Occupation and Use of the 500 block of Market Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1680-1850:

An Historic Resource Study conducted for Independence National Historical Park

Sharon Ann Holt, Ph.D
Research Associate of the Philadelphia Center for Early American Studies
University of Pennsylvania

August, 1997

III. User's Guide to the Findings

The materials we have discovered are organized for the Park's use, in so far as possible, by modern property addresses. Thus all information about ownership and use, copies of insurance surveys, and articles from the PA Gazette, that refer to 532 Market St., to its former numbers, or to any of its historical occupants, is collected in the folder marked "532 Market." Notations are also included indicating where Market St. owners might also have owned other properties on the back alleys or on the numbered streets. It is hoped that this system will assist archeologists in finding ready reference to historical materials.

There are some drawbacks to the system, however. Addresses on both sides of the block changed often and unpredictably, so some judgments had to be made about exact places. The old numbering system changed more idiosyncratically on the south side, which was slower to fill in than the north side, and lots on the north side tended to be distinctive, allowing reliable correlation of lots and lot holders from insurance descriptions. Lots on the south side were far more uniform, seven or eight of them having identical dimensions, which made assignment of ownership rather chancy. The current assignments are made according to my very best judgment, but errors are certainly possible, and the archeology may show them to be present. The problem was most severe on the side and back streets where it was all but impossible to determine reliable modern addresses. There is, therefore, a folder each for 5th and 6th streets, as well as folders for Minor St. (which became modern Ludlow), South alley (which became Commerce and then Filbert St.), and North alley (modern Cuthbert St.). I did mark the block maps with the modern addresses of the side and backlot properties, and refer to them by these numbers in the lists of property owners appended to this report, but this attribution should be used with caution. Though the lots stayed quite stable, making the dimensions reliable, and the names of the persons occupying the block are quite reliable as well, there is no warrant for assuming that the numbers remained the same.

Any material that we could not confidently attach to a particular address is filed in general folders. Material that clearly refers to the north or south side of the block, but to several addresses or to an unknown location, is filed under "North side, general" or "South side, general" as appropriate. In keeping with our charge from the Park, we did not pursue detailed information about properties north of North alley(Cuthbert) on the north side of the block. What we found that is relevant to properties between North alley and Arch (or Mulberry) St. is filed with "North side, general." Material that refers to both sides of the block, and material for which neither address nor side of the street can be confirmed, is filed under "Block, general." Also in the "general" folders are research notes about patent holders, pencil-drawn maps based on the land surveys, materials involving the patent holders, and blank scale maps of each block.

Several folders of images are also included, divided into "19th-century, pre-1850," "19th-century, post-1850," and "20th century." Maps of the block are collected in the folder labeled "Maps, both sides." The source of each image or map is noted on the image itself, including the repository where we found it. There are also two special topics folders, one on patent holder William Hudson and another for the material we found on the Pennsylvania Hospital.

A folder labeled, "Notable Resident Biographies" contains copies of the entries from the Dictionary of National Biography for eleven men who made substantial marks in national, state, or local history. Copies of these biographies are also filed with the relevant properties (or streets, depending), so that they can be found either at the appropriate location or as collected.

The maps folder contains several maps we made to reconstruct property sizes and locations. The drawings are based on property lines contained in a city map of 1814, at the City Archives. They are drawn to rough scale. For the south side, patent holdings are superimposed on later property boundaries in one map. For both sides there is a map indicating the modern addresses associated with each property. These should be used in conjunction with the lists of property owners provided in the appendices. It will also be useful to refer to the pencilled (not to scale) maps in the "general" folders for each side of the street, in order to confirm ownership, and also to identify alleys, and other small features that came and went as the block developed. Note that several privies have been identified in the records and can be located on the block. There are two on the north side: one circa 1810 between 5 and 7 N. 6th (the properties of Stephen North and Mary Donaldson), and another circa 1793 in the triangle formed by 15 and 17 N. 6th and 527 Commerce St. There is one circa 1762 on the south side as well, at 500 Market. These are all circled on the address maps, and noted on the pencil maps.4 Researchers may find it most useful to browse through the entire collection of material before trying to track particular inquiries. We hope also, though, that this arrangement of material will make it possible readily and satisfactorily to answer the specific questions of archeologists and designers.

[Narrative of the project] << [User's guide to the findings] >> [Reconstruction of and commentary on the history of the block]
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