Constance Congdon

Constance (Connie) and Tom Congdon were among the early buyers of old houses in Society Hill. They bought 314 S. Philip Street in 1958, 50 years prior to the interview. Since then, they had restored two other houses, in New York and Nantucket, and Connie said it was hard to remember what work they had done on which house.

They spent a few months demolishing an awful bathroom, upgrading plumbing, and doing some rewiring. They put in two bathrooms and a kitchen. While Connie was a novice, Tom was very handy and enjoyed the work. He searched for old hardware and found the box locks that are on most of the interior doors of the house. They installed new marble front steps and a brass knocker on the front door, but Connie does not recall if they replaced the shutters. They did get a plaque from the Historical Commission which is still on the house.

There were very few children in the neighborhood, and one of the few times Connie took her daughter to Three Bears Park, some little boys threw sand in her face. She got to know one family with young children on Philip Street and one on American Street; she saw that a large number of people, possibly gypsies, lived in the house at the corner of Philip and Delancey; and another house on Philip Street was apparently a brothel.

Tom was a young editor at the Saturday Evening Post, with offices in the Curtis Publishing Company on Washington Square. It was probably Arnold Nicholson, a senior editor at the Post, who persuaded the Congdons to come to Society Hill. Unexpectedly, the Post moved its editorial offices to New York in 1961 or ’62. The Congdons rented the Philip Street house for three or four years and then sold it. But in a soffit in the living room, they left behind the front page of a 1959 issue of the New York Times and wrote across the top, “Greetings to the Future! – Tom and Connie Congdon.”


CE:      This is an interview with Connie Congdon, who once lived at 314 S. Philip Street in Philadelphia. She now lives at 4 Pine Street, Nantucket, Massachusetts. I’m Cynthia Eiseman, and I am conducting this interview by telephone. The date is October 31, 2008.

[Tape is turned off and then on again.]

CE:      It helps to press the right buttons.

CC:      [Laughs] That’s the kind of mechanic I am.

CE:      Did you get the envelope that I sent you?

CC:      No.

CE:      I sent you an envelope with the release in it.

CC:      Oh, well, don’t worry about it. That’s fine. I am going to send you (1:00) some pictures. Something came up that I had to attend to. I just haven’t gotten to it yet.

CE:      Connie, you are aware that I am making a tape recording of this conversation?

CC:      Yes, I am.

CE:      And that’s OK with you?

CC:      Yes, it is.

CE:      Then we’ll start with my questions. How do you spell your last name?

CC:      Congdon.

CE:      You and your husband, Tom, lived at 314 S. Philip Street in Philadelphia?

CC:      Yes.

CE:      When did you first come to Society Hill?

CC:      Well, we got married in September of 1958, and we lived on top of a drug store on Walnut Street between Third and Fourth Streets for about three months, until (2:00) we could move into the house [on Philip] because we were putting in heat, and we did a certain amount of rewiring.

CE:      So you moved to Society Hill first in 1958 when you got married.

CC:      Yes. And then we officially lived at 314 S. Philip Street starting – it was right before Christmas.

CE:      When did you find the house at Philip Street?

CC:      My husband – well, both of us had worked for the Saturday Evening Post, but I had stopped for a few months for us to get married. Tom was a young editor there, and one of the editors of the Saturday Evening Post, had a house. His name was Arnold (3:00) Nichols [Nicholson]. They had restored a house on ….

CE:      Delancey.

CC:      Yes, that’s right. And he talked about how delightful it was, and my husband was working at Curtis Publishing; it was a very nice, near area to work on a house. We had just a very limited amount of money. We bought the house for $4,000, I think. I think that’s what it was.

CE:      And who did you buy it from?

CC:      We bought it from the Mickle family.

CE:      You did buy it from the Mickles; you didn’t buy it from the Redevelopment (4:00) Authority?

CC:      No. Well, you know, it’s a 50-year-old memory, but my memory is that we bought it from the Mickles.

CE:      How did you actually find that house?

CC:      I believe that Arnold Nicholson knew about it. That’s what my memory is.

CE:      Did you look at other houses in Society Hill?

CC:      No. We found out about that one, and we knew it was going to be emptied out. That was, I guess, the big thing, to find one that didn’t have people living in it who had leases still.

