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The Revolution, Nationhood and Rapid Development, 1775-1801

A comparison of the relatively light development evident on the Clarkson-Biddle map of 1762 with the map prepared by John Hills in 1796 (see Fig. 3) shows the astonishing change on Block Three over thirty-four years. Hills, an accomplished surveyor and mapmaker, recorded the Cresson tract at the north end as densely settled, with only the slightest sense that some properties retained open back yard spaces. Hill's record of the Arch Street lots to Cherry Street, however, marked more than half the acreage as open space. The burial ground and the lot to its west remained clear of structures, whereas Fifth and Sixth Streets and the western half of Arch Street had been improved. The south side of Cherry also looked relatively open, which indicates that the Arch Street lots had not yet been heavily subdivided. The documentary evidence from deeds, wills and city surveys, as well as newspaper advertisements, helps to give some life and pattern to what proved to be a remarkable spurt of growth on this block.

Logically, more information turned up in the research for residents who remained at the same address for ten years or more and for those who prospered enough to enroll in the early city directories. People at the lower end of the economic ladder, who crowded into the small tenement houses that lined the alleys of the Cresson end of the block, remained anonymous, as the majority of current urban dwellers would. On Arch Street, the most fashionable address, only a few individuals could be identified. Fifth and Cherry Streets and Sassafras or Race within the Cresson section attracted the most stable residents or property owners. In numerous occasions neighbors were related to one another, or belonged to the same church denomination. Like immigration today, people seemed to locate among familiar families or in neighborhoods that promised work. [1]

The American Revolution, 1775-1781

Even a decade before the Revolution, Mulberry Ward between Arch and Race from Front to Seventh Streets showed the highest rate of growth. Of the city's ten wards, it was the most populated. Typical of construction throughout the city, the new homes and shops were modest two or three-story brick row houses. At the eve of the Revolution, however, the amount of real estate development on Block Three remained moderate and would not intensify until after the war, even though Caleb and Joshua Cresson advertised lots for lease in 1773 along Sassafras, Sixth and Cherry Streets. [2]

Philadelphia records give us faint indication of the owners and residents during the Revolution and how the war effort impacted their world. Only three houses on the block were insured during the war, suggesting a slow down in building. Ludwick Karigar, who had purchased a large lot at Sixth and Cherry Streets, insured two two-story houses near the corner in December 1775, soon after the outbreak of war in Massachusetts. At the north end of the block, Uriah Former two months later insured a nearly new two-story house on an alley near Sassafras or Race. The following November, William Thomas took out a policy on a house on Fifth Street, a little above Arch Street where Widow Jane Peters lived. [3] Perhaps these three examples represent just a small percentage of the new housing completed during the Revolution, but left uninsured due to the strained economic times. More likely, however, the market for new construction opened up again after the war.

Seven heads of household were listed as African American in the tax list for 1780. This number increased the following decade as African Americans began to settle in North and South Mulberry Wards west of Fourth Street. [4] In 1780 some of those individuals identified as Negro may have taken up residence because the block still was lightly settled, and predominantly a laboring class neighborhood with more affordable housing. Perhaps some were attracted by the Quaker presence on the block. In 1774 Quakers were mandated to free any slaves in their ownership. In 1775 the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery and the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully held in Bondage organized with a majority Quaker representation in its founding membership. Caleb Cresson as the real estate principal for the northern section where most of the families lived, and a leading Quaker resident on the block may have assisted some of these individuals. [5] Others may have been household servants, free or not, entrusted to keep watch over city property while the owners took temporary refuge in the country. Or perhaps some may have been living on the block to work for military suppliers. The 1780 effective supply tax identified the following seven people as "a negroe" or "a negroe man" or "a negroe woman." Presumably each person named also had other family members or associates living in the household with them. The record indicates that all these people lived in property owned by someone else.

