Brewerytown

On October 26, 2014 · 0 Comments - won't you be the first?

Twelve Mile Circle reflects my personal interests including those that transcend geo-oddities such as my fascination with zymurgy and breweriana. Recent examples included Geo-BREWities and More Geo-BREWities that examined breweries referencing geography within their names. I do try to tie these themes back to geography in some manner since that’s the notional objective of 12MC, although sometimes I’m more successful at that than others.

The current effort flipped the script. Rather than breweries named for geography, were there places named for breweries? Once again I turned to my trusty friend, the Geographic Names Information System. There were surprisingly few place called Brewery anything. I noticed minor occurrences with Brewery Gulch, Hill, Creek, Spring, Hollow and the like, plus a few historic properties. The list contained only a single populated place, a neighborhood in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania named Brewerytown.



Brewerytown, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

"Brewerytown runs approximately between the Schuylkill River’s eastern bank and 25th Street, bounded by Cecil B. Moore Avenue to the north and Parrish Street to the south."

The name derived from an earlier industrial past as noted in That’s Why They Call it Brewerytown

Brewers were attracted to the area ponded by the dam at the Fairmount Water Works for the ice they could harvest from the [Schuylkill] river. Then, in vaults carved along its banks, brewers would pack wooden hogsheads of lager beer with ice for six to eight months for the beer to ‘ripen.’ Brewerytown evolved into a neighborhood that accounted for about half the city’s beer production and included some of the largest brewers in the nation, who shipped their beer throughout the world.

PhillyHistory.org added,

By the turn of the century, eleven large breweries had made Brewerytown their home. Immigrants eager to find jobs and to support such industries as malt houses, equipment suppliers, and saloons followed close behind and turned the area into one of the city’s most vibrant neighborhoods.

What happened? The usual story. Prohibition: "In 1933 prohibition was repealed, but there wasn’t much left of Brewerytown but idle, hulking industrial carcasses with broken windows."

Nonetheless, the current incarnation of Brewerytown showed Signs of revitalization although it still had a ways to go.

… the people in this neighborhood range from cold-cash professionals to college students to families trying to make ends meet. Its proximity to both I-76 and the infamous loop down Kelly Drive makes it hugely desirable for just about everyone–but be warned that when real-estate marketers refer to part of it as "up-and-coming," a lot of the area hasn’t quite, er, come "up" yet.

Two historic properties on the western edge of Brewerytown fascinated me in particular, neither having anything to do with breweries and both about as far apart on the spectrum of culture, social hierarchy and era as imaginable.


Lemon Hill


Lemon Hill Mansion
Lemon Hill Mansion by Gary Reed, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Henry Pratt, a wealthy Philadelphia merchant, constructed a large Federal-style mansion on a 43-acre site along the Schuylkill River in 1800 (map). He named it Lemon Hill for the abundant lemon trees he grew in his private greenhouse located elsewhere on his property. This wasn’t his primary residence either. Pratt used it as a "summer retreat" to escape the confines of the city during the ferociously hot and humid months, as did many of his peers of similar wealth and privilege.

Lemon Hill, now part of Fairmount Park, was licensed by the city to the Colonial Dames of America ("an international society of women members whose direct ancestors held positions of leadership in the Thirteen Colonies.") as their Philadelphia headquarters. In return, the society must preserve the property and make it available to the public in a variety of ways.


John Coltrane House



John Coltrane (1926 – 1967), the pioneering and highly influential postwar Jazz saxophonist, lived at 1511 N 33rd Street (Street View) from 1952 to 1958. That might make it slightly outside of Brewerytown, although close enough for this article.

Those were formative years of his career when he began to establish himself and also started playing with legendary figures such as Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk. Even after he moved to New York he continued to "use the house as an alternate residence" for the remainder of his life.

The John Coltrane House was named a National Historic Landmark in 1999. Efforts are underway to preserve the property.

On October 26, 2014 · 0 Comments - won't you be the first?

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