CE:      Can you describe the condition of the house when you first saw it?

CC:      Well, in the area past the stairs, there was a bathroom that had been added (5:00) on there. It was really horrible. I actually think I have a picture of us getting rid of it, tearing it down. I think we did some of the tearing down ourselves. We had a lot of the debris taken out. And I think behind that there may have been the remains of an old outhouse, but that I’m not positive about.

CE:      So this bathroom was in the back yard of the house?

CC:      Yes. A lot of those houses I think had a small addition on the back, and this one had, I believe, both an upstairs and a downstairs addition, on the first two floors. It was really just sort of rotting away and it was in bad condition. We took it down and had it carted away. (6:00)

CE:      Did it have a kitchen?

CC:      I believe that various rooms were being rented, and they probably had little cook stoves. You know, I think it was sort of like that.

CE:      So it was a multiple family residence.

CC:      That’s what I think it was. My memories are a little confused, because we also worked on a brownstone [in New York]. A lot of things were very similar.

CE:      All right. Well, do the best you can. You bought the house in 1958, you tore out this awful bathroom in the back yard, and then what?

CC:      Well, we had a very small – I forget what kind of a loan it was. It was a (7:00) bank loan that would only cover a certain amount of work, because that was all we could afford. And that was for another $4,000, and that paid for a new heating system. We put in gas heat, and a certain amount of rewiring and just a certain amount of plumbing. Then we put a bathroom on the second floor, and then we put a bathroom on the third floor. We did a lot of work in the bathroom ourselves. I think my husband did a lot of work in the kitchen himself, because we were eating out and he – I think he did the Formica counter. And I know he laid the linoleum. We were – we can do it ourselves types. (8:00) [Laughs] We were both young, and my husband loved doing stuff like that.

CE:      I suspected that you had done a fair amount of the work yourselves. You say that you got a bank loan that would only cover –

CC:      I think our total investment was $8,000 or $10,000, something like that. Maybe we bought the house for $8,000 and there was another $4,000 that we were allowed – that we could spend that was kept in an account. I’m a little fuzzy on that.

CE:      Right. Do you remember whether you had any difficulty getting the loans from the bank?

CC:      No.

CE:      You don’t remember or you didn’t have any trouble?

CC:      I just don’t remember. Isn’t that terrible?

CE:      No.

CC:      I remember learning how to use the blow torch to get the moldings (9:00) around the windows. They had very thick paint. To get that done, I remember that very well.

CE:      What else did you learn to do?

CC:      Well, I learned a lot about – my husband was so handy – scraping and filling holes. I didn’t do much carpentry. My husband did a lot of carpentry. But I did learn to use the blow torch. I got very good at that. And the moldings around the windows are beautiful. I just remember how lovely they were.

CE:      They still are.

CC:      They had such thick paint you could barely see the indentations. The molding up around the ceiling of the living room I have a very strong memory of finding (10:00) a delightful old Irishman who still knew how to cut a template and throw the wet plaster up. And I remember that was one of the things we paid to have done, because we wanted it to be done right.

CE:      You repaired the molding, or you added to the molding?

CC:      You could see part of it in the living room. You could see what it had been, and then he knew how to fit a template to that. I can’t remember how he did that. He cut a mold and then he would take the wet plaster and throw it on and then run this template along. It was really interesting.

CE:      You also put in the kitchen that was at the front of the house?

CC:      We put in the kitchen and the two bathrooms. And I also have a very (11:00) clear memory of working on the ceiling on the third floor. It was a wonderful design painted on the ceiling.

CE:      Was that there when you bought the house?

CC:      Yes, you could see it. You could just see it. And we chipped some paint away, and you could see what the whole design was. You could see what the colors had been. And I remember we learned that artisans would come through neighborhoods and ask if they could do things like that. Probably it was painted up there because it was the nursery. That was for children to look at.

CE:      And what was the design?

CC:      It was like a compass rose. I remember, and yet we don’t have a picture (12:00) of it. I won’t know if it’s still there.

CE:      When you say you worked on it, what did you do?

CC:      You could see what the colors were, and you could see what the design was, but it was all chipped away, and [had] very little color to it. You could tell what was red and what was blue and what was green and so forth. We went out and got some paint and restored it.

