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

II. Narrative of the Project

The original scope of work written for this project asked that the chain of ownership be reconstructed for the properties on the north side of the 500 block of Market Street, and that owner's names be checked to identify any occupants with particular historical significance. In addition, the project was charged to locate any available images of the north side of the block that pre-dated the photographic record that begins circa 1850. Any materials pertinent to nearby areas under the control of Indenpendence National Historical Park were to be noted for future research, but the research for this project was to concentrate on the north side of the 500 block.

The scope of work was later expanded to include the south side of the 500 block of Market Street as well. Additional funds were appropriated, and an assistant secured for one month to provide some of the extra labor needed for the increased scope of work. No additional time could be alloted to the work, and so some detail and thoroughness had to be foregone in order to get a usable amount of information on both sides of the block.

The project benefitted substantially from research information provided by Professor Jeff Cohen at Bryn Mawr College. Cohen made available to us a database of insurance surveys made for the Pennsylvania and the Franklin Fire Insurance companies, and we found numerous properties located on the 500 block of Market Street, as well as several for properties on the back alleys. Doris Fanelli, from the Cultural Resources Office, agreed in return to make our findings available to Dr. Cohen for incorporation into his database.

Originals of the insurance surveys are housed at the HSP, and my assistant, David Wolfe, and I read them there. Much later I learned that reproducible microfilm copies could be made at the Park offices. As a result, some insurace surveys are presented only through our notes, while others are included in facsimile copies. Researchers can, however, secure additional facsimile copies as needed, from the Park colletion.

In addition to insurance surveys, Wolfe and I researched original warrants and patents at the HSP to determine the first European owners of the land that became the 500 block of Market St. We also studied some private papers and correspondence involving owners whose names we could document, but that proved a largely fruitless avenue of research and was abandoned. City Directories provided additional information about owners and the trades pursued in various buildings on the block.

The Pennsylvania Gazette on CD-ROM, which we were able to use courtesty of the University of Pennsylvania, was a major resource for the project. The Gazette helped to identify the timing of the first development on the block, and also the sorts of trades pursued on the block. A number of references to the block could not be located precisely, since the early residents of the city did not use a numbering system, but rather referred to properties in terms of nearby landmarks. This was a disadvantage in some cases, but a signal advantage in others, when it allowed us to locate several additional occupants at once as soon as we could locate one member of the neighbor group. It also introduced us to the term Hudson's Square, and confirmed the existence (though not the location) of the first, temporary, home of the Pennsylvania Hospital on the block. Copies of articles or entries in the Gazette are included in the materials provided to the Park with this report.

We turned to the Free Library of Philadelphia for help with maps and street numbers, and in locating images, and found satisfactory though not numerous materials there. Several of the maps are included in the appendix attached to this report. We also did considerable research in land surveys at the City Archives. City Archives further provided us with the 1841 tax lists, which helped to identify owners all around the block. Earlier tax lists proved substantially useless, since no addresses were noted for any taxable persons, nor was any predictable order of listing detected.

Finally, we contacted the Library Company and the Atheneum for assistance in tracking down images. The Atheneum had nothing in its own collection, but referred us to several helpful resources at the HSP. The Library Company had images which we had found elsewhere.

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