Before the arrival of European settlers, the Lenni Lenape
Indians inhabited the Delaware Valley region. The explorer Henry Hudson,
in 1609, was the first European to set foot in this region, and based on
his findings these Indians were considered to be the first inhabitants of
the area. The Delaware Indians also lived in this area and received their
name by the English, after the Delaware River.
In 1683 land was bought west of the Delaware River from
the Indians and named New Sweden by the Swedes. These people lived with
the Indians on very friendly terms. By 1645 the Swedes had expanded to the
Northeast section of Philadelphia and in 1647 the Dutch came. It was not
until the 1680's when the English came with William Penn that the area was
actually developed. After 1750, Germans then settled in the area,
particularly in Bridesburg and Frankford.
The Holme's Map of the Province of Pennsylvania (1681)
identifiies the names of the original purchasers of land from William
Penn. There were four principle landowners of the area that would become
know as Bridesburg. They were Messers. Erik Cock, William Sabray, George
Forman and Mouns Cock.
Bridesburg and Oxford (Frankford) was the site of a number
of Indian Villages. In what would someday become the Northeast section of
Philadelphia, the Indians used the area mainly for hunting and
agricultural purposes. They lived in an advanced Stone Age culture, making
pottery and growing corn and tobacco. They lived in bark shelters, grouped
together in villages, which housed all the members of their large
families. Numerous arrowheads and bones have been discovered in the hills
of Frankford, providing evidence of the Indian Village that once
The Village of Bridesburg was originally called Point No Point. The name being given in consequence of the changes in the appearance of the point by the approaches on the Delaware River. When first seen going northward it appeared to be a point, boldly jutting out into the stream and upon coming nearer, it lost its character and seemed to be an ordinary portion of the right bank; on further approach it seemed to again jut out into a point.
The village name was shortened to The Point and at the
close of the Revolution was again changed to Kirkbridesburg, named for
Joseph Kirkbride, for many years the largest landowner here. About one
hundred and forty years ago the people of the village decided the name was
too long, so Bridesburg was adopted.
The first road was known as Point No Point Road, listed on
Scull and Heap's Map1750, showing all roads, ferries and taverns
around Philadelphia. It began at Second and Vine, continuing very nearly
the same direction as Richmond Street of today. The terminus was at Parr's
Tavern, at the junction of the Frankford Creek and the Delaware River, a
distance of six miles.
As the settlement spread along the Delaware it did not
extend far inland and the river was the great and only thoroughfare for a
number of years. The first steamboat ever seen on the Delaware, or in
world, was built by John Fitch and first tried July 20, 1786. The first
regular steamboat service for passengers was inaugurated June 14, 1790,
from Arch Street ferry every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, price 2
shilling, 6 pence.
The original name of Frankford Creek was "Tankanny" and was given by the Indians. Tacony was derived from this word. The first bridge in this section was erected in 1701 near Frankford over the Frankford Creek. Shortly afterwards a bridge was built over Gunners Run near the Delaware over which the Point Road passed to Point No Point. The name the Indians gave to this run was Tumanaranaming. This creek, located south of Bridesburg is now sewered and gone forever.
The Revolutionary War period
With the coming of the Revolutionary War in 1776 and the eventual capture by General Howe, his staff lost no opportunity in locating the best country places, to be entertained to their satisfaction. They visited Frankford and used the Port Royal House located at what is now Frankford Avenue and Orthodox St.
From there they came to Bridesburg, then a peaceful little
village on the Delaware. During the winter of 1777 and spring of
1778 they used Holly Hall, a mansion located at Richmond and
Orthodox Streets, as their headquarters. Holly Hall was quite famous and
was built about 1767. The old mansion was torn down eventually in 1906 and
the ground was turned into a park, named Neugent Park, which was enjoyed
by Bridesburg residents of that time.
Perhaps the most historic association with our community
and the Revolution was the home of General Daniel Morgan, the famous
rifleman of Washington's army. His home was just south of Buckius Street,
facing on Richmond Street, known as "Giltback Grove." In 1664, the
Bridesburg Orphan Asylum was established there by the German Reformed
The oldest house in Bridesburg located on the corner of Richmond Street and Wheatsheaf Lane, the old Wheatsheaf Tavern of 1747, is among the historic inns of early colonial fame. The tavern was the most famous on the old Point Road and hundreds of weary travelers were kindly received to its fireplaces.