CE:      Oh, you did.

CC:      Had a lot of fun with it.

CE:      What about the back yard, aside from taking out the horrible bathroom, do you remember what you did back in the back yard?

CC:      We had a friend who was a landscape architect, and he designed a little, I guess, he built up a bed, and we put in – we espaliered something up one wall, and (13:00) we put little, miniature birch trees. We had a very sweet garden, but unfortunately anything we planted didn’t really survive, because we had a tenant after – we rented the house for four years when we’d been living in Connecticut in the ‘60s, and we had a tenant who I think put his dog out there. And that’s a long time ago.

CE:      What other memories do you have of working on the house or renovating it? I’m interested particularly in the fact that the house has on it a plaque from the Redevelopment Authority. Did you get that from the Redevelopment Authority?

CC:      I think Tom got that. (14:00)

CE:      Wat work did you do on the façade of the house? Do you remember?

CC:      I think we put new steps.

CE:      The marble steps.

CC:      Don’t the marble steps look new?

CE:      Yes.

CC:      Yes, yes, we put those in, and we found an old foot scraper, and I remember putting that in. And I remember putting a brass, 18th-century style door knocker on the house.

CE:      What about the shutters? (15:00)

CC:      The shutters? Oh, that’s a good question. It may be that there were not shutters there, and you could go to places that sold old things and find some. But I have a feeling the shutters were there. Yes. I’m sorry I can’t remember.

CE:      That’s all right. It was a long time ago. When you bought the house from the Mickle family, were they living next door?

CC:      Yes, they were. There was the brother, Sonny, and then there were at least two sisters. I can’t remember their names.

CE:      Elizabeth.

CC:      Mary.

CE:      And Mary, known as Peggy.

CC:      Yes, Peggy. And was their mother still alive then?

CE:      It was just the three siblings.

CC:      That’s what I think. They were very nice but very quiet. We didn’t (16:00) know a lot of people in the neighborhood. Some houses were empty, I believe. The house on the corner of Philip and Locust Street, on the corner towards the river, that house –

CE:      Philip and Delancey? Or Philip and Spruce?

CC:      Philip and Spruce. I’m sorry. Going in the other direction, in other words, away from Delancey.

CE:      That’s Spruce.

CC:      That’s Spruce. That house on the corner, the corner towards the river, I distinctly remember it was being rented at one time to gypsies. It was a gypsy family (17:00) you’d see coming in and out and walking down the street, which I found highly entertaining as a young bride. But then it was sold, and an architect whose last name was Brahan – I believe his first name was Fred – worked on that house. I don’t know who owns it now.

CE:      Say what you think his name is.

CC:      I believe his name was Fred Brahan – Brahan. A very nice young architect.

CE:      Do you remember who else was living on the street?

CC:      There was, up from, perhaps on the other side of the Mickles, maybe one or two houses up, there was a family whose last name was Fayer, and I’m not sure (18:00) of the spelling, but it could have been F-a-y-e-r.

CE:      Joe and Joan.

CC:      Joe. Yes, she was a school teacher. And they had a little girl, a year older than our daughter, that Pammie played with at one time.

CE:      So they already owned that house by the time you bought your house.

CC:      I think they did. Yes, I think they did. They either went to live in Puerto Rico or they had before.

CE:      Anybody else that you remember?

CC:      I really can’t.

CE:      Let me ask the question another way. Aside from the Mickles, who had been living in the neighborhood for a very long time, do you remember if anybody else who was living on Philip Street was also someone who had lived in the neighborhood (19:00) for a very long time, like the Mickles?

CC:      No, I really don’t. We knew a family on American Street, but they were working on it. Their last name was Daily.

CE:      Daily?

CC:      D-a-i-l-y, as in the daily mail. I think it was D-a-i-l-y. They owned it for a while. I forget which number. He was a doctor.

CE:      Did you have very much to do with other people in the neighborhood who had lived there all their lives?

