The South Side of Market Street 700s Block

During the 1770s, the nation's history was forged (literally) on the 700s block of Market Street, for it was here that Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence in 1776 (Jackson 202). Jefferson, when asked where in Philadelphia he wrote the Declaration, said that "[...] house was on the south side of Market Street, probably between 7th and 8th streets, and if not the only house on that part of the street, I am sure there were few others near it" (Jackson 204). Though not certain of the location, he did in fact write the Declaration between 7th and 8th Street. Jefferson's first-hand description of the area illustrates it as being on the outskirts of the city. Jefferson remembered the block accurately, for when the 1785 Philadelphia City Directory came out nine years after Jefferson's visit, it listed only six residents on the block (Jackson 209). Benjamin Shoemaker, who inhabited 726 Market Street according to the 1791 City Directory, is listed as living on Market Street between 7th and 8th Street in the 1785 Directory. Thus, it is likely that the first buildings on the site of the Kirschbaum Building were constructed during the 1780s.

As the 1795 City Directory lists residents based on address, one can examine the occupations of those who lived between 7th and 8th Streets. In 1795, several merchants, a banker, a shopkeeper, and an attorney resided on the 700s block. In 1791, Governor Mifflin lived on the site of today's 718 (Jackson 210). Thus, in the late eighteenth century, the houses between 7th and 8th Street on Market belonged to wealthy people. In a newspaper article from the Campbell Collection, available at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Jackson writes that, "[...] it will be understood that this must have been regarded as an eligible and even fashionable quarter in which to live" (Campbell Collection 95). The 1795 directory does not list residents beyond 278 Market Street, which stood between 8th and 9th Streets. Even in 1795, this area of Market Street still marked the outskirts of Philadelphia. Though largely residential in the late eighteenth century, the buildings on the block also served as places of business. In 1795 the Pennsylvania Land Office was located at 720 Market Street, while in 1801 Benjamin Chew used 728 Market Street as both his office and winter home (Jackson 211). Also, the building on the site of 736 Market Street functioned as a pottery between the years 1791 and 1801 (Jackson 213). Buildings on this block, therefore, have always been tied, at least in part, to commerce. Samuel H. Williams furthered the trend towards commercial buildings on the block when he founded his business at 726 Market Street in 1804 (Pennsylvania Historical Review 123). Market sheds, which ran along the center of Market Street, were extended from 6th Street out to 8th Street along the middle of Market Street in 1816 (Campbell Collection 101). This extension solidified the 700s block as a center for commercial activity. The 1860 Hexamer and Locher Fire Insurance Atlas helps to illustrate the block as a commercial center.

Image 1: 1860 Hexamer and Locher Fire Insurance Atlas

The building that occupied 722 and 724 Market Street is colored in blue and thus served solely as a warehouse or place of manufacturing. The surrounding buildings, in pink, had commercial and residential functions. As seen in the atlas, some lots had small buildings at the rear of the property. Colored in blue, and in some instances labeled, these buildings acted as workshops. In terms of mixed functions on the block, the 1887 Hexamer & Son Fire Insurance Atlas shows that only one property on the block served as a residential space. Architecturally, 726 and 728 Market Street were of average height on their block, as most buildings had three-and-a-half story fronts. In 1860, however, the buildings on either side of 726 and 728 were taller, five-story buildings. The 1891 construction of the Kirschbaum Building changed the nature of the block architecturally. While the buildings on 726 and 728 Market Street once stood below their neighboring buildings, after 1891 they stood four stories higher. The 1896 Hexamer & Son Fire Insurance Survey lists the sizes of the surrounding buildings.

Image 2: 1896 Hexamer & Son Fire Insurance Atlas

When comparing the buildings on particular lots between the 1860 and 1896 Hexamer atlases, one notices a clear upward trend: the majority of the buildings increased by at least one story. The vertical increase in size came with increased commerce. As the history of 728 Market Street clearly shows, commercial forces were shaping the buildings. The 1896 atlas shows a company located in each building on the block. Interestingly, in the 1896 atlas the Clothing S. Cutting Company occupied all of the buildings between 714 and 728, as the properties in between the Clothing S. Cutting buildings are not labeled. The 1905 Hexamer & Son atlas does not show further vertical changes on the block, and next to the nine-story Kirschbaum Building the tallest structure was six stories.

Image 3: 1905 Hexamer & Son Fire Insurance Atlas

Image 4: A photograph from the Philadelphia City Archives, c1912 (the Kirschbaum Building is tallest building on the right side of the photograph excluding the Gimbel Brothers building)

Commercially, Clothing S. Cutting lost its monopoly of buildings on the block and only owned 712 and 718 Market Street. Further vertical shifts on the block do not occur until the 1915-20 Hexamer Atlas, which indicates a seven-story building at 710 and 712/714 Market Street. This atlas does not name the companies located on the properties, though it does show a subway stairwell in front of 730 Market Street. Thus, the west end of the block was connected to the subway between 1905 and 1915. The Sanborn Atlases, like the 1915-20 Hexamer, do not make reference to the companies located in the buildings, but they show that the buildings on the block changed little between 1915-20 and the 2004 Sanborn Atlas.

Image 5: 2004 Sanborn Fire Insurance Atlas

Modern views of the surrounding buildings help to show their continued commercial functions.

Image 6: 2005 view of the 700s block (712/4, 716, 718, 720)

Image 7: 2005 view of the 700s block (712/4, 716, 718, 720, 722/4)

Image 8: 2005 view of the 700s block

Image 9: 2005 view of the 700s block (the Kirschbaum Building is the tallest in the image)

As noted on the 2004 Sanborn Atlas, the buildings likely have offices above the first floor. Also, since the buildings have changed little since 1915-20, these contemporary photographs shows what one would have seen ninety years ago. This can be accomplished by making note of the buildings and their relative sizes in the images and then comparing them to the depictions fire insurance atlases.



Philadelphia City Directories and Jane Campbell Collection available at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania

From the Campbell Collection,

Jackson, Joseph. Public Ledger - Philadelphia, Sunday Morning, October 25 1914, and Public Ledger - Philadelphia, Sunday Morning, November 22, 1914. From the Jane Campbell Collection, pp. 94-99 and 101, at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Philadelphia City Directories are also available at Haverford College Special Collections

Fire Insurance Atlases are available at the Free Library of Philadelphia

Jackson, Joseph. America's Most Historic Highway: Market Street, Philadelphia. Philadelphia: Wanamaker, 1926.

Pennsylvania Historical Review: Gazetteer, Post-Office, Express, and Telegraph Guide. City of Philadelphia. Leading Merchants and Manufacturers. Philadelphia: Historical Publishing Company, 1886.

Image 4 taken from Philadelphia City Archives

Images 6-9 taken by MG; see below for contact information


Last revised on 20 March 2006, MG Feedback