Preserving and Presenting
the History of Northeast
Philadelphia since 1905
   Historical Society of Frankford
1507 Orthodox St. • Philadelphia, PA 19124 • 215.743.6030
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Contact Information:

Historical Society of Frankford
1507 Orthodox Street
Philadelphia, PA 19124

Please send all inquiries and member­ship correspondence to HSF, P.O. Box 4888, Philadelphia, PA 19124.

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Northeast Philadelphia: Frankford Roots

Frankford, Philadelphia, serves as the genesis of and gateway to the Northeast Philadelphia region. This area was inhabited by the Lenape Indians and later settled by the Swedes, who started a village and gristmill in 1660. Frankford’s origins lie in the “Manor of Frank” - a land purchase from William Penn to a group of Quaker businessmen in London called the Society of Free Traders. The Indian trail through this area became the King’s Highway (established by Royal warrant in 1683) and, later, Frankford Avenue. This route is the oldest country road in continuous use in the nation, and was traversed by Continental Congress delegates before the Revolutionary War. In 1781, the troops of Washington and Rochambeau marched through Frankford on their way from Rhode Island to Virginia to achieve a decisive American victory at Yorktown.

Early places of worship include the Friends Meeting House at Unity and Waln Streets (established 1684), Frankford Presbyterian Church (the “Pink Church”) and, later, the Campbell African Methodist Episcopal Church (founded 1804). The first savings and loan society in the country (Oxford Provident) was instituted here in 1831, the first textile mill was established by William Whitaker in 1813 on Tabor Road off Rising Sun Avenue, and Oswald Eve’s powder mill, located along Frankford Creek at Wingohocking and Adams, served as a model for the production of gunpowder during the Colonies’ War for Independence. The African-American community continues to have a strong presence in Frankford since the Free Black settlement in the 18th century, with a history of participation in the Underground Railroad, the Civil War, and the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960’s.

Frankford takes great pride in once having within its environs the palatial summer homes of prominent Philadelphians dating from the early 1700’s through the Revolutionary Period: Cedar Grove, Chalkley Hall, Waln Grove, and Port Royal. With the exception of Cedar Grove, now in Fairmount Park, these homes were destroyed to make way for industry. However, much of the Port Royal mansion was dismantled and reassembled at the Winterthur Museum in Delaware.

Preserving the Frankford Legacy
The Historical Society of Frankford was established in 1905 by a group of prominent Frankfordians led by T. Comly Hunter. They believed that the presentation and perpetuation of the history of the Northeast Philadelphia region was a solid foundation for an understanding of how the United States of America gained its unique heritage. The Society’s first president was William Foulkrod, a US Congressman and Frankford attorney.

Initially, this founding group met at various locations including Wright’s Institute, the Assembly Hall (Lyceum Building, located on the 4400 block of Frankford Avenue), the Waln Street Meeting House, and Frankford’s Carnegie Library (Overington Street location of the current Frankford Free Library). In 1930, the Historical Society building was erected by William Smedley in memory of his wife, Margaretta, and his brother, Franklin Smedley, the organization’s second president. Franklin, who operated a local lumber and building materials business with William, served as president until his death in 1924. This Georgian Revival building was designed by Frank Rushmore Watson, who also designed St Mark’s Episcopal Church on Frankford Avenue.

Society Collections
The Society is a splendid repository of historical data pertaining to the industrial and cultural development of the area from the days of its settlement to the present. Artifacts include stoneware crockery, early fire memorabilia, Indian arrowheads, toys, pewter, china, and furnishings.

The library contains several thousand volumes, starting with the descriptions of the Quakers right up to the Industrial Age. The J. Friend Lodge collection contains books and artifacts relating to Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War. Local maps provide details of Philadelphia and surrounding areas, and include a copy of Thomas Holmes’ first map. Genealogical records for prominent Frankford families are also available.

Society Programs
In March, April, May, June, September, October, November, and December, the Society offers a variety of programs on the second Tuesday at 7:30 pm, and special exhibits on the first Sunday (except January, February, July, August, and September) from 1:00-4:00 pm. Tours of the building are conducted regularly. Access for research or private tours can be arranged by prior appointment. The Society is located one block west of the 4600 block of Frankford Avenue, between the Church and Margaret-Orthodox Market/Frankford Line Elevated train station stops.

As an active and growing organization, we welcome your membership and contributions, and invite you to join with us in preserving this distinctive element of our shared history. Your interest will be appreciated; your membership and annual dues are an important part of our support.

Please consider becoming involved in this exceptionally rewarding and worthy effort to preserve and promote the history of Frankford and Northeast Philadelphia.


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