CC:      No, we really didn’t, because as soon as we – as I said, my mother was (20:00) very ill and was dying. I was always going out to visit her. Then I had a baby. Then my father died, and then all of my friends had been in the country, outside of Philadelphia, because that’s where I had grown up, in Wynnewood. We didn’t really – we were always so busy working on the house or working. I went back to work right after my mother died. We were always so busy, that we really didn’t socialize that much. Had we stayed there longer, we would have. Then in 1961 or ’62 the Saturday (21:00) Evening Post decided to change the offices from the Curtis Building – the editorial staff were transferred to New York. We were really only living there for just about four years.

CE:      I see. But you continued to own the house, and you rented it out?

CC:      I believe we rented it for another about four years. I know we rented it for a while. I had my second child right after we moved, and I think we rented it for three or four years.

CE:      When you bought the house from the Mickles and did the work on it, (22:00) did the Redevelopment Authority or the Historical Commission impose any restrictions or constraints on what you could or couldn’t do to the house? Do you remember?

CC:      I don’t think so. I really don’t. I don’t remember anything – like here in Nantucket we have some of those things for the outside of homes, but I can’t remember anything like that. My husband was always interested in old hardware and all of those things. And he just loved getting the originals. If the house didn’t have it, he loved poking around someplace where he could find the right kind of hardware to hold the shutters back. You know, all those. He found it very interesting, and I got interested in it after (23:00) a while.


CE:      Now the doors in that house, many of the interior door as well as the front door and the back door, have old style – I don’t know whether they’re –

CC:      Oh, those box locks.

CE:      Yes, those box locks. Were they there in the house when you bought the house?

CC:      No, I think Tom found those some place, and I don’t know where. But, as I say, he was always, no matter where we were, he would poke around, and he was thrilled with those box locks. He loved them.

CE:      Well, you tell him they’re still there.

CC:      I will. He’ll probably remember. I hope he does. And then we got little reproduction ones for a lot of the doors.

CE:      The interior doors.

CC:      Yes. I remember finding those in some – I don’t where we got them. (24:00)

CE:      They’re still there. You put in central heating? You put in the radiators?

CC:      Yes, we had gas heat. I remember the hall, the steps, were very cold. There was no heat there; so we’d always keep the doors closed.

CE:      We found that to be true when we bought the house, too. I don’t suppose that you remember what your real estate taxes were when you first got the house. Nobody ever, ever remembers that.

CC:      Sorry, I don’t. The thing I do remember was finding out that the house had been built by Stephen Girard. (25:00)

CE:      And how did you find that out?

CC:      That’s a good question. I think just from talking to people in the neighborhood. Maybe that Arnold Nicholson knew. It could have been he. He was also the editor of Saturday Evening Post for any article that had to do with architecture. He could have been the source.

CE:      I see. He knew all that stuff. You think you paid maybe $4,000 for the house and $4,000 for the first go-round of renovations.

CC:      Yes, it was either $4,000 for the house and then $4,000 for renovations, (26:00) or else we spent $8,000 for the house and then another $4,000 – and that’s where I’m sorry.

CE:      That’s OK.

CC:      I wonder if the Mickles remember.

CE:      Well, that’s easy enough to look up – the price that you paid for the property. When you bought the house, what was the condition of the floors, the pine floors? Do you remember? Did you refinish them?

CC:      Yes, and that’s something I have a very strong memory of. They were in quite bad condition, but then of course we did so much work. By the time you do anything involving blow-torching or painting or sanding or plastering, all that makes a lot of – an enormous amount of work. So we knew we had to get the floors done, and we (27:00) actually didn’t do that ourselves. We had that done. And I was about 8 ½ months pregnant and getting very worried about when these floors would – because we had to move things up –. We did the first two floors before the baby was born, and we did the other floors later. But we had to get things moved out for the floors to be done. And I just remember that we finally got that all done in between when I was 8 and 8 ½ months pregnant. And just I remember what a shot in the arm it was. Suddenly the house seemed very clean.

CE:      Yes, I can imagine. When you bought this house and moved into this (28:00) neighborhood, what was the reaction of your family – your parents, your siblings, your husband’s parents?

CC:      Tom’s parents thought we were insane [Laughs]. You know, my husband – who is suffering from Parkinson’s now; you would never guess to see him now – but when he was 19, after his sophomore year at Yale, he went off to work in a mining camp in Alaska for the summer. I think they were accustomed to things like that and not having him follow the general rule. My father was a university professor, and he didn’t know how – his big thing to know how to do was turn a light switch on or change a light (29:00) bulb. He literally could fix nothing in the house. It was a total mystery to him that we would ever decide to do something like that, and I’m glad that he lived to see the first two floors of the house before he died. But after a while, our parents saw that we actually had made a very good investment. They thought we were crazy when we bought the brownstone in New York, too, but that all worked out.

