Anonymous 1

There were three reasons, the narrator says, that her family lived in Society Hill. (1) Neither she nor her husband had ever lived in the suburbs and had no wish to do so. They rented an apartment at 327 Pine Street, where they lived right after they were married, in 1967. (2) Her husband was a young lawyer at Richardson Dilworth’s firm, and Dilworth encouraged him to consider Society Hill. Living there enabled her husband to spend more time with his family and less time commuting. (3) They wanted their children to attend public schools, and the McCall School was a good school.

In 1970, they moved to 250 Delancey Street, a small house that “was not totally restored the way it should have been.” Previously it had been a corner grocery store. They really liked living on Delancey Street, but in 1977, expecting their third child, they needed a larger house. After a long search, they found 118-120 Pine Street, which was two houses, and they were required to buy both. Eventually, they changed the functions of the rooms and connected the two buildings

Although it was not that far from 250 Delancey Street, the 100 block of Pine Street felt like another neighborhood altogether. There were only two other children of the same ages living on the street. When they were on Delancey Street, there were many more children. The families living on Pine Street were also affected by I-95; before it opened, children could play safely in both streets; but afterwards, that was not so.


[Transcriber’s note: The narrator requested anonymity. She is referred to here as A1.]

DS:      This is an interview with A1. The date is October 27, 2009. The location is 116 Delancey Street, Philadelphia. The interviewer is Dorothy Stevens.

[Tape is turned off, then on again]

DS:      Can you tell me when did you come to Society Hill, you and your husband?

A1:      [We] were married in September of ’67 and moved here to our first apartment at 327 Pine Street. It was first floor rear apartment owned by the Jaworskis.

DS:      Wonderful.

A1:      We were there for three years.

DS:      Then?

A1:      I was pregnant with Joanna, and in 1970, we moved to 250 Delancey Street. It was pretty much a finished house. We didn’t do much to it until we decided to open a fireplace on the first floor, and we had DeRoy Mark design it, and that was all of the – (1:00) it wasn’t an original house. I mean, it wasn’t totally restored the way it should have been.

DS:      This is the house on the corner, on the southeast corner of Third and Delancey?

A1:      Yes, small house, one room each floor.

DS:      Who did you buy it from?

A1:      It was a developer. Somebody from – we were the first people to live in there.

DS:      Since it had been converted from a store?

A1:      Yes. It was a store, an Acme Store. We actually have a picture of it.

DS:      You do? I’d like to see it.

A1:      All right.

DS:      It was an Acme store, and some developer restored it or changed –

A1:      Right.

DS:      – it into a living facility and then you bought it. It was pretty much done for you and you bought it privately.

A1:      Yes, we bought it privately.

DS:      Do you remember how much you paid for it, approximately?

A1:      Yes, $40,000.

DS:      Describe the inside of the house. (2:00)

A1:      You walked right into the living room, well a separation between the living room and dining area. That was the whole first floor. Well, a kitchen and a powder room. Then upstairs was one bedroom [and a] large bath. Then up another set of stairs to the third floor [to] a large bedroom with a bath. Then the attic. Then the basement was finished. We had like a playroom, TV room in the basement with a laundry room. That was it. There was no outside area. It had no garden. That’s the way it was, and we had windows that looked out in the back, but little hallway windows, very small, at the top of the stairs, (3:00) but no other entrance or exit, except for the basement. Out of the basement we had one of those doors that opened out of the basement. Other than that, there was no outside space. That’s what was $40,000. It worked.

DS:      How long did you live there?

A1:      We lived there for seven years until we had David. [Sounds of conversation in background.] We loved the area so much that it was really difficult. We loved Delancey Street. Finding a bigger house. We were having a third child. It took us quite a while to find another house. David was almost two when we moved to Pine Street. It was a whole other neighborhood. It was just so different than living on the 200 (      4:00) block of Delancey Street, which we loved. All their friends were there. The neighbors were so wonderful, the people that had lived there from before redevelopment came to the area, and the new neighbors. There were so many children for them to play with, and so many went to McCall School with them, it was a hard decision. We found this house on Pine Street and we moved there; our life changed a little bit.

