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Detail from an 1808 map of Philadelphia and its vicinity by John Hills. Courtesy of PhilaGeoHistory.

The 1854 Act of Consolidation was passed by the Pennsylvania General Assembly to incorporate all of the townships, districts, and boroughs located in the greater Philadelphia County into the City of Philadelphia. As a result, districts like Southwark, which had operated under independent municipalities, officially became governed by the city. To further these efforts, additional legislation was passed to provide uniform names for smaller streets that span across neighborhoods. This list contains some of the alleys, streets, and courtyards in Southwark that were renamed as part of this remapping project.

American: Baltic Pl. (N. from Catharine, W. of 2nd), Barron…

“Look up,” said the stranger. The colonial building was a shadow of its former self. Windows were removed, doors were relocated, machine-milled brick obscured its facade. A developer wanted to tear it down. It was practically demolished, he claimed. Nothing left of historic value. I feared he was right. But, as suggested, I directed my gaze upward. A thick layer of netting covered the roof. It was torn in a few places. Wind rustled the tattered fabric revealing a pristine, decorative cornice. If I hadn’t looked up, I would have missed it.

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Lavinia Sheed’s great-grandfather walked the streets of Philadelphia when the city was relatively new and sparsely populated. “Georg Schied,” born 1694 in Württemberg (Germany),¹ is likely the same “George Sheed” who appears in the 1717 city tax records. His status as an “admitted freeman” suggests that his arrival was negotiated through an indentured servitude agreement. In the early 18th century, George was known for creating highly-styled wigs for the fashionistas of the city. His store on Front and Gilbert (Elfreth’s Alley) was a popular destination for those seeking “light and grey hair” hairpieces.²

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Illustration of an 18th century wig maker. Lavinia Sheed’s great grandfather was a well-known wig maker in early Philadelphia.

Lavinia’s grandfather William (born 1720) initially joined…

Clapboard, frame, or “stick” houses, which used wood for exterior siding, were built in abundance by early colonial settlers. However, due to their flammable nature, the city of Philadelphia outlawed the construction of wood buildings in 1796. The Southwark District, located south of the city, acted as a separate municipality. Despite the elevated risk of fire, frame houses continued to be built in Southwark until the district was merged with the city in 1854. Perhaps this difference in zoning laws accounts for the many historic and reconstructed wooden gems present in South Philadelphia today. …

The property located on the northeast corner of 2nd and Bainbridge Streets in Philadelphia contains a stamp or engraving in the cornice that says “1926 S. GRITZ.” It has long been a topic of curiosity of nearby neighbors. Who installed this signage and what does it mean?

From 2007 to 2018, the building located at 627–629 S. 2nd Street was home to The Irish Times, a destination known for the “perfect pint of Guinness” and an ideal place to watch a sports game. In the early 2000s, another bar called The Black Door briefly occupied the space, as did the…

American theater dates back to the colonies. The first theater was built in Williamsburg in 1716. By 1750, the liberal cities of New York and Philadelphia dominated the scene, though as was the case throughout puritanical America, attempts to stage plays were often met with protest. The show, as they say, must go on and so it did in Southwark where theater was shaped and protected.

Protests raged outside Plumsted’s “theater” when Lewis Hallam Jr. stepped on the stage with his family in 1754. Hallam’s Company had recently arrived in Philadelphia and were generally regarded to be the city’s first…

For almost three hundred years, the eastern edge of the Southwark District in Philadelphia was a nexus of commerce and domesticity. Direct access to the river offered trades such as merchants, ship captains, joiners, and sail makers ample employment opportunities. Other residents supported the economy by working in myriad occupations such as tailors, tavern keepers, blacksmiths, and coopers.

Only a few remnants remain from this bustling time in this neighborhood’s history. In the 1960s, preparation for the construction of I-95 began with the demolition of hundreds of buildings along the Front Street corridor in Southwark. Gloria Dei (Old Swedes’) Church

Amy Grant

Writer, researcher, host of the podcast “Great Talks at Gloria Dei.”

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