CE:      Now you say they thought you were insane because the neighborhood was so run down or why? (30:00)

CC:      They thought – they thought – yes, that the neighborhood was terrible. They just couldn’t understand how we could bear to do this. But they knew we didn’t have enough money to buy a nice little house in the suburbs. So they sort of went along with it, I guess. They didn’t have much of a choice.

CE:      But your influence was really Arnold Nicholson?

CC:      Yes, yes. And then I think Tom’s parents met the Nicholsons. I believe they met them once and could see there were actually normal people there. [Laughs]

CE:      [Laughs]

CC:      You know, and as the years went by they became more accustomed to it. I think it was hard for them. Looking back on it, I guess it was very hard. I was so taken (31:00) up with what we were doing. I was having my first child and going through my parents’ deaths and all that – it just sort of – I thought, “Oh, well, I guess they’ll warm to it after a while.” I think they did.

CE:      You stopped working when you had your first baby, at least for a while?

CC:      No, I stopped working before we got married. My mother was an invalid and she couldn’t really do anything to help with the wedding. I stopped working at the Saturday Evening Post and then after she died, a few months after the wedding, I went back to work. I worked at the Farm Journal.

CE:      On Washington Square.

CC:      Yes.

CE:      When your daughter was born, did that give you an opportunity to get (32:00) to know other mothers in the neighborhood?

CC:      Yes. I stopped working at the Farm Journal and that was when, I remember, getting to know the Fayers. And then there was the doctor and his wife and three little kids who lived on American Street. There really weren’t a lot of children down there. There was a little playground up on Delancey Street. I don’t know if it’s still there.

CE:      Three Bears Park?

CC:      Yes, maybe that’s what it is. I just remember it was around the corner. I remember, I wanted to take Pammy there, and these little rough boys threw sand in her eyes. We never went back there.

CE:      That’s too bad.

CC:      It was kind of a rough neighborhood.

CE:      Was it people who lived in the neighborhood who made it rough or people (33:00) from outside?

CC:      I really don’t know. I can’t remember that. I do know the house opposite – let’s see, on the corner of Delancey and Philip – and I’ll send you a picture of what that view looked like from our second floor – that house, if you were standing at the front door, looking to the right to the far corner there – that house was filled with people. This is really horrible. You would see even young girls going to the bathroom in the (34:00) back yard. Because I don’t know how much the plumbing – or the plumbing was broken or something.

CE:      So that house, which is a historic property and has plaques on it and so forth, was occupied with many people who didn’t have sufficient bathroom facilities.

CC:      Oh, sure. It was a nice house. Yes. And also, the house – if you’re standing in the middle of Philip Street and looking toward Spruce, the house right there – it would be on the other side of the street – that house, I remember, people must have rented rooms by the night or day, because you’d see different – you’d just constantly see a different person at the window looking out. Someone told me it was like – it was really a fairly (35:00) unsavory place. People didn’t even rent a room. In other words, they would just rent the right to sleep in a certain room for a number of hours.

CE:      Do you think it was a brothel?

CC:      I think there was one on Delancey Street. I can remember going up Delancey – if you had been going from Philip and you crossed Delancey Street and walking uptown, right there, there was a place where there would be women at the window who didn’t have any blouses on. I remember thinking, “Well, I guess that’s what that is.” [Laughs]

CE:      Yes. One of our neighbors told us, who lives on Delancey and has lived there for a long time, told us that that was a very safe block to live in, because when they (36:00) moved in, there was always a police car out in front of that other house. [Laughs] And they became fast friends with all the policemen and the ladies who lived there.

CC:      [Laughs] Oh, my gosh. Pam, my daughter was so young, and I just remember thinking, “I must avoid that.” But there was a wonderful butcher shop on South Street. Her name was Rose Beck. People would line up, because she was such a wonderful butcher. That’s one of the few convenient stores there was in the neighborhood. I literally would get in our car and drive out to the supermarket to get our weekly supplies.         (37:00)

CE:      Because there was no supermarket in the neighborhood at the time?

