Poor House Lane (West Rittenhouse Street)
Perkins Collection (Compiled by Helen C. Perkins, 1900-1909), volume 62, pages 60-61
Historical Society of Pennsylvania

Newsclipping dated November 13, 1903, with a woodcut of the "Old Poor House" (to view the same image see Perkins, vol. 62, p. 59):

"A Pen Picture Of Old Poor House Lane Fifty Years Ago
Ancient Thoroughfare at One Time the Place of Residence of Many Old-Time Citizens of Prominence.
Men and Things in the Days When 12 1/2-Cent Applejack Was to Be Found in Every Well-Kept Household.
No. 1 By 'Uncle Peter'"

"A recent tramp back old historic Poor House lane, now known as west Rittenhouse street, gave the writer much pleasure and revived pleasant recollections of the past half century. What a transformation here! Most of this tract was once owned by Adam Hogermoad, who built a house on this old thoroughfare, and other improvements followed his venture. The old familiar landmarks standing on the corner have interesting histories.

"The Old Keyser Mansion

"The fine old Keyser house was built by John Smith, who occupied the same until his death, which occurred in May, 1849. Mr. Smith was a highly respected, old-time gentleman, and conducted the smith business adjoining the mansion. This pretty home, with a large strip of land on Rittenhouse street filled with fine old fruit trees, was purchased by Daniel L. Keyser, a descendant of our early settlers.....he passed away in 1884. The family still occupy this famous old landmark.

"The upper corner was for many years owned and occupied by John Rittenhouse, a descendant of the old Rittenhouse family. Here Mr. Rittenhouse, who was an old-time gentleman, a school director, and prominent in all good works, conducted the grocery business, with his good brother, known as 'Uncle Sammy.' as general manager. Here many of the prominent citizens would congregate to discuss the affairs of State, etc.

"Old-Time Applejack a Cure-All

"At this famous old country store one could buy almost everything, from a pound of nails to a gallon of 'pure old applejack'...sold for medicinal purposes only...'Uncle Sammy' was proud of his butter closet, which contained a fine supply of the best country brands, and each customer tested this luxury before purchasing.

"All the Rittenhouse children were born on this historic corner, and with two exceptions all the members of this good old-time family are numbered with the dead. The old corner is transformed into a business centre, while in the rear is the place to get your flour, potatoes, etc., kept by our old friend Hobson...

"Honey Run and Old Pump Yard
"The first sewer built in Germantown was on this old thoroughfare, running from Main street to that famous stream, Honey Run. The builder was 'Uncle Sammy' Collom, who was the principal contractor in old Germantown. On the bank of Honey Run stood the buildings used by the Germantown Gas Company. They are still standing, but are utilized for other purposes. I almost imagine I can see 'Pop' Pullinger, Jesse Trout, 'Sammy' Rittenhouse and other lesser lights running the 'machine.' Nearly all the employees of the old Gas Office have 'handed in their checks.'

"But what of the old pump yard in the adjoining meadow? Pump making was quite an industry, but when the Germantown Water Company gave us a good supply of spring water from the big well back of Tulpehocken street the demand for pumps declined. Everybody had a pump as well as a pig, but even the pig industry had its 'set-back.' Then came a big supply of pure water, free from 'germs,' from the 'unpolluted Schuylkill,' and the pumps 'went up,' as did Fenton, 'Uncle Solomon and other pump experts, and on the site of the old pump yard business places were established, even including a carriage factory.

"The town being in need of a hall, 'Uncle Joe' Ladley purchased some of the Keyser tract and erected a hall, which for years supplied the want. Part of the building was utilized for business purposes. The building still stands as a monument of the past.

"The Old Spring House

"Every youngster who attended the old Rittenhouse Public School knew 'Uncle Dan' Stroupe, who occupied the famous old spring cottage for many years. Here was one of the finest springs in the town, and passersby invariably stopped to refresh themselves with its sparkling water or a glass of 'spruce beer.' The old spring cottage...is no more.

"The Old Poor House

"Adjoining the spring stood the famous old Poor House. Old Germantown was always noted for its care of the poor. The first Board of Managers to secure a home for the poor and unfortunate was organized in 1807. A big farm was subsequently purchased on what became known as Poor House lane, or Rittenhouse street, and suitable buildings were erected and soon ready for business. Additional buildings became a necessity, and a frame cholera house was established near Greene street.

"For a number of years the cellar of the big house was used as cells, or prison, and here the lawless would be imprisoned, Constables Somers, Kulp, Stroupe and Rittenhouse being in charge. We had a Burgess, too. George Hergesheimer filled this position, while men like Messrs. Reaver, Thomas, King, Good and others were the 'Squires, the title being changed later to Magistrate.

"Beat your wife, get drunk and call your neighbor 'pet names,' and 'down in the cellar' you would go. Even the old Hand-in-Hand Fire Company boys, who once paid old Germantown an early Sunday morning visit and decked the 'machine' with flowers, found themselves prisoners in the old poor house yard, with the wood- pile for seats.

"'Uncle Josh' and "Aunt Sucky'

"The inmates of the poor house were put to work on the farm, each one doing something. A few interesting characters were part of the colony. Well do I remember old 'Josh' Butcher parading through the big yard yelling 'damn,' and 'Aunt Sucky' Boyer wearing a Joseph coat garb, and a glory bag containing rags and papers on her head. 'Sucky,' like old 'Josh,' was unbalanced, but harmless...

"The colony of the unfortunates outgrew the quarters, the tract was sold and is now filled with residences, stores and a colored Baptist Church.

"In 1871 the fine new home further back took the place of the old one, of which I will have something to say later on [see the second part of this series], not forgetting Saur-kraut alley, the Rittenhouse Public School, the Dutch Meeting and numerous other historic places near the Wissahickon."

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