DS:      That would have been when?

A1:      We moved there in ’77, October of ’77.

DS:      Who did you buy it from?

A1:      Tom Van Arkel.

DS:      Do you own two houses there?

A1:      Yes, that was part of it. You had to buy both houses, 120 and 118, which (5:00) he [Van Arkle] had converted into apartments. There was one efficiency apartment on the first floor of 118 and a two-story, two-bedroom on the second and third floors. We had all the garden space, so it was nice.

DS:      Tom Van Arkel.

A1:      It [120 Pine] needed a lot of work. Again, we called in DeRoy Mark, and he did bathrooms and kitchens, kitchen, I should say.

DS:      It hadn’t been restored?

A1:      Oh, the apartments were brand new. I mean, they had the best, at that time, they were very well done. Ours [120 Pine] was a disaster. There was no way to move in there. They [previous tenants] actually did live there with two children.

DS:      They had been lived in; there were no animals or open – (6:00)

A1:      Oh, no, no, no. They lived there. They had their boxes packed and their furniture ready to move out.

DS:      Right.

A1:      I think they were out of there by the time we moved in. I think they had separated and went different ways, and that’s when the house went up for sale.

DS:      Do you remember the approximate cost? Two houses.

A1:      No, I don’t. A hundred and something, but – I’m sorry. That I don’t remember.

DS:      Again, you employed DeRoy Mark to come in and –

A1:      Just the kitchen, because it’s a kitchen and a breakfast room. At the time, the kitchen had two little windows and there was an old-fashioned back door that (7:00) was at the end of the back stairs. He (DeRoy Mark) changed it [so] that we had a window at the end of the back stairs and doors that opened out to the garden to bring in all the light. It was an island kitchen. The bathroom was – actually the Van Arkels made the master bedroom in the rear of the house, which was kind of nice because it was quiet, but small, and it had a connecting bathroom. We chose to be in the front of the house, and we converted one of the bedrooms into a bathroom. The children were upstairs. He [Mark] did more work than that, but not total renovations. Laundry room on the third floor, bathroom. The bedrooms that were there on the third floor pretty much (8:00) stayed the same and three of the rooms on the second floor stayed the same. It wasn’t a total restoration. The first floor, like I said, was just the kitchen and breakfast room.

DS:      Do you know what the building had been before the Van Arkels owned it?

A1:      Yes, I have a picture of that also. I think they made straw baskets, and before that, it was a boarding house for I think they were Brazilian, pretty much, sailors. This family ran it. We’ve had more people stop by that house and say, “I lived here when I was a little girl. Here’s my first communion picture taken in this garden.” And the (9:00) family ran it. They all lived in what is now our living room and was always this big room that was a living room. The mother cooked for all of the sailors, and they had rooms upstairs. We had people stop by – not recently, of course – that were sailors that stayed there, families that lived there, people that lived across the street and used to play there. They all wanted to come in and wanted to see the house. We got letters from people from South America that were visiting and wanted to see the house. Their grandfather lived there for a while.

DS:      They would have been sailors, not dock workers?

A1:      Maybe dock workers, too, but pretty much the people that stopped in to see us were – I don’t think people stayed and lived there for a long time. It was kind of like in (10:00) and out. I don’t know that it was dock workers, pretty much. Very interesting, and the pictures are great, the first communion pictures. I think my children’s first communion pictures were taken in that same garden.

DS:      You have a fair size garden in the back?

A1:      Yes, because we have both properties, and the one only goes back as far as our living room, which was the original house, I’m assuming. Both houses only went back that far, and then they built on and on, and we go back all the way. We have a breakfast room in the back, so we have a whole side garden and a back garden. We have five, six trees. We have birches; we have a weeping cherry that you can see. All the neighbors can see it from Front Street and Second Street in the spring when it’s all pink and beautiful. It’s a very nice garden. (11:00)

DS:      Do you have any memory of the scope of – financial scope – of restoring of Pine Street?

A1:      No, we have all those papers at home. I didn’t know that that –

DS:      Did you need to deal with Redevelopment Authority at all when you were re-doing this house?

