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.

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