East Falls Time Machine

Step back into history through these rare photos of our mills, mansions, monuments and more. 

East Falls way back when. Special thanks to the Germantown Historical Society for sharing their bounty of beautiful vintage images (with captions, yet!). We zoomed in close on some of these — so you don’t have to.

Photo taken by George M. Holloway in 1988 of the Dobson’s Mills, located at Ridge & the crossing of the Port Richmond Branch of the former Reading Railroad. This view is to the north, with the tracks in the immediate foreground (Ridge Ave runs beneath).

True story: Bessie Dobson and her family lived in a sprawling estate called Bella Vista where PHA’s Abbotsford Homes now stands. The Indiana (Pennsylvania) Evening Gazette published a moving account of her last day on the property before bulldozers razed the site, August 14, 1941.

One of the taverns once standing along the Wissahickon Creek & present-day Lincoln Drive was the Log Cabin Inn, located just south of the crossing of the Henry Ave bridge (shown here around 1870).

FUN FACT: The old Inn had a menagerie to attract visitors — it has been said that the animals would often escape during regular flooding of the area.

The original print showing the falls of the Wissahickon creek at Ridge Avenue was made by Haydn Marriott, an East Falls resident. Date unknown (likely circa 1890 – 1900).

This image made from a glass-plate was taken by historian Edward Hocker in 1902, of the Revolutionary War Monument at the Queen Lane Reservoir — formerly the site of the large “Carlton” estate, where George Washington and his men encamped during the War.

Carlton was demolished to make way for the reservoir.at the turn of the 20th century.  The monument was restored & rededicated in fall of 2017.

This view from 1900 shows the bridge of the former Reading Railroad’s Norristown line spanning the Wissahickon creek. These buildings in the background were demolished in the early 1960’s to make way for the interchange between Lincoln Drive and the bridge to the Schuylkill Expressway & City Ave.

The old “Ravenhill” estate — shown here circa 1909 — has long since been absorbed into the campus of now Jefferson University. This photo shows a conservatory and greenhouse in the foreground and the main house in the background.

At one time, the wealthiest woman in the world lived here! William Weightman made a fortune on quinine during the Civil War, bequeathing it all to his daughter upon his death at Ravenhill in 1904.

This view shows how expansive the greenhouses and conservatory were — dwarfing the mansion in the background. (Separate building to the right is no longer here.) 

Inside Ravenhill’s greenhouses, 1909.

Ridge avenue and the railroad bridge spanning Wissahickon creek — note the Belgian blocks and trolley tracks, indicating this area was becoming more urban by the turn of the 20th century (image circa 1900).

The Robeson House aka “Shoomac Park” (c. 1759) stood at the NE corner of Ridge & Lincoln Drive, beneath the Norristown branch of the Philadelphia, Germantown and Norristown railroad, near the Wissahickon creek. (photo date unknown, likely 1870’s)

NOTE: the railroad bridge is in the background. The house was demolished in 1961 to make way for the interchange between Ridge Ave & the City Ave bridge/Schuylkill Expressway.

The then relatively new Walnut Lane Bridge over the Wissahickon provided a nice backdrop for the Morris family, posing for a snapshot in 1915.

Shown here are Elliston P. Morris Jr, Janet Morris, and Jane Rhoads Morris.

Some locations in the Wissahickon had a much more rustic appearance than they do now — such as this scene found along the path near the present-day 100 Steps as it appeared in 1907.

Check out the log fence this family poses on (identities of these people unknown).

Wissahickon Hall, built around 1850, was the home of a second hotel once existing along present-day Lincoln Drive. Unlike its neighbor to the north (the Maple Springs Hotel), Wissahickon Hall has survived to the present day.

The old Wissahickon Turnpike — now in part Lincoln Drive — had several hotels along its right of way including two visible here (Maple Springs & Wissahickon Hall). The Maple Springs hotel was demolished at the turn of the 20th century.

This 1887 view shows the intersection of Chelten and Wissahickon Aves as it would’ve appeared at the time. The large expanse of lawn at the left would be developed into Alden Park Apartments almost 40 years later.

Alden Park Manor has its own fascinating history, too…

The Rinker family lived in their home at 416 West Coulter Street for much of the first quarter of the 20th century. Here, their family car sits at the intersection of Wissahickon Ave and School House Lane (circa 1917). 

Like classic cars? Take Roxborough Ridge Runners for a spin. It’s like a mini car show every week in warm weather. 

This circa 1910 photo shows the Strawbridge’s house — still standing (vacant & in disrepair) just north of Alden Park Apartments on Wissahickon Avenue across from it’s intersection with West Stafford St.

This undated view from the early 20th century shows “Woodside” another Strawbridge estate. Francis R. and his wife Anna Estes Strawbridge lived here until the home was demolished prior to the construction of Alden Park Apartments in the mid 1920’s.

Big thanks to Historic Germantown and the Germantown Historical Society for sharing these images and captions.

Colonial history in our backyard! From East Falls, just a straight shot up School House Lane delivers you to charming architecture and exciting stories of Revolution, Abolition and more.

Germantown Historical Society
5501 Germantown Avenue
Open to the public: Tuesdays 9am – 1pm, Thursdays 1pm – 4pm and Sundays by appointment
Visit Historic Germantown for a list of programs, events and attractions: www.FreedomsBackyard.com

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