A1:      No. Nothing to the front of the house.

DS:      That was already in compliance?

A1:      Yes, it’s not historically certified, I think, because of the windows maybe. I’m not sure. But we didn’t bother with that.

DS:      Do you have religious affiliation in the neighborhood?

A1:      Oh, yes, Old St. Joseph’s Church.

DS:      Old St. Joe’s. What were your parents and [your husband’s] parents thinking about your moving to this neighborhood? (12:00)

A1:      [Laughs] My father-in-law said he could buy the whole block for $40,000. My parents – the reason we stayed in the city – well, neither of us had ever lived in the suburbs and had no desire to. With the hours that [my husband] worked as a young attorney, I knew I would never see him. I don’t like to drive. I mean, I do, but to get in the car every day – and our families were all in the city. We both grew up in the city. [My husband] was working in the Dilworth firm. He still is, and Richardson Dilworth knew that he was getting married and was talking to him, you know, one day, and he said, “Why don’t you look at Society Hill? We need young people down there.” So that’s where we looked and that’s where we decided to live for the next 42 years. (13:00)

DS:      Your parents were not appalled.

A1:      No. Again, we grew up in the city.

DS:      Tell me, you have three children, two girls and a boy. How did you deal with school?

A1:      Well, another reason we stayed in the city and this area was because of the McCall School. That’s what we chose. I went to public school and [my husband] went to Catholic School. We chose to stay and send our children to public school, which we did until the big strike. That was just –[we] were both part of the McCall Home and School Association, and we arranged with a couple of other parents to have alternative schools. We had one at Old St. Joe’s, one classroom at Old St. Joe’s. We had teachers. We had one (14:00) in our basement and just various places around the area. We went from kindergarten to eighth grade. We were able to keep the kids into school mode half- days. It worked. Then it got to Halloween, and it looked like nothing was going to happen. We started looking at private schools. We didn’t want a religious school for the girls. It was either a Catholic school or a non-religious school, and we chose Baldwin. At fourth and sixth grade, they got on the train every day and went out to Baldwin. It worked. Well, it worked with Joanna. Stacy came back. David would have been starting (15:00) first grade, and we were able to find a place for him at St. Mary’s. He stayed there until eighth grade and then went to St. Joe’s Prep. The girls graduated from Baldwin. It worked for us. We didn’t – we tried not to make – have the girls go – like, if we’d have gone to St. Peter’s, then it would have been another move at eighth grade, and Joanna was [then] in sixth grade. By sixth grade, especially at a small school like St. Peter’s, everybody’s already made their friends. We just decided they would be better off there [at Baldwin], where they would stay [through twelfth grade]. It was easier for us. We knew we didn’t have to look at a high school.

DS:      Tell me about raising the children in the city when they were young.

A1:      I thought it was easy. They had their friends and music classes and ballet (16:00) classes and Cub Scouts and could walk. Again, I don’t like to drive. Actually, all three of my children still live in the city. [Laughs] They have no desire to – Joanna moved up town. She’s now downtown in New York. Stacy may move to Philadelphia. David is back in Philadelphia, having lived in Boston for a while, going to grad school and then to New York where he worked for about six or seven years. Now he’s in Philadelphia. I think I did the right thing, because it’s where they want to stay. They have very active good memories. My granddaughter is in a cooperative nursery school right now. They were at Three Steps. Joanna is mother of the day today. [Laughs] (17:00) Which brings back memories. My granddaughter was here this weekend and went to St. Peter’s Fair and had her face painted. We have pictures of Stacy at St. Peter’s Fair with her face painted. There’s a lot of tradition here. She plays in the park over here. My children know what it’s like growing up in the city. They’re not afraid of the city, and they take advantage of the things that are out there. Of course, everybody goes away in the summer. We have a house at the beach, and they didn’t spend their summers in the city, which maybe would make things a little more difficult. They saw their father more. With the hours that [my husband] worked, he doesn’t like to drive either, and he would never make the train. He’s always late for trains. When they were little, he would come home, have dinner, and then if he had to, go back to the office, so they did see more of him. He would walk them to school in the morning. We had this (18:00) “walking car pool” to McCall in the morning, and he’d sometimes be walking like ten little girls, and the other dads did it too. I think we spent more time together living in the city, with him being home for dinner, than we would if we were in the suburbs waiting for him to come home.