John Brown, for Henry Meyer's estate (corner of Sixth and Sassafras)
Cyrus, for William Todd's estate (also near corner of Sixth and Sassafras)
Nock, for Robert Evans' estate (corner of Fifth and Cresson's Alley)
Sarah, for James Guest's estate (Cherry Street, west end)
a negroe woman (unnamed) for William Ralston's estate (Fifth Street below Cherry Street)
Ann Pounder, for Ludwig karacher's estate (Sixth below Cherry)
Robert Venable, for Nicholas Rash's estate (Sixth, two lots south of Cresson's Alley)

All the men listed were assessed 1200, indicating they earned a salary and were free persons. John Brown, and possibly Cyrus next door to the south, may have worked in the inn Henry Meyers ran on the corner of Fifth and Sassafras Streets. Nock probably served as a journeyman level carpenter in Evans' shop, as his tax was exactly the same as Joseph Clark's nearby on Cherry Street, who was identified as "carpenter, jour'yman." Robert Venable, after fifteen years residence on Sixth Street, finally was listed as a white washer, beginning in the city directory for 1795. [6]

In 1782 Sarah, Nock and Robert Venable were again on the tax list, identified as Negroe, while John Brown's racial identification was left off (the only such case this research found). Cyrus and the woman at William Ralston's property no longer were listed. Ann Pounder remained at the same place in 1781, but the assessor dropped her surname. The use of surnames among African Americans began to spread with the Revolution and the emancipation of local slaves. Brown, Pounder and Venable all are surnames that reflect white families in the city or outlying areas, suggesting that those families may have once owned or assisted them, or won their admiration. [7]

The Effective Supply Tax for 1780 indicates that a "gun manufactory," stood at Sixth and Arch Streets on a lot in the estate of Peter Dehaven and Richard Wells. [8] Two gunsmiths, Thomas Elton and Isaac Johns, lived on the block and likely worked in some capacity with the plant. They operated as gunsmiths from a William Ralston property on Fifth Street below Cherry. Johns also appeared on the tax list as a gunsmith on the south side of Cresson's Alley. Little is known about this gun manufacturing or its owners. Peter Dehaven didn't live on the block, nor did Richard Wells, but Joseph Dehaven did, in a house leased from the William Ralston estate on Fifth Street. Joseph, perhaps Peter Dehaven's brother or son, may have been managing the gun factory works. His landlord, William Ralston, purchased the former Thomas Bartholomew lots from Robert Morris in 1777. His real estate was part of the larger Arch Street lot originally owned jointly by Richard Wells' brother-in-law, Samuel Preston Moore, a prominent Philadelphia Quaker, one unlikely to approve of the gun factory. [9]

The same tax rolls list eight butchers on the block, three clustered along Sixth Street above Arch, two on the south side of Cherry Street, and another three in the Cresson section, two on Sixth and one on Sassafras Street. This concentration may have been due to the block's location and state of development. Butchering operations tended to be foul and messy, not often established near densely residential neighborhoods. That these butchers were all situated close to the gun manufactory Peter Dehaven and Richard Wells owned at the corner of Sixth and Arch Streets might indicate that military contractors for munitions and meat supplies located near each other for the convenience of ready transport. [10]

The block in 1780 also showed fourteen textile workers, seven weavers and seven taylors. Such a high count suggests another case where location was determined for proximity to the relevant war effort. Samuel Wetherill, ardent patriot and active promoter of manufacturing in South Alley one block to the south, supplied the Continental Army with military uniforms. [11] He relied on individuals who worked at home, like a cottage industry. The weavers Adam Knoblock, John McInnis, William Johnson, Paul Kingston, Charles Walbert, William Houtsell, and Thomas Watson, and the taylors, John Frees, Jacob Henrigle, Henry Sheerer, John Motshitler, Jacob Cooper, George Everhard and Leonard Rust all may have been part of Wetherill's extended effort. Four of the taylors were on Fifth between Arch and Cherry, one on Cresson, one on Cherry and one on Sixth Street just above Cherry. The weavers lived near the taylors, one on Fifth, three on Cressons, and two on Sixth Street below Cherry. By 1781, at the close of the war, five of these men had moved to new locations. No later record in the remaining years of the 18th century named such a large number of textile workers on this block, which may argue that these artisans had located their work near the military supplier, Samuel Wetherill, or to be near shipping stations while the war provided them business. [12]

