Lilyan Maitin

Lilyan Maitin describes how her husband, Sam Maitin (l938-2004), a much-loved and prolific Philadelphia artist who worked in many media, decided to buy the house at 704 Pine Street in 1961 or ’62. First Sam – and then Lilyan and Sam together – renovated the house in stages. When the house was finished Sam turned to the back yard, which had two outhouses. Lilyan discusses neighborhood institutions and their pros and cons as neighbors: Boslover Hall, a building across the street that had been founded as a beneficial association by Polish immigrants; Pennsylvania Hospital; the neighborhood elementary school, McCall School, in the next block, that both Maitin children attended; the Babies Hospital at Sixth and Cypress Streets; and Phipps Institute at Seventh and Lombard Streets. Lilyan talks about how Sam helped Dorothy Miller and other neighbors who were about to be evicted from their homes by the Redevelopment Authority. She says it was part of a pattern of his to stand up for people who were being treated unjustly. She describes how the neighbors worked together during teachers’ strikes and transit strikes. She tells how her family and the neighbors used Washington Square as an outdoor space, and how the neighbors put pressure on the Redevelopment Authority to create Addison Street Park, with trees and other plants. Lilyan also describes South Street and Fourth Street and other parts of the neighborhood as they were when her mother took her there when she was a child and living in East Oak Lane.


DS: This is an interview with Lilyan Maitin. M-A-I-T-I-N. The date is January 12, [2008], and the interview is being done by Dorothy Stevens.

Lilyan, tell me, when did you come to Society Hill?

LM: Well, I came in 1964. I actually worked on the house with Sam [Maitin, her husband] who had bought it in 1960 or ‘61, and then we were married in the studio. Our biggest problem was propping up the floors, because the weight of people made possible that the floor might crash down [Laughs] into the basement.

DS: The studio is on the first floor?

LM: On the first floor.

DS: Of the building. The address here is 704 Pine Street? (1:00)

LM: Right.

DS: You came in 1960 before you were married, and worked on the building, because Sam had bought it.

LM: Right. Well, Sam worked on the building. His brother was an architect, and he did two floors. The first and the second floor, and then I just worked, because I wanted to help out. But then we lived on the second floor after we were married, and then in two years we did the third and fourth floor. Then in the ‘70s we did the back area.

DS: Why did Sam decide to come here?

LM: Well, first of all, he lived at 16 th and Waverly [Streets] and it was a tiny house, and he was really getting annoyed with the people that owned the house, and they (2:00) kept raising the rent. He decided he would look around for a house to buy. He found this one, and his brother looked at it, and they said it was really good. That’s when he moved down. He checked the crime rate down here, which was much less than anywhere else in the city. He liked the neighborhood and the people. It was a mixed neighborhood. That was how he came here.

DS: Do you know who he bought the property from?

LM: It was part of an estate, and there were actually12 people that owned it. It was the Apfelbaum family.

DS: Apfelbaum?

LM: A-P-F-E-L. Something like that.

DS: Right.

LM: He found a bowler hat in the attic and other things. He did a painting (3:00) incorporating all of these things, and he called it “The Apfelbaums.”

DS: He bought it directly from the family, or from the estate?

LM: Right. Well, he bought it from a realtor who was managing the estate. It hadn’t been lived in for four years. There was a lot left here.

DS: The Redevelopment Authority was not involved.

LM: Not in the house, no. I mean, we had to do the front of the house, which was required.

DS: You had to do up drawings of the front of the house for them to approve?

LM: Right. Well, we had people who came in and washed the front walls, the outside brick [inaudible]. They were off-duty SWAT policemen. They (4:00) did that before Sam and I were married. Then he started working on the house. He didn’t live here when the house was being worked on, the first two floors.

DS: Interesting. The condition of the property was not livable when Sam – I mean, it had been empty for four years, but you couldn’t move in. You had to work on it.

LM: Oh, yes, absolutely. I mean, it looked – it was interesting, because as I recall, it had the entrance and an archway and – now the studio is just one big room. It had a dining room and then a kitchen that had been added on a hundred years before. But we found things in the woodwork, on the fourth floor, everywhere. But I’m sure (5:00) everybody else working on houses did, too.