DS:      He walks to work?

A1:      Sometimes. Sometimes he walks home, especially when they were in the Fidelity Building, which – tradition. My son’s offices are now in the Fidelity Building, where [his father] was for many years. It’s just – yes, he would walk.

DS:      Tell me, you said Delancey Street was so different than Pine Street, even though they’re only like a block away from each other.

A1:      I remember Lynne Roberts saying, “You move around here, and it’s like (19:00) another world.” My kids couldn’t go outside and play, but they did. I shouldn’t say that, but it wasn’t the same as being out on Delancey Street. Then, when they were like seven or eight, the Browns [Valerie and Dick] were outside and the Bullers [Jo Ann and Carter] were outside playing. When I moved over here [to Pine Street], the only children were the [Pat] Tancredis that lived across the street [at 121 Pine Street].

DS:      Edelsteins? [Karen and Fred]

A1:      I don’t know if they were there yet. Those houses weren’t built when I moved over there. They moved in later.

DS:      The Dodds? [Dorothy and David, 119 Pine Street]

A1:      Older.

DS:      That was it? (20:00)

A1:      That was it. The Steeles and the Winks. [100 block of Pine Street, south side]

DS:      [inaudible] on the sidewalk as much as they had before.

A1:      Then, as they got a little older, and before I-95 was completed, they could play ball in the middle of the street, because there was no traffic on Pine Street. It was a dead end. You know, people just usually turned and went up Third Street or down Second Street. No one bothered with Front Street, because if you were going south you had to go around the block. It didn’t continue after Lombard. It was almost a quiet street, until the entrance to I-95 down on Columbus Boulevard was opened, and then it became a highway, which it is now.

DS:      By then the children had grown?

A1:      They had grown, but it was nice [when] we would sit out on the steps, and there were more children on the block.

DS:      Newmarket, behind you, the big open field, did the children play back there or was that built by then? (21:00)

A1:      No, it was pretty much – it was in the process of being built, and David was maybe three or four when it was being opened. No, it wasn’t a big, empty lot when we moved over there. Construction had started.

DS:      Was that a problem, having Newmarket behind you?

A1:      Actually, no. I’m sure it’s known around the neighborhood that my husband is a firm believer in walls, and we had this big four-story wall behind us, stucco wall, and we had no noise. It was a buffer between Newmarket and us.

DS:      It wasn’t a problem?

A1:      No. I think for people that were maybe further down on Front Street, with (22:00) the Rusty Scupper behind them, they heard more noise and they had the trash compactor and things like that. Being up where we are, it is quieter.

DS:      Did Headhouse and their activities ever become a problem for you?

A1:      Then or now?

DS:      Then.

A1:      No.

DS:      No. Any other stories about contractors, banks, suppliers, neighborhood?