Another possible connection to the military effort on the block is raised by the brief presence of Alexander Quarrier and William Hunter, coachmakers, in the tax record. The coachmaking shop stood either on or adjoining Robert Evan's large lot at Fifth and Cresson's Alley. In 1780 their business registered the second highest evaluation on the block —-35,200– even higher than Caleb Cresson's at 27,500, who evidently had already built and moved to his home on the corner of Cherry and the eastern 10-foot alley. Quarrier and Hunter the following year showed a marked drop in their tax assessment. Their valuation fell to less than half Cresson's suggesting that their income may have declined with the prospect of peace. Quarrier also served as captain in the Second Troop Philadelphia City Calvary during the Revolution. Earlier in the war (1778) Quarrier advertised from his business "next door to the Indian Queen in Fourth Street" that he had an elegant coach for sale. After the war his partnership with Hunter dissolved and Hunter returned to his former shop in Market Street. [13]

Another coachmaker, George Way, did business on Fifth Street near Arch in 1780. A few doors away James Porter, saddler, earned a comparatively modest income. Perhaps one or both of them filled military supply requests. George Way did not appear in the next year's tax record for this block, suggesting that like Quarrier and Hunter, he moved closer to the center of town and the marketplace after the war ended. [14]

Considering all overland traffic relied on horsepower, it is not surprising to find four blacksmiths on the block in 1780. John Greus leased ground on Peter Dehaven's large lot at the corner of Sixth and Arch streets, close by the gun manufacturing plant. James Brown leased space on Robert Evans' large lot at the corner of Fifth and Cresson's Alley and Solomon Taylor operated from one of William Todd's estate lots on Fifth Street near the corner of Race or Sassafras Street. Valentine Hoffman, around the corner from Taylor on Sassafras Street, was the only one who owned the lot where he worked. Hoffman remained for the duration of the century and in 1801 still did business from 166 Sassafras Street. John Greus appeared on the 1781 tax roll, but by the first census of 1790, he no longer was in business on the block. Solomon Taylor and James Brown moved away before the assessor took account for 1781, suggesting that they relocated to another neighborhood after the war. [15]

John Lawrence, a porter who lived mid-block on the north side of Cherry Street, recorded one of the highest tax valuations in the 1780 effective supply tax. Perhaps he profited, too, from the wartime demand for local transport of goods. Lawrence may have been the logical porter to move the guns, beef or military uniforms that the Continental Army possibly procured from Block Three. [16]

Besides those who may have served the war effort, the block in 1780 also supported the normal quotient of civilians, especially numerous widows (10), but also laborers, carters (2), bakers (2), a chandler, schoolmaster, clerk, porter, sailmaker and shopkeeper. Only one merchant, William Davy, was listed that year. Davy lived in one of the only three-story houses then on the block, early built by Thomas Bartholomew on Arch Street at the corner of Fifth. By the close of the century Davy had formed a partnership with Josiah Roberts to market printed calicoes "equal to any in London." Evidently he had profited from the numerous English textile artisans who settled in the area after the Revolution, but in 1780 he may also have taken residence near the fourteen weavers and tailors living on Block Three. Finally, the block still showed a healthy representation in the building trades–carpenters (5), bricklayers (2) a joiner, and a painter. Some of these men, like Robert Evans, Jesse Roe, and Christlieb Bartling, had been on the block for up to thirteen years and from this location had built their careers. With the close of war, construction on the block mushroomed. [17]

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Last Updated: 05-May-2004