CC:      No. There were a couple of convenience stores. I think there was one up on the corner. I can’t remember the name of it. It was called something like Al and Jerry’s or something. It was up on the corner of Delancey and Fourth? And that little store I used to use. I don’t think it had meat; it was mostly canned, boxed, things, and a little bit of fresh fruit.

CE:      But you went to Rose Beck’s?

CC:      I remember Rose Beck. Yes, she was a very good butcher. It was on South Street, but between what and what I’m not sure. (38:00)

CE:      Do you remember any of the other shops you might have used in the neighborhood, any bakeries or produce places?

CC:      I don’t think there were any. I can’t remember that. I have a very strong memory of getting in our car and driving out to the nearest supermarket. Because it was just so hard with a small child to be constantly carrying things home.

CE:      Did you and your husband become involved at all in any neighborhood associations that might have been in existence at the time?

CC:      No, and I don’t think that there was one. I honestly don’t think there was one. That kind of thing we always belonged to in New York, where there was a very           (39:00) strong association. But I don’t think the few people that were there [in Society Hill] were so busy working on their houses – I remember when Headhouse was built, remember that?

CE:      What do you mean, when Headhouse was built?

CC:      It’s something else now. It was a restored open market, and it had been called Headhouse.

CE:      There’s a building which is called the Headhouse and the Shambles, which is a very old building, which has been restored.

CC:      That’s it.

CE:      It’s in the middle of Second Street.

CC:      That’s it.

CE:      You say you remember when it was built.

CC:      No, no. Being restored. I remember that. That’s when we were there. (40:00)

CE:      Tell me about it. What did they do to it? What condition was it in when they started to restore it? What did it look like?

CC:      What I remember is that it had been an open-air market sort of place, and that was what the original restoration had been. Now that we’re talking about it, I remember going back to Society Hill many years later, like maybe in the early ‘80s, and it was very different, with all shops. It was almost unrecognizable. But then a lot of Society Hill seemed like that to us, because it was so sparse. The places where you really (41:00) were happy walking were few and far between. There was a beautiful little garden place to walk to, up – and it was closed at night. I don’t know if you know where that garden was. It was up – quite a few blocks from our house.

CE:      Was it the Rose Garden that is part of Independence National Historical Park?

CC:      I don’t think so. I’m trying to think exactly where it was. If you walked up (42:00) town and you walked over a little bit – oh, dear.

CE:      Because there’s that and there’s another garden that belongs to the Horticultural Society, and it’s on Walnut, at the intersection of Walnut and Fourth.

CC:      That sounds like the right area. Is that garden still there?

CE:      Oh, yes. A formal garden. Clipped boxwood hedges and things like that.

CC:      Yes. I used to meet a friend I knew, a French woman with a little girl who could speak both French and English, and I always hoped Pammy would pick up some (43:00) French, but they used to ride their little bikes there.

CE:      How old was your daughter when you moved to New York?

CC:      She was three, turning three.

CE:      So she didn’t go to school in Philadelphia.

CC:      No.

CE:      Was there a play group or anything like that that she was part of?

CC:      No, because there weren’t children her age. There was – I used to get together with a few people, but that was one of the things that was really hard. I had friends in the country who had children her age. I used to go out and visit them a lot, so she had some companionship. But that was hard. And we hadn’t quite solved the school (44:00) thing yet. We were always wondering what we would do about it. And then suddenly Tom was told the Saturday Evening Post was moving. We didn’t have to solve that.

CE:      Well, do you have any other stories about the house or the neighborhood?

CC:      I can’t really think of anything. I’ve been trying all afternoon to come up with some more things. I really – I’m sorry I can’t think of anything really interesting. What is the name of the little alley off of Delancey?

CE:      Drinker’s Court.

CC:      Drinker’s Court. And I think there’s a little restored – Tom had an uncle (45:00) who lived there when he was getting divorced. I talked to him about a week ago, and he remembered that one of his neighbors there was an old-fashioned telegram deliverer. In other words, he kept a bike outside of his little place he rented, and he’d go off every morning to deliver telegrams. [Laughs] Which seems sort of funny today, in this age of emails.