DS: When was the house built? Do you know?

LM: In 1810. It was built with the house next door, 706 [Pine Street], by the sexton of Christ Church. It was one of the first types of houses – that was built for the purpose of renting. It was Blackwell? I think that was his name. On the fourth floor, we found under the attic floorboards eggshells and papers and shoes, one of each shoe, which apparently was a lucky thing for Irish families. They put their shoes under the floorboards, and they probably made shoes up there. The father’s shoe was very wide. It had a bunion with a little square cut out and re-patched. Then a little boy’s shoe. Then a ballerina slipper that was very, very wide, which was the mother’s, and a little girl’s ballerina slipper. (6:00) From that we sort of determined – because, actually, it wasn’t until 1910 that they started manufacturing shoes – everything was custom-made here. This was much, much earlier. Of course, I still have the shoes.

DS: The shoes were manufactured?

LM: No, no, they were made by hand.

DS: Hand made.

LM: The little boy’s shoe had little nails in it the heels. You can almost see him running up and down the street. Then it was re-patched and re-patched. They were high shoes, high around the ankle.

DS: The idea was to put these shoes under the floorboard, because that was to bring you good luck?

LM: That was, I think, an Irish tradition, to put one shoe of each family (7:00) member under the floorboards or somewhere. I know it was under the floorboards. Then on the third floor, Sam called me at work. He was all excited. He said, “They found a leather jerkin, like the kind that Daniel Boone used to wear.” I said, “Please, save it until I get home, because I want to see it.” Then when I got home, one of the workmen had tried it on, and it had disintegrated. So ….

DS: What a shame. What else did you find?

LM: Oh, in the back we found some coins, which have since been lost.

DS: In the yard? In the dirt?

LM: Yes. In the back. And leading up to the third floor we found a little porcelain doll that was put into a hole between the walls. It was a pretty little thing. I forget (8:00) where it is. Somewhere around here I have it.

DS: Interesting. The condition was not livable; you had to – you started fixing up. Did you do this yourself or did you bring in contractors? What was the scope of the work?

LM: Sam’s brother was an architect; he had the contractors come in, and he oversaw everything.

DS: Did you change the inside considerably?

LM: Oh, yes.

DS: From what it was originally?

LM: Yes. I would – it wasn’t livable, but it wasn’t derelict.

DS: It didn’t have pigeons living in it.

LM: No, no, no, no, no. In fact, there’s a house up the street now that just sold, and I went in there to look at it, and it’s huge. It’s in sort of the same condition that this house was in. But somebody had not lived in it for a while. Somebody, I guess, (9:00) will probably re-do the whole thing.

DS: When you first started working on this house, what was the layout? You walked in to a hallway, with an arch, and was there a front living room, a parlor or something?

LM: There was a parlor and then an archway and then a dining room. Then the kitchen which was extended a hundred years earlier.

DS: The kitchen was extended on the back, on the first floor.

LM: Yes, well, this – the part that we’re sitting in now – was extended further down in the 1970s. There was a kitchen that came up to here, and then it had an overhang, with a window, and you could look out. We extended it back to – well, actually, we extended it back to the point where there was an outhouse. The original outhouse. There was another one that was here, too, that was wooden and was sort of derelict and falling apart. (10.00) But this one had beautiful brickwork, and we didn’t go beyond that. Then Sam did the entire brickwork in the garden area. He did it by using the foundations of tiny little houses that he found back there. There’s a rock garden. You step down into that. There was a foundation there. Then the tree is planted, and then another tiny little house foundation that was back there; it’s sort of like a flower pot, although the tree has since died.

DS: These little houses: one was a derelict wooden outhouse, one was a nice brick outhouse. What were the other ones?

LM: The other ones were not standing, because this had been made into a parking lot. But when we started – when Sam started digging back there, he found foundations, (11:00) plus a lot of oyster shells and a broken-down toilet that had been put down there as fill.

DS: When you say it was a parking lot, you mean the back part of this property.

LM: The back part and next door, 706 Pine. What we could figure out was that there was a walkway down the middle, of brick, and then the outhouse that was – I don’t know whether you’d call it an outhouse – it had a – well, you can see it down there. It’s a beautiful piece of stone. The brickwork inside was beautiful, beautifully done.