A1:      Contractors? Yes. The contractor was in doing our kitchen, and we were living on Delancey Street and had sold our house to our tenant that was at 118 Pine. I guess we had already settled on the house and they were still living over there (23:00) and we were still living here, because we were going to make the move; I guess we were maybe a month away from moving into the house. He [the contractor] was running some heavy equipment, and the circuit breaker would go off, so he’d go down in the basement and put a coin behind it – I don’t know what he did. One night I was at a Three Steps parents meeting at Old Pine Community Center and I heard fire engines. My neighbor, my tenant, whose daughter went to the same school, was sitting next to me, and you know, fire engines [are] going down Pine Street. All of a sudden, he [the neighbor/tenant] got a phone call. They were able to reach him there, and my house was on fire. My children were with someone else. His daughter was home with his wife. It burned our – oh, (24:00] my children were on Delancey Street, because we hadn’t moved in yet – it burned our telephone wire, which [was] connected with both houses. So, no one could call [my husband] and tell him there was a fire. I wound up being the first one there, because I left with my tenant. Nina Dodd [Nina Atwater, 114 Pine Street] saved my house, because she wouldn’t let the firemen break down the front door. She brought them through her courtyard, and we had no door between the two houses then. We shared the garden kind of, she brought them through there with their hoses. She wouldn’t let them break down the new door that was put in, so [the firemen] broke down the old door that we were going to replace anyway and saved our house. It put us, maybe, six months away from moving into our house, because the whole dining room floor went into the basement. Luckily, we had back stairs, because (25:00) we could walk up the front stairs, over the sitting room on the second floor and down the back stairs to look at the damage. [Laughs] It’s funny now, but when you have three children in a tiny little house with two bedrooms …. Anyway, it worked, and we got it fixed, except we lost a beautiful, old pine floor. We did some restoration. We took some floor from the third floor, Joanna’s bedroom, and brought it down and did some repair. It lasted another 25 years, and then we did have to have the floors replaced. Yes, everything went down into the basement, and the kitchen had to be re-done. She’d [Nina Dodd] say, “Oh, we also had a butcher block counter put in.” I don’t know how she did it, but she saved it. She was one of the best neighbors you could ever ask for (26:00) and we saved the butcher block counter. One of our funny stories of our house.

DS:      This was Nina Atwater at the time.

A1:      Yes, she was Nina Atwater at the time, then became Nina Dodd. We loved having her across the street from us or next to us. She was a wonderful neighbor. [Laughs]

DS:      Some experience!

A1:      Since then we’ve done things. We’ve actually had the efficiency apartment that was on the first floor, that’s our first floor sitting room, TV room; [my husband] has a desk there.

DS:      You combined the two houses on the first floor?

A1:      Actually, we didn’t combine them, because combining them would have (27:00) meant losing the alleyway, for trash and things like that. What we did was – this was Rody Davies’ idea; he came into the picture, too. Actually, it’s just a little hallway, and we walk through the little hallway, probably as wide as your dining room table, and we just go into the other room.

[Tape is turned off, then on again]

DS:      Tell me about your involvement in some of the neighborhood associations.

A1:      [We] were both on the board of the McCall Home and School Association. In fact, we were invited to a dinner – we received an invitation because of being active. We had a good principal at the time, the teachers were good, and we thought that (28:00) we were staying there and we felt we wanted to get involved. Before that, it was Old Pine, because the girls went to Three Steps, and we were kind of involved in – it was a cooperative nursery school; we were involved there. Actually, moving it over to Mother Bethel [AME Church] for an after-school program before they even existed, when the children were in kindergarten and it was just half day kindergarten at McCall, they [the children] would be walked over to Mother Bethel and have an afternoon program over there, and for mothers that worked it went on later than that. We kind of got involved in that, and other things like Philadelphia Open House; I was active in that for quite a few years. (29:00)

DS:      Civic Association?

A1:      No, we were not involved in the Civic Association. Well, the Pine Street Neighbors Association with the ongoing battle with the people doing Newmarket, but that sort of has dissolved now, too, so we’re not involved with that any more. I guess people kind of pick their battles and it’s where you live; if it’s not infringing on your area, then maybe it’s a good thing for the neighborhood. But, when you’re having something behind you that’s not a house, you know – if it were houses, that would be great. I (30:00) wouldn’t mind a house. I have neighbors, though, on my street that say, “I wouldn’t want houses behind me. I wouldn’t want to smell someone’s barbeque.” Well, you know, that’s life in the city. You move to the city, you know. I couldn’t understand that one. He doesn’t want houses behind him. Another one who’s an architect said, “Oh my God, those horrible houses like in Abbotts Square.” People are buying those houses. I’m not an architect, but I could live with those houses behind me and have something behind me. It also depends on which end of the block you live on. [Laughs] Anyway, I don’t know if [we] will be around here to see it finished. It’s always, like, (31:00) are we staying? Are we ready to do another battle? But [my husband] likens it to being on the front lines. He said, “It’s like living on the front lines. It’s always a battle. You just have to keep going.”

DS:      He’s a lawyer and that’s what they do.

A1:      He can out-talk most people, too. They just say yes to shut him up. [Laughs]

DS:      [Laughs] Well, thank you very much.

