Thursday, July 2, 2009

This is a blog about the history of Powelton Village in Philadelphia. Powelton offers one of the finest collections of Victorian homes anywhere. It was developed as a residential area between about 1860 and 1910 and, therefore, includes examples of all of the major Victorian styles including Italianate, Second Empire, Queen Ann, and Colonial Revival. A basic introduction to the area is available through the web sites of the Powelton Village Civic Association (PVCA- and the University City District (

My main interest is the architecture and social history of the area. During its first 50 years, Powelton included many industrialists and businessmen who helped make Philadelphia a major industrial city of the nineteenth century. However, it was shaped by a strong ethic of social consciousness fostered by many Quakers who helped develop the area. Combine this with the architecture, the trees and gardens in a nineteenth century trolley-car suburb and you have an interesting social/historical mix.

The blog is a supplement to a series of articles I have written for the PVCA’s month newsletter, the Powelton Post. (I hope to make those available on-line soon.) It will be made up of small historical facts about the neighborhood and the neighbors that I dig up as I careen around the internet in search of insights into Powelton’s past. Most of the facts and many of the people I write about are, at best, of little historic note. However, it is the lives of these numerous individuals and their interactions that are the fabric of local history.

The blog will concentrate on the years up to about 1930 which are covered by the censuses and directories available through and other sites. Many original sources from that period are also available on-line from Google Books and other sources. The past fifty-plus years have been equally fascinating – filled with urban pioneers, war protests, communes, slow redevelopment, the near death and resurrection of Drexel University, and numerous Philadelphia-style Tales of the City. However, I will leave most of that to others to document.

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