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.
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.
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 →
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.
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.)