.

The map on right is Philadelphia: The Town of 1770-1780. In this map, 4th and Mulberry (which later became Arch, see below) is located in the Mulberry Ward. Appletree Alley, an alley that in later maps run to the back of our block, is not pictured here. Located near our block is the "Presbyterian Cemetery" referring to Zion Church, whose church building was located on the east side of 4th and Arch, and "The College" referring to the school that would eventually become The University of Pennsylvania. (Map taken from Salinger, Sharon B. "Spaces, inside and outside, in 18th century Philadelphia." Journal of Interdisciplinary History, v.26, no.1: Summer 1995)


The early years

The 401 block of Arch St. was at one time on the edge of Philadelphia; it was once the location of philanthropic institutions such as the University of Pennsylvania and church cemeteries (the Christ Church cemetery is still located on the south side of Arch streets between 4th and 5th). But throughout the last two and half centuries it was surrounded by not only influential buildings but also was the site of historic events.

In 1799 Fourth St. was the procession route for George Washington's funeral, which was held in Zion Church, located on the east side of Fourth at Arch St. Up until this this time George Washington had been president of the United States living in Philadelphia, the capital at that time. The president's house in Philadelphia was on High St.

From 1751 to 1801 an educational institution called The College, Academy and Charity School was located south of Arch St. on Fourth. The "College" moved to an independent location on 9th Street in 1801 and eventaully became known as the University of Pennsylvania. The provost of the College, Academy and Charity School in 1801 moved his residency from a building adjacent to the school to a row house on our block at 139 Arch St (later renumbered to be 411 Arch St.).

(Information found in the Jane Campbell Collection in v. 1, located at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and the University Archives and Records Center University of Pennsylvania at http://www.archives.upenn.edu/histy/features/campuses/campus1.html.)

In her article, "Spaces, inside and outside, in Eighteenth-Century Philadelphia," Sharon V. Salinger analyzes data from the "Philadelphia Contributionship for the Insuring of Houses From Loss by Fire." The 401 block of Arch fell within the so-called Mulberry ward. Finding that "the smallest and least valuable houses were found in [the Mulberry ward]" (Salinger, 19), one can then conclude that occupations within the ward produced lower average incomes than in many other parts of the city. Perhaps this decrease in overall funding and therefore space can be attributed to the fact that "female heads of householdclustered...either in Mulberry or North wards" (Salinger, 27). Although the Contributionship data provided does not provide information unique to the 401 block of Arch Street, we do have evidence that one woman, Elizabeth Ketterlinus (Smith 1921 map, see the Maps Supplement), owned a property within the block. From these two pieces of documentation one may conjecture that earlier in the block's history--before it became predominantly commercial-- women posed as heads of household for a significant portion of the block.

The street changes names: Mulberry to Arch

Cities evolve like living organisms, changing size and shape and form. Along with growth, abandonment and regrowth of already settled areas present interesting use patterns through time. Though never abandoned, Arch street did undergo a transformation of name. From early records, one can trace the street name to "Holmes." William Penn subsequently altered the nomenclature to Mulberry (for reasons unknown). At one point, a bridge spanned a portion of the street allowing barges to transport items for sale to the center of the city. This arched bridge prompted to refer to the street colloquially as "Arch." Ironically, the removal of the bridge preceded the official change in street name. Similarly, High Street changed to Market only to have its market stalls removed soon thereafter in order to accommodate rail lines down the thoroughfare. Other such alterations include Pole changing to Walnut Street and Sassafras to Race.

(Information culled from "HOW ARCH STREET GOT ITS NAME: Originally Called Holmes and Mulberry, Presence of a Bridge Caused Change of Title.")


A Note about the 20th Century

As The Block and The Corner sections of this web site discuss, the 401 block of Arch St. was demolished in the 1960's. It should also be noted that one block to the east, on Arch St. between 5th and 6th, similar demolition occured in order to create Independence Mall. These block demolitions were part of a larger plan to restore Old City Philadelphia as a monumental, tourist attraction within the city. The Mint building situated on Independence Mall today is similar to the large buildings that line the National Mall in Washinton D.C.


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