A1:      You’re welcome.

[Tape is turned off, then on again]

DS:      You have some more stories.

A1:      Well, Pine Street was a very clean street when we lived in the apartment at 327. Joe Ottaviano would turn the fire hydrant on at least once a week and wash down the whole street. Even Delancey Street people were outside; maybe we didn’t have as much foot traffic, car traffic, but it just seemed much cleaner. We always enjoyed walking to South Street then. Our children going to McCall School went to school with children (32:00) that lived there, the artisans’ children. I remember Stacy had a good friend, Clara, whose father did iron work, and they lived down there. Just different artists. The owner of Judy’s Café [on the northeast corner of Third and Bainbridge Streets], her children went to McCall School with my girls. So South Street then was more a part of the community than it is now. Now it definitely is not. I remember when Metropolitan Hospital was on the corner, and there was a playground over I-95, before it became the memorial, which is a lot cleaner now. We did make use of that playground down there.

            We had some very good neighbors that had lived here their whole lives, (33:00) the Schmidts at 246 Delancey Street. Mike was retired, I think from the railroad, at the time we moved in there. I didn’t know many people around here. I had Joanna in January and they were the first ones to come up, see the baby, he and his wife. Mike, being around all the time, I was able to ask him – if Joanna was sleeping in the living room in her little cradle or whatever – and I needed to run around the corner to Tancredi’s, Mike would just sit on the step, with the door ajar, and listen for Joanna. He was alive when Stacy was born. They were really good neighbors that we could depend on. Actually, now I am executrix of his wife’s will. It’s just like, she did for me, now I am doing for her son, many years later, who is still living in the house he was born in. (34:00) We have helped him with contractors and fixing the house up. His mother passed away a year-and-a-half ago, and he’s had trouble not having her around. There’s still – it’s nice that there are still people like that. Al, the barber, whose last name is …?

DS:      Koss.

A1:      Yes, he and his wife – they belonged to our parish; so that’s how we knew them. The Ottavianos, Ralph Ottaviano is a great baseball fan, and he and [my husband] would go to baseball games together. I still see Sophie [Ottaviano]. I saw her at her (35:00) sister-in-law’s funeral, and I saw her a couple of weeks ago at Mass, at almost 90. She’s amazing. It’s just nice to see those people still here, who are committed to the area.

DS:      And, happily, stayed.

A1:      And, happily, stayed. Yes, and I think we might be the last on our block, the oldest on our block, besides Florinda Doelp, but her house is up for sale. Did you interview her?

DS:      No. You were going to tell us another story about the mayor with his poodles?

A1:      Oh, yes. [my husband] was working at the Dilworth firm, and we’d be out on a Saturday or a Sunday, and we’d see Dick Dilworth walking along with his poodles. He truly (36:00) enjoyed the neighborhood and he truly is the reason we chose here. I remember going to dinners at their house. I was looking for curtains, and his wife would tell me, “Oh, I got this really inexpensive fabric on Fourth Street. This man is so great. He does curtains.” She wasn’t like this – she didn’t turn it over to a designer. She was involved. It was just nice being able to walk in the neighborhood and seeing – Dr. Barol. He became our pediatrician after David was born, because David has asthma, and our pediatrician was in another area. That meant packing everybody in the car, all three children, and then taking them up there. Dr. Barol was a classmate of our pediatrician, and he (37:00) even suggested him. He said, “He’s closer. He’s around the corner from you.” We were there a lot, he and Shirley.

DS:      His office was in the 400 block of Spruce.

A1:      Right, and if I was walking by and he was outside sweeping the front of his house on a Sunday, maybe I was coming from church, he’d call over and say, “How is David doing?” He was just a very friendly man and nice to have in the neighborhood and someone to call on at any time.

DS:      Exactly.

[End of interview]


© 2009 Project Philadelphia 19106™. All rights reserved.

About the Interview

Dorothy Stevens
Cynthia J. Eiseman
Interview Location
116 Delancey Street
Interview Date
October 27, 2009
ZZ, Anonymous 1
Narrator Type
Redeveloper - Restoration
Oral History Sources