In 1943, the building was bought by its present occupants from a Mr. Smith. Before that, the old Wheatsheaf Tavern was used at various times as an inn, a dancehall, and a candy store. In 1944 it became a grocery store and the venerable old edifice served in that capacity until 1975, when it became a residential home.
About 1800 Joseph Kirkbride became the proprietor of a
ferry over the Frankford Creek. On March 20, 1811 the Legislature gave him
the right to build a bridge and receive toll for passage. On April 1, 1833
the County of Philadelphia bought the Kirkbride bridge and two and a half
acres of land annexed for $5500.
The Industrial Community
The Bridesburg Manufacturing Co
In 1810 Alfred Jenks, having learned from Mr. Samuel
Slater all that was then known of Cotton machinery, established at
Holmesburg the first regular manufacture of cotton machinery. Mr. Jenks in
181920 moved to Bridesburg and commenced the manufacture of woolen
machinery. In 1630 Mr. Jenks invented the power loom for weaving checks
and introduced it into the Kempton mill at Manayunk. With his son Barton
H. Jenks one of the most ingenious of American inventors, he established
the Bridesburg Manufacturing Co., the most outstanding manufacturing
concern here for three generations. In its best days four to five hundred
men were employed. During the Civil War muskets were manufactured and
newspapers list Mr. Jenks as a contributor of thousands to war distressed
The Lenning Chemical Works
Nicholas Lennig and Co. (begun in 1819) in 1831
established the Tacony Chemical Works at Richmond and Ann Streets in Port
Richmond. The firm was Nicholas the father and Charles the son. Nicholas
died in 1835 and Charles associated himself with Frederick Lennig, his
cousin, the firm remaining Nicholas Lennig and Co. until 1859 when it
changed to C.F. Lennig and so remained until 1863, when Frederick died and
Charles Lennig became sole proprietor.
In 1842 Charles and Frederick Lennig purchased twentyseven acres of ground at the junction of the Frankford Creek and the Delaware River for $8,000. In some of the deeds and titles, the Frankford Creek is referred to as'"Quassinneamink Creek". More land was added to the site in 1846, the moving of the manufacturing facilities from Port Richmond did not start until 1847. By 1851, the Port Richmond plant was abandoned.
The Lennig Company was awarded a medal at the Centennial
Exposition in 1876 "for the products exhibited coming from the
distillation of wood, for metallic salts and especially for the careful
manufacture of sulphate of alumina and alum".
In 1864 Charles Lennig acquired the property on the
northeast corner of Richmond and Bridge Streets and resided there until
1871. From that time, until 1913, the house was occupied by his son, John,
who managed the factory. The Lennig mansion has since been torn down and
now the site is used as an employee parking lot for Rohm and Haas
Rohm and Haas Company
Just before the depression of 1921, Rohm and Haas Company
purchased the stock from the estate of the late John B. Lennig, who had
directed in his will that the stock be sold. Rohm and Haas Company added
numerous parcels of property from time to time, the major acquisitions
being the following:
In 1930 the plant was expanded to the south and west by
the purchase of the former Moorhouse property along the Frankford Creek
near Bridge Street. About 1940, the old Peter Cooper Glue Works onthe
east side of Richmond Street, south of Kennedy Street, was purchased. The
gatehouse was then moved from Kennedy Street south to Brill
Development of the riverfront property progressed with the
purchase of the Warner property from Bridge Street to Reynolds Street in
1958, the Smythe Mahogany tract between Reynolds Street and Jenks Street
in 1962, and the Foerderer tract from Jenks Street to Buckius Street in
The main intersection at Bridge and Richmond Streets was
formerly the site of many structures. A movie theater, The Elm, occupied
the northwest corner was closed as a result of the 1929 depression. The
property was purchased by Rohm and Haas and converted to a company
gymnasium in 1942 and finally dismantled in 1967 A property on the
southwest corner was purchased by the company in 1928 and used as a
clubhouse until razed in 1964.
A portion of an old powerhouse now known as Building 5, a
part of an old Muriatic Plant now a part of Building 3 and an old steam
driven fire pump house known as Building 50 are the oldest known
structures in the plant. The pumphouse dates back to 1882.
Construction over the past ten years has totaled approximately 50 million dollars. Employment just about doubled from 1938 to 1944 when it reached approximately 1200 people. The figure in 1960 was just under 2500 employees. For 1975 the figure was 1670 people, of which 185 employees live in the Bridesburg area.
