Notable Philadelphia Buildings
( Originally Published 1900 )
There are many notable structures in Philadelphia. The United States Mint, opposite the City Hall, and fronting on Chestnut Street, has executed nearly all the coinage of the country since its establishment in 1792, the present building having been completed in 1833. It contains a most interesting collection of coins, including the " widow's mite." A fine new mint is now being erected on a much larger scale in the northwestern section of the city. The Bourse, on Fifth Street near Chestnut, erected in 1895 at a cost of $1,500,000, is the business centre, its lower hall being the most spacious apartment in the city, and the edifice is constructed in the style of Francis I. The white marble Custom House, with fine Doric portico, was originally erected in 1819, at a cost of $500,000, for the second United States Bank, this noted bank, which ultimately suspended, having been for many years a political bone of contention. On the opposite side of the street, covering a block, is a row of a half-dozen wealthy financial institutions, making one of the finest series in existence, granite and marble being varied in several orders of architecture. The Post-office building, also on Chestnut Street, a grand granite structure in Renaissance, with a fašade extending four hundred feet, cost over $5,000,000. The plain and solid Franklin Institute, designed to promote the mechanical and useful arts, is not far away.
Down nearer the river is the venerable Christ Church, with its tall spire, built in 1727, the most revered Episcopal church in the city, and the one at which General Washington and all the Government officials in the Revolutionary days worshipped. William White, a native of the city, was the rector of this church and chaplain of the Continental Congress, and in 1786 was elected the Episcopal Bishop of Pennsylvania, being ordained by the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth in February, 1787. He pre-sided over the Convention, held in this church in 1789, which organized the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States. Christ ,Church still possesses the earliest chime of bells sent from England to America, and the spire, rising nearly two hundred feet, is a prominent object seen from the river. Bishop White died in 1836, aged 88. He was also, in his early life, the rector of St. Peter's Church, an-other revered Episcopal church at Third and Pine Streets. In its yard is the grave of Commodore Stephen Decatur, the famous American naval officer, who, after all his achievements and victories, was killed in a duel with Commodore Barron in 1820, his antagonist also dying. The most ancient church in Philadelphia is Gloria Dei, the " Old Swedes" Church, a quaint little structure near the Delaware River bank in the southern part of the city, built in 1700. The early Swedish settlers, coming up from Fort Christina, erected a log chapel on this site in 1677, at which Jacob Fabritius delivered the first sermon. After he died, the King of Sweden in 1697 sent over Rev. Andrew Rudman, under whose guidance the present structure was built to replace the log chapel; and it was dedicated, the first Sunday after Trinity, 1700, by Rev. Eric Biorck, who had come over with Rudman. Many are the tales told of the escapades of the early Swedes in the days of the log chapel. The Indians on one occasion under-mined it to get at the congregation, as they were afraid of the muskets which the men shot out of the loopholes. The women, however, scenting danger, brought into church a large supply of soft-soap, which they heated piping hot in a cauldron. When the redskins made their foray and popped their heads up through the floor, they were treated to a copious bath of hot soap, and fled in dismay. This is the . " Old Swedes" Church at Wicaco of which Long-fellow sings in Evangeline. The poet, in unfolding his story, brings both Evangeline and Gabriel from Acadia to Philadelphia in the enforced exodus of 1755, and thus graphically describes the Quaker City :
"In that delightful land which is washed by the Delaware's waters,
In Philadelphia it is said Evangeline lived many years as a Sister of Mercy, and it was thus that she visited the ancient almshouse to minister to the sick and dying on a Sabbath morning :
"As she mounted the stairs to the corridors, cooled by the east wind,
There she found the dying Gabriel, and both, ac-cording to the tradition, are buried in the yard of the Roman Catholic Church of the Holy Trinity, at Sixth and Spruce Streets:
" Still stands the forest primeval ; but far away from its shadow,
In the ancient graveyard of " Old Swedes " is buried Alexander Wilson, the American ornithologist, who was a native of Scotland, but lived most of his life in Philadelphia, dying in 1813. The largest church in the city is the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul, fronting on Logan Square, an imposing Roman Corinthian structure of red sand-stone, two hundred and sixteen by one hundred and thirty-six feet, and crowned by a dome rising two hundred and ten feet. The chief institution of learning is the University of Pennsylvania, the most extensive and comprehensive College in the Middle States, dating from 1740, and munificently endowed, which occupies, with its many buildings, a large surface in West Philadelphia, and has three thousand students. This great institution originated from a building planned in 1740 for a place in which George Whitefield could preach, which was also used for a charity school. This building was conveyed to trustees in 1749 to maintain the school, and they were in turn chartered as a college in 1753 " to maintain an academy, as well for the instruction of poor children on charity as others whose circumstances have enabled them to pay for their learning." This charitable feature is still maintained in the University by free scholarships.
Philadelphia is eminently a manufacturing city, and its two greatest establishments are the Cramp Shipbuilding yards in the Kensington district and the Baldwin Locomotive Works on North Broad Street, each the largest establishment of its kind in America. The city has spread over a greater territory than any other in the United States, and sixteen bridges span the Schuylkill, with others, in contemplation, its expansion beyond that river has been so extensive. The enormous growth of the town has mainly come from the adoption of the general principle that every family should live in its own house, supplemented by liberal extensions of electrical street railways in all directions. Hence, Philadelphia is popularly known as the "City of Homes." As the city expanded over the level Iand, four-, six-, eight- and ten-room dwellings have been built by the mile, and set up in row after row. Two-story and three-story houses of red brick, with marble steps and facings, make up the greater part of the town, and each house is generally its owner's castle, the owner in most cases being a successful toiler, who has saved his house gradually out of his hard earnings, almost literally brick by brick. There is almost unlimited space in the suburbs yet capable of similar absorption, and the process which has given Philadelphia this extensive surface goes on indefinitely. The population is also regarded as more representative of the Anglo-Saxon races than in most American cities, though the Teuton numerously abounds and speedily assimilates. The greatest extent of Philadelphia is upon a line from southwest to northeast, which will stretch nearly twenty miles in a continuous succession of paved and lighted streets and buildings.