As a Comcast customer, you can handle most account matters online or over the phone. But if you ever need to return an old cable box, make payment in person, or just give them a piece of your mind with the help of dramatic facial expressions, you need to visit a Comcast Service Center. If you live in Pennsport, chances are it’s the one at 1351 S. Columbus Blvd. Flanked by a scary lot of unkempt woods on one side and a scary lot of unkempt grass on the other, this hardly looks like the site of a major industrial operation. But that it was according to the image below from G.W. Bromley’s 1895 Philadelphia Atlas.
The Delaware Sugar Refinery in 1895
According to engineer George Newhall, whose court testimony is recorded in the 1912 volume, United States of America, Petitioner, Against the American Sugar Refining…
If you’re ever hitting the lanes at North Bowl and wondering why the folks next door are wearing suits and getting valet parking, the reason is Cescaphe Ballroom. Located at 923 N. 2nd St., this Northern Liberties location has been drawing crowds for 200 years. As early as the turn of the 19th century, the Bull’s Head Tavern stood on this spot. In fact, quite a bit of important U.S. History would transpire just outside the tavern. According to The Library Company of Philadelphia, “in the year 1809, the staid citizens of Philadelphia were agog with curiosity over a strange and mysterious thing upon a vacant tract beside the Bull’s Head Tavern upon Second street, near Poplar street.” The ‘strange and mysterious thing’ was an exhibit for the plans to construct America’s first railroad. Below, a series of 1922 Frank H. Taylor sketches depicts the 1809…
The Benjamin Franklin House is one of the more elegant living solutions in Center City. Occupying the Southeast corner of 9th & Chestnut, the residential building and mega-ballroom are collectively referred to by familiars as The Ben. As its name implies, the site has an intimate relationship with the city’s history as well as a somewhat lengthy list of former occupants. According to Bryn Mawr College, occupants through the early and mid 19th century included Cook’s Circus and Chinese Museum (1838), Burton’s National Theatre (1841), and John Mustin Jr. Trimmings, Threads, Bindings, Fringes, etc. store. The last of these is shown here below in an 1851 sketch taken from Philadelphia Buildings.
Mustin Trimmings, get your threads, bindings and fringes here in 1851
The building that housed these three prior occupants burned to the ground in 1854. For at least…
Today, Market East is a haven for pawn-brokers, check-cashing stands and purveyors of brand name knockoffs. The south side of the 1000 block offers one such decidedly uninspiring mix of storefronts. Simultaneously, this stretch is a reminder of a time when Market Street was one of the nation’s top retail destinations. The odd structure listed as 1020 Market St. is a perfect demonstration. This strange building, whose edifice looks not unlike a gargantuan toboggan leaning against a dumpster, hints at a brighter time in Market Street’s retail history. Actually, a reflection on the changes at this location suggests that most times in its retail history were brighter than this one. So says the 1858 photo below, taken from the Library Company, which shows the location in its earliest incarnation as a marble yard.
Marble Yard and jib crane in
A large brick structure occupies half a block on 11th Street in the Bella Vista neighborhood, quietly serving as a conveniently located self-storage facility. While the nondescript building, bound to the northwest corner of 11th & Catharine, does nothing to distinguish the location today, history does attach to it some distinguished if forgotten names in Philadelphia history. First among them, according to Sweeney Piano, was the Schomacker Piano Manufacturing Company, which was established in 1838, and received high praise for its output at the 1845 World’s Fair, and which expanded into a building on the northwest corner of Catharine in 1855. The image here below, taken from GM Hopkins’ 1875 Philadelphia Atlas, shows the piano factory in this location.
The Schomacker Piano Factory, 1875
The company’s reputation and reach grew through the late 19th century, precipitated by its patented ‘gold wire’ model.
The plot between Walnut, Sansom, 6th and 7th Streets is occupied by a single massive building called the Curtis Center. Constructed in the Georgian Revival style (Wikipedia’s words, not ours), the Center overlooks Washington Square Park to the south and the Independence Mall to the East. Before achieving its present enormity, however, this space was a cluster of lesser buildings. According to the image shown here below, taken from Samuel L. Smedley’s 1862 Philadelphia Atlas, at least two of these lesser buildings can be identified as the vaguely-named Health Office and the Sansom Street Hall.
A cluster of buildings, including Sansom Street Hall, in 1862
The Sansom Street Hall served as a meeting place for oratory functions, often distinguished by their connection to critical civil rights causes like the abolition of slavery and women’s suffrage. The Hall would also distinguish itself, according to the blog