In addition to contributions and programs, which are sponsored on a corporate basis through the Philadelphia headquarters, the Bridesburg Plant makes various contributions to the Bridesburg community groups and its members are active in local civic organizations.
Philadelphia / Coppers Coke Companies
(To be written)
(To be written)
Bridesburg was the location of several important properties, some of which still exist today. For example:
The Reynolds estate, which was located where the Recreation Center now stands, was a part of the very flourishing farm of Herbert Reynolds, who owned much of the land here preceding the Civil War period. The old Reynolds farm house also must be included in these remarks concerning the old days. It was torn down in 1916, after which the land was used as a park.
The large single home at the head of Richmond and Jenks
Streets was built during the Civil War. For many years it was the
residence of the Devlin family and the office of Dr. Lawrence Devlin. and
is now the home of Dr. Szabo who has resided there since 1966.
The William Jenks mansion was at the foot of Pratt Street. The house at 3958 Richmond Street, presently owned by the Hagendorfs, was built in 1807.
The Putts House at 4404 Salmon Street, attached to the rear of the current American Legion Hall, was built around 1800. Eighty years ago it was beautifully located in a famous grove of pine woods.
One of the most interesting spots in this old town was the Old Town Hall or sometimes called the Eight Cornered School House, which stood on Thompson Street, the present site of the Bridesburg Perpetual Association. The Old Town Hall was torn down in 1928 because of the condition of the building. The land and building were given to the people of Bridesburg within one mile for their use and to be theirs forever.
The Kirkbride family were the donors but made no provisions for upkeep, so the building became the worry of the community. The date of its building is unknown at this writing, but seldom has a building been so wrapped up in a life of a community as was the Old Town Hall. Before the consolidation of the city each district had its own town hall which were variously used.
It was first used as a place to administer the affairs of
the village; then as a meeting place; in 1829 for the Presbyterian people;
then in 1834 to 1850 a gathering place for the Methodists; in 1839 the
first public school; in 1858 the meeting place of the German Reformed
people, and the same time as the police station. About 1900 it was used as
a Y.M.C.A. and in 1901 a memorial service was held in honor of President
McKinley. Some few years after, the first moving pictures ever seen in
Bridesburg were shown here. At that time it was called the
The old station house, which was located at the corner of
Richmond and Kirkbride Streets, was built in 1883 under Mayor King by
Sebastian Helm. The local fire company was established about 1888. That
station house was located next to the police station that stood there
until it was torn down in 1964 to make way for a new station house which
was dedicated in 1965. The Bridesburg police station closed in 1940 and
the building was used as a draft board and as the headquarters for the
Bridesburg Ration Board during the years of World War II. In 1960, the
Bridesburg area became part of the Fifteenth Police District.
The character of Bridesburg was built on the mixture of
nationalities and faiths of its citizens. Beginning with the Lenni Lenape
Indians, followed by the Swedes, Dutch, English, Germans, Polish and a
sprinkling of others. Each one bringing to the community traditions and
beliefs that built the solid community that it is today.
Frequently referred to as the "Community of Churches".
Geographically, Bridesburg is not as large as many of the neighborhoods of
Philadelphia, yet it has, and continues till today, to have seven faiths
represented with their churches - Bridesburg Presbyterian, Bridesburg
Methodist, All Saints, Saint John Cansius, German Reform and Bridesburg
Out of these people, there have been a number of notable
citizens over the years. Individuals like Joseph Kirkbride, General Daniel
Morgan, Alfred Jenks, Herbert Reynolds, W. Bruce Beaton.
Among its citizenry, Bridesburg has also had its share of interesting and unforgetable personalities.
Dickey Twells, a bachelor, who lived in a large home in
the 4000 block of Richmond Street about 1834. Point Road was used as a
racetrack in the early days. Twells resented this disturbance and in the
dark of the night would fill the road with large stones and make racing
past his place difficult as possible..
Mr. Behr was the stage driver for a number of years on Old
Point Road, and he watched very closely if people rode both ways with him.
If they went to the city by boat, and tried to return by way of his stage
coach he said in no uncertain terms, "You come down by boat, you come home
by boat." which meant a long waitand perhaps another way had to be
found to get home.