DS: The street behind you is –

LM: That’s Addison Street.

DS: Addison. OK. How large is this property?

LM: It’s three stories. (12:00)

DS: But you don’t know the length of the property?

LM: I don’t know.

DS: It’s OK, it doesn’t matter. How long did it take you to get the house into a condition so you could live in it?

LM: Well, I think Sam started working in ’62, and he moved in after they finished the two floors. Then we were married downstairs. I don’t know when he moved in exactly.

DS: When were you married?

LM: In 1964.

DS: ’64. The two of you were here in ’64; he was here in ’62.

LM: Right.

DS: Did you continue to work on the property yourselves, the two of you, or did you bring in –?

LM: Not really, we weren’t equipped to do that. I mean, little things, probably, but nothing large.

[A passage has been redacted at the narrator’s request.]

LM: There was a garage where those houses are. Linsky’s Garage. He, I guess, rented the land to them, and they parked cars there. What he wanted was more (16:00) money, so we had to give him more money for the property.

DS: The Linsky’s Garage was on Addison Street.

LM: Right.

DS: Owned these two parking –

LM: No, it was Frost. His name was Frost. He owned several houses in the neighborhood, or his father did. One time [Laughs], one time his father, who was quite old, came down the street, and Sam saw him on Addison Street. He was a multi-millionaire, and he was dressed in rags. [Laughs] He started talking with Sam, and he put his hand in the trash can and took out what looked like a lava rock ashtray. He said, “Here’s a present.” [Laughs] When I came home, Sam told me this story. We couldn’t believe it. But that was the father of Frost. He owned an apartment building (17:00) beside us. It was a very interesting neighborhood.

DS: You finally did get the back yard.

LM: Right. Then Sam dug it all out himself. It took two years, and he saved the bricks and all, what was found, and then he – the back, across the street, Linsky’s was gone. There was a big lot there, and they delivered the dirt. He took our dirt out and piled it on the lot, and then they delivered new dirt, and he brought that dirt in. Then he started working on it. It took two years to do that. But he loved doing it. He patterned the brickwork.

[A passage has been redacted at the narrator’s request]

DS: OK. For the house.

LM: Right.

DS: Do you have any idea of the taxes on the house at the time?

LM: No.


LM: I know what our mortgage was. That was about $400 a month, or something like that.

DS: Did the Redevelopment Authority get involved with your front restoration?

LM: No, only the fact that we had to sign a contract for 25 years. Or Sam signed it. To do the front of the house.

DS: That 25 years to do the front of the house. (19:00)

LM: No, that had to be done right away, or near the time they said it. But the contract extended for 25 years. I assume that if we sold it and it wasn’t done, the people who bought the house from us would have to do it. Actually, I used that case when the lot across the street, which had been vacant for many years –

DS: Tell me about that. Boslover Hall?

LM: Boslover Hall. [Laughs]

DS: Wasn’t it Boslover Hall?

LM: Yes.

DS: B-O-S-L-O-V-E-R?

LM: Right.

DS: that was at the corner of –?

LM: Seventh and Pine [Streets]. Right across the street.


LM: Actually –

[Tape is turned off, then on again]

DS: Go ahead.

LM: Sam and I were married for about two weeks, three weeks. He had a meeting to go to, and I was alone in the house, and the doorbell rang. This fellow was at the door – two men came in, and they said, “Is Sam here?” I said, “No.” He said, “Well, (20:00) we’re from the SWAT Squad, and there’s going to be a robbery across the street, and we would like to be in your house to oversee everything that’s going on.” I said he wasn’t here, and they were part of the people – the group who worked on the front of the house. They knew Sam well. I didn’t know them. But in any case, one fellow came in, and he had a little gym bag. He opened it up and took out a rifle and put it together. I thought to myself, “This isn’t [inaudible]. Why did I even let them into the house?” In any case, they went up to the third floor, which hadn’t been done yet, of course, and were up there, looking out the windows with their guns. There were unmarked cars going around that were identifying – I guess, identifying cars that kept going around – maybe (21:00) looking for somebody that was involved – for a getaway or something. Sam came home and said, “What’s going on?” As it turns out, that night, nothing happened. The next week nothing happened. They were having a big gambling game over there. They had them every Wednesday or Tuesday. It was Greek gambling.

