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.

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.)