The History of Holmesburg, PA

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The following article is brought to you by the child abuse attorneys from Holmesburg. We want to encourage residents and visitors to learn more about the history of the neighborhood,

History of Holmesburg

Holmesburg is a neighborhood in the northeast portion of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Once a village in Lower Dublin Township, it is named after the Surveyor General of Pennsylvania Thomas Holme. The neighborhood is bounded by the Delaware River to the east, Cottman Avenue to the south, Tacony to the west, Mayfair to the northeast and Pennypack Park to the north. The Pennypack Creek runs north to southeast through Holmesburg before it merges with the Delaware River.

Before English establishments, Holmesburg was first inhabited by the Lenape people. In 1683, William Penn purchased the land between the Pennypack Creek and Neshaminy Creek from the Indians. He then gave Thomas Holme a grant of 1,646 acres of land on either side of the Pennypakc Creek to establish Wellspring Plantation. When Holme's descendants divided the land in 1790, 26 acres of it became the Village of Holmesburg.

In the late 1600s and the early 1700s, the King's Highway Bridge was constructed over the Pennypack Creek to connect Penn's mansion to the new city of Philadelphia. Peter Dale and John Holme – not related to Thomas Holme – also built a grist mill downstream from the bridge. Other establishments during the time were:

  • A dam upstream at Rocky Falls
  • A road to bring grains to the mill built by Welsh farmers from Gwynedd
  • A cooperage for the production of hogsheads and barrels, a sawmill and a cider mill built by Robert Lewis
  • A textile mill built by David Lewis

These mills were major contributions to the growth of Holmeburg.

In 1756, when the first stagecoach service was established between Philadelphia and New York, a blacksmith shop and an inn were created at the junction of Welsh Road and the King's Highway as a rest stop. With Ferry Lane constructed for access to the Frankford-Bristol Road, a toll-house and toll-gate were created in 1803 to cover maintenance. In 1863, the incorporation of the Frankford and Holsburg Railroad established a line going from Frankford to Holmesburg. Today, the major roadways serving the neighborhood are Delaware Expressway (Interstate 95) and Frankford Avenue (U.S. Route 13).

Read on about the Evolution of Port Richmond, Pennsylvania.

Thomas Holme Library

Constructed in 1906, the Thomas Holme Library was built through an endowment from industrialist Andrew Carnegie and the land donation from the local Lower Dublin Academy. It was originally supposed to be established as a school; however, a library was considered to be a more significant educational contribution. Designed by architect Horace W. Caster of the Sterns & Castor architecture firm, it is of the Beaux Arts style. The library is the smallest of the Philadelphia branch libraries and is operated by the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Pennypack Park

Pennypack Park is a natural and recreational park that stretches through the middle of Holmesburg along the Pennypack Creek. Named after the Lenape Indian word for slow-moving water, it is nine miles long and encompasses over 1,600 acres of woodlands, wetlands, meadows and fields. The park is a great space for walking, running, hiking, biking and horseback riding. Part of the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation system, it was established in 1905. The park features several playgrounds, trails and bridle paths. It is home to more than 150 species of nesting and migrating birds, mammals and reptiles. Historic structures still standing in Pennypack Park are the King's Highway Bridge, Pennepack Baptist Church and The Verree House.

Pennypack Creek Bridge

The Pennypack Creek Bridge goes by many names: the Pennypack Bridge, the Holmesburg Bridge, the Frankford Avenue Bridge, and the King's Highway Bridge. Constructed in 1697, it is the oldest surviving roadway bridge in the U.S. The 73-foot-long, three-span, twin stone arch bridge carries Frankford Avenue over Pennypack Creek in the Holmesburg section of Pennypack Park. In 1970, the American Society of Civil Engineers designated it as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. On June 22, 1988, it was also listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).

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