DS: What was Boslover Hall?

LM: Boslover Hall originally was started by a group of people from the town of Boslover, in Poland. They came here and it was a beneficial association. They built that hall. Most people who went there earlier were not living here any more. They rented it. One time somebody got stabbed across the street when they had a party or something. Then – well, in any case, they rented it. But what happened with the police: (22:00) the third time – they came a third time – and finally the gamblers came out and they were escorted by a police friend of the police that were here. [Laughs] They couldn’t get over it. This fellow was moonlighting and protecting the gamblers.

DS: Did they arrest them?

LM: No, I don’t know what happened after that. Then we had the Babies Hospital, which was on part of McCall School, which is the yard.

DS: Wait a minute. Let’s back up to Boslover Hall. What has happened to it? It’s not there now.

LM: They tore it down, and it became a lot.

DS: When? In the ‘70s?

LM: I can’t remember. It must have been in the ‘70s.

DS: In the 70s, somebody tore it down. Do you know who?

LM: I don’t know.

DS: Did Redevelopment Authority take it over?

LM: They probably did.

DS: Or the hospital?

LM: Well, the hospital owned it eventually. (23:00)

DS: Pennsylvania Hospital owned it.

LM: Right. In fact, they owned a lot of houses right across the street, not all of them, maybe three or four apartments. But they were going to build – the Civic Association knew about this – Pennsylvania Hospital was going to build a unit across the street. I hadn’t gone to any of the meetings, but then I went to one and they were getting the final approval. I looked at the building, and it was a yellow brick building. It was like Hall Mercer, with those slit little windows. I looked at it and there were maybe 15 or 20 people there, and if it was approved, it would go through and be built. I looked at it and raised my hand and said, “That is an ugly building, and I don’t want it across the street from me.” All of a sudden, everybody said, “It’s an ugly building.” It didn’t get passed, and there was a big to-do, a big fight. I wrote a history of the (24:00) neighborhood, one incorporating the fact that we had to have a contract for 25 years to redo our building, and that Pennsylvania Hospital was under the same contract for that land, and they had to build a building that fit in with the neighborhood. This went before zoning. I won! Ted Robb and my next-door neighbor, Wayne Thomas, came over and said, “Oh, my God, you won the case!” But it was a history of – in fact I probably have it.

DS: I would love to see it.

LM: Well, I’ll look for it.

DS: The hospital could not build their building. Then what happened to the land?

LM: It lay dormant for a while. Then they wanted to build houses on it, and they wanted to build –

DS: The hospital did? (25:00)

LM: No, they sold the land to a developer. The developer wanted to put six or eight houses on the land. The Civic Association fought that. It ended up with four houses.

DS: Which are built now.

LM: They’re red brick. They’re modern looking, but they fit in with the neighborhood.

DS: Now tell me about the McCall’s Baby Hospital, you said?

LM: The Babies Hospital – it’s where the yard is now, and where the new section of McCall’s is.

DS: Where the gym –

LM: The gym and the auditorium.


LM: That was originally the Babies Hospital. When we were living here early on, it was the dormitory for the art school at Broad and Pine. They had all sorts of things going on there. They eventually took that down. I guess it was part of Pennsylvania Hospital, at one point.

DS: It was a Babies Hospital at the corner of Cypress and Sixth.

LM: We called it the Babies Hospital. (26:00)

DS: Then it became a dormitory for the art school.

LM: Right. Right. Then it must have been demolished. The gym was put on. That must have been in the late ‘60s. Maybe ‘68, ‘69, something like that.

DS: Right. That’s very interesting. Was the playground always around McCall’s School? Other than the old building that’s there now and the newer auditorium? That back section where the playground is? Was there anything built there, or was that always a playground?

LM: I think the front half of it must have been a playground. I don’t know, because the Babies Hospital was a five- or six-story building. Or four-story building. (27:00) Then it was set back from the street. It was a little closer to Seventh Street than where the gym and the auditorium are now. Then we had the Phipps Institute over here at Sixth and Lombard.

DS: The what institute?

LM: Phipps Institute. Where they did research work.