Bill Morrow, a local robber gang leader. During the early
days of stage coach travel, this vicinity was particularly lonesome and a
notorious gang of highwaymen. They were known to have held up and robbed
many stages and with their unfortunate travelers.
From Village to Borough to
By an act of Legislature April 1, 1848 the village of Bridesburg was created a borough, with boundaries as follows:
Beginning at the junction of the Delaware River and the Frankford Creek along the creek southwest to a corner of the land belonging to Mr. Reynolds, thence by his line which was Buckius Street southeast to the Delaware River and along the latter to the place of beginning. The official title of the corporation was "The Commissioners and Inhabitants of Bridesburg in the County of Philadelphia".
In 1850, additional land was annexed to the borough south
of the limits above named, extending to the north line of Mortimer Lewis
land and along the latter to Point Road (now Richmond Street); then not by
the road, but by a direct line (now Lefevre Street) through other
properties west of the road until it struck the middle of Frankford Creek,
then down the same until it reached the Delaware. Transportation of mails
and passengers was unknown among the earliest settlers because perhaps,
there were neither mails nor passengers: letters were carried by travelers
or traders or by messengers especially entrusted with them.
As early as 1842 Bridesburg and Part Richmond was a mail
route for which proposals were sought by advertising from the United
States. Most likely, Lewis F. Emery was the first Postmaster. The next
Postmaster was Andrew McMillan, who continued until the delivery system
was adopted. The first letter carrier was Peter Gold. The former Post
Office at Salmon and Bridge Streets (now the Post Office Cafe) was opened
in 1909 with Mr. Charles Hangsterfer as Postmaster. In 1929, the
Bridesburg Post Office moved to a building just north of the old
firehousepolice station building on the corner of Richmond and
Kirkbride Streets. The Post Office moved again in 1960 to its present
location at Salmon and Orthodox Streets. The present Postmaster is John
Steinberg. Like London in 1850, Philadelphia was about two square miles in
area, comprising 28 districts.
Rowdyism was rampant and persons committing minor
offenses, or minor crimes, merely had to run across a street to be out of
the jurisdiction of the local police. Improvements could only be made in
cooperation with the adjoining governments and progress was obviously
handicapped. Soon after the riots of 1844 the attention of some
influential citizens was directed towards a consolidation of these
governments; a town meeting was held Nov. 16, 1849 and from that time
onward until the object was achieved. The Act of Consolidation was passed
Jan. 30, and signed by the Governor Feb. 2, 1854.
On April 13, 1859, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
authorized the Second and Third Street Passenger Railway Company to extend
their road from Allegheny Avenue along Point Road or Richmond Street as we
now know it, to within 200 feet of the bridge over the Frankford Creek on
Bridge Street in Bridesburg with a single track. Records of the company
disclose that operation of horse cars started from Allegheny Avenue and
Point Road to the bridge over the Frankford Creek on Bridge Street, in
July of 1859, operating four onehorse cars over a single track
approximately 2 and 3/4 miles long. Night service was inaugurated in
The War Years
The Civil War
Through four years the local people followed with Mr. Lincoln the most horrible events in the history of our community, and when the telegraph brought the thrilling news on Sunday morning, April 9, 1865 that General Robert E. Lee had surrendered at Appomattox Court House, they went wild with joy. That morning the local churches offered special prayers of thanksgiving for the great victory.
On Saturday April 15, 1865, word was received of the death
of Abraham Lincoln, by assassination. The funeral of Mr. Lincoln was held
on Wednesday April 19, 1865, and all business was suspended. The
horsecar system remained idle throughout this section from 2 until 4
o'clock. On Saturday April 22, Mr. Lincoln's remains were brought to the
State House and 85,000 people viewed his remains. Many local people paid
their respects to Mr. Lincoln by walking to and from Independence
On February 8, 1815 the Congress of the United States
passed an act which provided for the establishment of depots for munitions
in various parts of the country. Consequently, on May 27, 1816 a tract of
ground, 20 acres and 34 perches, was acquired from Frederick Fraley and
his wife Catherine, for $7680.75. This purchase date is the approved
birthday of the Frankford Arsenal (then the U.S. Arsenal on Frankford
This year, 1976, is the 160th Anniversary. This territory
was a portion of a tract of land which was transferred by patent from John
Thomas and Richard Penn to Andrew Hamilton on May 19, 1742. The land
fronted on Frankford Creek, then navigable, and provided access to the
General LaFayette, during his triumphal visit in 1824,
stopped first at the Arsenal before going on to Philadelphia. "He was
comfortably lodged for the night. Between seven and eight o'clock on
Tuesday morning, the General set out for this city with an immense
escort." as reported by the National Gazette and Literary Register,
Philadelphia, Pa. October 2, 1824. During the intervening 15 years,
considerable construction was accomplished. Atkinson's Saturday Evening
Post, April 7, 1832, reported the Arsenal as completed in 1830.
