The Monument is Moving!

Artist's conception: Newkirk Monument along Bartram's Mile
Artist’s conception: Newkirk Monument along Bartram’s Mile
Wonderful news, all — the 1839 Newkirk Monument is saved! It will be moved tomorrow, Nov. 17, beginning at 7 a.m., to its own concrete pad along Bartram’s Mile, the soon-to-open section of the Schuylkill River Trail.
(What is it? It’s the 15-foot West Philly obelisk that has been a minor obsession of mine for several years. Frankly, this takes my breath away. The effort to save the Monument represents patience, diligence, teamwork, and vision by Amtrak, the City of Philadelphia, Christopher Dougherty at the Fairmount Park Conservancy, Andropogon architects, the Schuylkill River Development Corporation, Bradley Maule at Hidden City Philadelphia, the George Young moving company, and many more. My thanks to all of them!
With luck, I’ll have photos to post of the move and the Monument in its new home soon.

Where Did the Newkirk Monument Originally Stand?

If there are engineering drawings or surveyors’ documents that mark precisely where the Newkirk Monument was set up in 1839, they haven’t come to light. So if we want to figure out, within a few yards, where the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad put its 15-foot marble obelisk, we must examine other clues.

Here’s a short video laying out the case for 39.93975N, -75.20830W:

And here are the maps and documents cited in the video:

  • Baist’s 1886 map of Philadelphia’s 27th Ward.
  • Charles P. Dare’s 1856 guidebook to the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad, p. 115.
  • An 1850 Talbotype, an early kind of photograph, taken of the Gray’s Ferry bridge area by the Langenheim brothers of Philadelphia. Held by the Library Company of Philadelphia.
  • 1927 aerial photo: “Van Sciver Sand, 51st Street and Schuylkill River.”

And where does the Monument stand now? That’s much easier to figure out. Google Earth shows its location to be 39.939492N, -75.210633W — just 220 yards west of its original location.

‘The Dying Began in Baltimore’

2008 photo of President Street Station (MamaGeek via WIkipedia)
2008 photo of President Street Station (MamaGeek via WIkipedia)

Just a few days after Fort Sumter fell in April 1861, a Union regiment from Massachusetts made the daylong journey down the length of the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad’s main line. Disembarking at President Street Station in harborside Baltimore, the troops boarded trolley cars bound for the Baltimore & Ohio station, where they aimed to continue their journey south. Instead, they were attacked by a pro-Confederate mob, and 16 Union soldiers became the first casualties of the Civil War. Continue reading

Boarding the Train for War

"Union Volunteer Refreshment Saloon of Philadelphia" (T. Sinclair's Lithography, ca. 1861-65; Library of Congress)
“Union Volunteer Refreshment Saloon of Philadelphia” (T. Sinclair’s Lithography, ca. 1861-65; Library of Congress)

The Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad station at Washington and Broad Streets in Philadelphia was the great embarkation point for Union troops from the northeastern states heading south to fight in the Civil War. This print by artist James Fuller Queen (1820 (21?)-1886) shows Union troops arriving from New Jersey by Delaware River ferries. They march in formation toward the southwest corner of Swanson and Washington avenues, where they are served food and drink at the Union Volunteer Refreshment Saloon, organized by local grocer Barzilia S. Brown in 1861, and cheered on by Philadelphians, who have lined up to watch.

After they eat, the troops board PW&B coaches, which take them across the Gray’s Ferry Bridge, past the Newkirk Monument, and southward to war.

Source: Library of Congress

Before it was Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor

"Map of the Philadelphia, Wilmington, & Baltimore Railroad shewing [sic] its connections." From the Library of Congress: http://www.loc.gov/item/98688775
“Map of the Philadelphia, Wilmington, & Baltimore Railroad shewing [sic] its connections.” (Library of Congress)

Here’s an 1850 map of the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad, the line that erected the Newkirk Monument. One of the virtues of this map is that it shows just how direct was the new railroad line between its principal cities — so direct that Amtrak still uses most of the route for its Northeast Corridor trains.

(Want to print out the map and frame it? We don’t blame you. Luckily, you can download a giant scan from its page at the Library of Congress.)