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Kensington


Kensington [1]

Incorporated in 1820, was named for one of the western suburbs of London, the home of the Kensings, and the site of Kensington Gardens. It extended from the Cohocksink creek (near Poplar street), to above Lehigh avenue, and was east of 6th street and Germantown avenue. It covered most of the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th wards, with the part of the 31st St ward west of Frankford avenue (the details of the boundary are indicated on the large map). Kensington is famous for its rearrangement of Philadelphia streets, east of Front street, due to the bend in the river. Some of them turn northeast, some turn southeast; so that Girard and Susquehanna avenues intersect, while Norris street goes off in a direction of its own, intersecting streets of both sets. Germantown road, Frankford road, and Point road (Richmond street) all began near the Cohocksink creek, and wandered toward their destinations as old roads do; the modern "Kensington Avenue" begins further north, at Front and York streets, and runs directly northeast to the lower end of Frankford, where it merges with Frankford avenue at Womrath Park.

The section was known to the Swedes by the Indian name Shackamaxon, "place of eels," and was settled forty years before the arrival of Penn by the Cocks and Rambos, some of the titles being confirmed in 1665 by Governor D'Hinoyossa of New York. Friends' meetings were regularly held at the home of the Englishman Thomas Fairman before Penn came, and Fairman and Lasse Cock were hosts to Penn, and were members of the first Council under Governor Markham. In 1702 Fairman built a new house near the present Penn Treaty Park, which is at the foot of Columbia avenue, next to the Philadelphia Electric Company's generating station. The monument in the park was placed by the Penn Society in 1827, to mark the site of the "great elm tree," of which Judge Peters wrote:

"Though time has devoted our tree to decay,
The sage lessons it witnessed survive to this day.
May our truth-worthy statesmen, when called to the helm,
Ne'er forget the wise Treaty held under our Elm."

The inscriptions read, "Treaty Ground of William Penn and the Indian Natives, 1682, Unbroken Faith," and-"Pennsylvania, Founded 1681, by Deeds of Peace." The Penn statue on City Hall (the "Public Buildings")faces the Penn Treaty Park.

The name of Kensington was given to the section by Anthony Palmer, a merchant from the Barbados, later president of the Council, who laid out a town there in 1 735. Palmer street and the Palmer Burial Ground still exist. Cramp's Shipyard was founded in 1830, and was the main factor in earning for the Delaware the title "The Clyde of America." Charles H. Cramp stated in 1850, when he returned from an inspection of the building of iron ships in Newcastle-on-Tyne, that the people there talked and acted like his neighbors in Kensington. Kensington also became the textile center of Philadelphia. The section has always had a high percentage of home-owners, largely through the aid of building-loan associations, which first flourished there. Many houses are, however, subject to "irredeemable" ground rents.

The river-front part was colloquially known as Fishtown. Bath town, laid out in lots for Joseph Galloway in 1765, extended along 2d-street, from Cohocksink creek (Laurel street), north to its intersection with Germantown road. Its streets included Pitt or St. John street, now American (west of 2d), Otter street and Beaver street (both now included in Wildey street). It derived its name from the spa of John White, veteran columnist on the benefits of cold bathing. It contained the water-driven Globe Mills, at American street and Germantown avenue, and on Hill's 1808 circular map is called Rose of Bath. Rose street, running northeast from Germantown avenue below 2d, is now Van Horn street. The Nanny Coal Market was on American street, above Master.

  1. Campbell, William Bucke, Old Towns and Districts of Philadelphia, 1942, City History Society of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA

Kensington Map

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