The original Fraley tract was expanded by acquisition of
the Kennedy tract in 1837, the Haines tract in 1849, the Lennig tract in
1917, and the Fitler tracts in 1943 and 1951. The six stone buildings and
two small workshops mentioned in 1832, now have expanded to approximately
228, permanent, semipermanent and temporary buildings and about 58
miscellaneous storage facilities, covering 110 acres.
During the Civil War, the Arsenal served as a depot,
receiving, storing, inspecting, and distributing supplies of all kinds.
Appreciable manufacturing, especially of percussion caps, bullets,
cartridges, and other small arms ammunitions items, required a peak
personnel of 1550. At the close of the Civil War only 580 were
The World Wars
During World War I millions of rounds of artillery
ammunition, including shrapnel and high explosives, were manufactured ,
loaded and shipped. However, as production mounted, recurring explosions
of primers endangered the neighborhood residents. Areas surrounding the
Arsenal, once sparsely settled, had become densely populated.
Consequently, for safety, loading at the Arsenal was discontinued and
moved to less populated areas.
World War II placed a great strain on the Arsenal to keep
up with the ammunition demands of this conflict. The demand for ammunition
in a war of this magnitude was such that the production quantities
possible within Frankford Arsenal were becoming insignificant. The
personnel compliment of Frankford Arsenal at the height of World War II
was 22,000 people. This dropped at the end of World War II to
Since World War II the character of Frankford Arsenal has
been changed and now places emphasis on research, development and
engineering in its assigned mission areas. The manufacturing facilities
remaining in Frankford Arsenal are now devoted to the support of Research,
Development, Test and Evaluation.
The Bridesburg Civic Association
The Bridesburg Businessmen's Association began as a
committee of the Bridesburg Civic Association in 1955 in order to combat
the problems of local businessmen. The first meeting of the Bridesburg
Businessmen's Association as a separate organization was held in January,
1956. Feelings expressed by early members of the association, indicated
that the new group desired cordial relations with its competitors. The
businessmen knew that the only way to gain business was to sell service
and keep prices down.
The first newspaper published in 1881 lasted only one year. Five other papers followed through the years, the Bridesburg Herald, Bridesburg News Gleaner, the Bridesburg Tribune and the Bridesburg News, which became the Bridesburg Bulletin in 1960; the last two papers were sponsored by the Bridesburg Businessmen's Association.
In September 1956, the Businessmen's Association discussed
the printing of a monthly businessmen's paper and in October of the same
year the Bridesburg News was born, sponsored by the Businessmen's
Association. The Association purchased a printing machine and it set up a
fund for the operation of the paper.
The Bridesburg News was interrupted early in 1960 for
reorganization; printing of the paper was given to a private company. In
June 1960, the paper's name was changed to the present Bridesburg
Bulletin, which was still run by the Bridesburg Businessmen's Association.
Today, the Bridesburg Bulletin is still being published by the
The Bridesburg Businessmen's Association was incorporated
in 1961. Soon after, the Sunshine Club, an organization within the
Association, was formed. The Sunshine Club brought good cheer to the sick
and it helped out the unfortunate. The Businessmen's Association took part
in Memorial Day and Easter parades in Bridesburg. In 1965 the Association
joined the Northeast Chamber of Commerce.
From the start, the Businessmen's Association concerned itself with community affairs and minutes of the first meeting show discussions on the proposed Delair Bridge (Betsy Ross Bridge) and the Delaware Expressway. In recent years, the Bridesburg Businessmen's Association has concerned itself with the Betsy Ross Bridge, drug abuse, civic improvements, the Bridesburg Civic Association, the Bridesburg Ambulance Corps, widening of Bridge Street and neighborhood beautification, such as the Greenbelt Program whereby 500 trees were planted in the Bridesburg community, besides being involved in the common concerns of business.
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