CE:      And this was when?

CC:      This would have been in 1959.

CE:      Tom had an uncle who lived in Drinker’s Court?

CC:      Yes, he’s only five years older than Tom. The place he was renting (46:00) had actually been restored by the Nicholsons. The Nicholsons may have been his landlord. I think they may have still owned it.

CE:      And what’s Tom’s uncle’s name?

CC:      His name is Robert Congdon.

CE:      Did he own his house there?

CC:      No, he rented there. I think he rented for about, oh, maybe three or four years. He was going through a divorce, and then he got a larger – he had three children and he bought a house in New Jersey.

CE:      When you bought the house on Philip Street, the Mickles lived on one side of you. What was on the other side?        (47:00)

CC:      It was just empty. It was an empty lot, and then a young man, Trump, John Trump – was that his name? [Robert, Bob] — built the house next door. Which I assume is still there.

CE:      Oh, it is.

CC:      And a very nice woman lived there. I can’t remember her name.

CE:      So Mr. Trump didn’t live in the house? He built it but didn’t live in it?

CC:      I don’t think he lived – maybe he lived – maybe it was his mother. I don’t know if he lived there. He must have lived there. That must have been his mother. But you see, that was only at the end, because it was just an empty lot for a long time. I think that house was just finished perhaps under a year – (48:00)

[End of first side of tape. Beginning of second side of tape.]

CE:      What was across the street from 314 and 312 S. Philip Street?             

CC:      That’s something I have a picture of. There was a big, empty lot., and there’s one picture I have of that shows a horse and cart on Second Street.

CE:      You could see all the way through to Second Street?

CC:      Yes, and the Mummers used to start down there. We used to watch – I remember watching the Mummers begin down there. Maybe they began down even farther, but we used to see them congregate there. Tom couldn’t believe the Mummers [Laughs]. (1:00) Everyone in Philadelphia’s so used to it.

CE:      Right. Was Philip Street paved with Belgian blocks when you bought the house?

CC:      Belgian blocks?

CE:      What most people call cobblestones, but which are not.

CC:      Yes, there were cobblestones.

CE:      And were there any trees planted in front of the houses?

CC:      I don’t remember. But I may have a picture or two that might show that. I located my album, and what I have to do now – and they’re glued in, but I can easily lift (2:00) them off and put them back. And I’m going to have them Xeroxed, because I think you might be interested.

CE:      I am very much interested.

CC:      They’re not good pictures, but if you’ve lived there, they are interesting.

CE:      Yes, I’d love to see them, Xeroxes and all. Any documents of the house or the neighborhood that you also might still have?

CC:      No, nothing. You know the wooden strip where the carpenter wrote (3:00) about John Quincy Adams – but I can’t think of anything….

CE:      Now you left two things in two different locations that we have found so far, when you were restoring the house. Or Tom did.

CC:      The one was the New York Times, right?

CE:      Yes, the one that we just found, the 1959 New York Times. The other was the note.

CC:      Oh, yes, I remember the note.

CE:      That I know we still have, but of course I don’t know where it is. It said that Tom Congdon owned the house in 1959 and whoever found this note should call (4:00) him at the Saturday Evening Post.

CC:      Oh, funny!

CE:      At the Curtis Publishing Company. And of course, when we found this in 1974, the Saturday Evening Post no longer existed; we didn’t make any effort to track you down. But when we found the newspaper a few weeks ago, I was determined as I told you to find you, and I did. Google being so convenient.

CC:      That’s so funny. If you’d called in ’74, probably both of us could have come up with more memories. One of the other problems is that, because we worked on a (5:00) brownstone in New York, sometimes I get things a little mixed up, and I start thinking, “Now wait a minute. Which house was that?” We’ve always loved old houses. If I think of anything interesting, I’ll be sure to call you or send you a note. But I will send you the pictures.

CE:      I’d love to see them.

[End of interview]


© 2008 Project Philadelphia 19106™. All rights reserved.

About the Interview

Dorothy Stevens
Cynthia J. Eiseman
Interview Location
Telephone (Nantucket, MA)
Interview Date
October 31, 2008
Congdon, Constance
Narrator Type
Redeveloper - Restoration
Oral History Sources