DS: What type of research? Medical? Veterinary?

LM: I don’t know. I remember the building very clearly. That must have come down in the ‘60s, too. I remember walking past it all the time. Then it was taken down and the new houses were put up between Addison and Lombard Streets.

DS: Across from Starr Garden.

LM: No, no. This was across from – well, across from the baseball end of Starr Garden, at Seventh and Lombard [Streets] and Seventh and Addison [Streets] on the east side.

DS: OK. What else was in this area? Most of the houses in this area were lived in, right?

LM: Right. (28:00)

DS: They weren’t derelict, empty – they were continuously lived in.

LM: Right. From Fifth Street west most of the houses were lived in. From Fifth down to the river, like on your block, I was walking past with Izak and Ani – luckily, I was across the street – two buildings were propped up, and they just collapsed. I was standing there and couldn’t believe it.

DS: Now, wait a minute. When is this?

LM: Well, that was probably in ’68.

DS: The two buildings were on the south side of the street?

LM: Right.

DS: In the 100 block [of Delancey Street].

LM: Was that ’68?

DS: It would have been in that time period. Eventually another building fell down also.

LM: Yes, there wasn’t that much on the block.

DS: Yes, a lot of it – most of the buildings that were there were empty. But up here people had continuously lived in them. (29:00)

LM: Bertha von Moschzisker was on the 300 block of Delancey [Street]. We were very good friends with her. She moved in when everything was being torn apart. Down the street, on Spruce Street, there was Mr. [Henry] Watts, the head of the Stock Exchange in New York. He used to travel back and forth all the time. But they were old pioneers here. Bodine Lamont and Austin, too.

DS: That’s right. Tell me, what was the reaction of your family when they heard that you were going to move in here.

LM: [Laughs] Well, when they came down for the wedding, they were horrified. Well, not horrified. They were surprised, because the two floors were fixed up. (30:00) We had the reception on this floor, the second floor. They kept saying, “How can you live in the old immigrant area?” “Aren’t you afraid to walk on the streets?” Now most of them live in town. I mean, they have apartments in town, or their children do, which always makes me laugh. It was so hypocritical. I said that I walked to the – oh, and we also didn’t have any groceries – any supermarket. I forget when the SuperFresh was built, but I went over to Jersey or over to 20 th or 15 th Street.

DS: These family people were coming from someplace in the suburbs – relatives that had moved from this area out to the suburbs?

LM: They hadn’t moved from this area. They had moved from Northern Liberties, which is now all built up, and my father had a factory at Seventh and Cherry (31:00) [Streets] and Second and Cherry [Streets] and on Appletree Street. That whole area is just built up.

DS: Yes. Then they lived in the suburbs and so they were surprised that you were….

LM: Yes, I said I was – well, I had lived on the other side of town, at 20 th and Delancey [Streets] for five years before I was married. I lived in the old Agnes Irwin School. I was used to town, and I went to Penn at night. I used to walk home, and I wasn’t really afraid.

DS: What do you think Sam’s family’s reaction was?

LM: They didn’t seem to mind it so much.

DS: Did they live in the city?

LM: Well, my family was in – I grew up in the city, but north, in East Oak Lane, which is part of the city but the end of it. But his family had – he had grown up at (32:00) 17 th and Master [Streets] and then his family moved to Logan. They didn’t think anything of it, I don’t think they did. Nobody ever – I don’t think Sam could do any wrong in that family. They really loved him so.

DS: Your friends? Were most of your friends city people also? They didn’t see that it was strange that you would move into this area.

LM: Well, I don’t know. I lived on the other side of town, which was not – you know, as hoi polloi as it is now. I don’t know. I have a lot of friends from out of Philadelphia – and from New York and elsewhere, but I don’t know, they came down and visited. They were all young people, so they ….

DS: Yes. Do you have any pictures of the neighborhood, back at the beginning?

LM: I don’t know. I’d have to look. (33:00)

DS: Any other stories that you can tell? Let’s see, you had two children? Izak, a son?

LM: Ani.

DS: Both born and raised in the neighborhood.

LM: Right.

DS: Went to McCall’s School?

LM: Right.

DS: Husband Sam was an artist and had his studio on the first floor. Sam just died last year, was it?

LM: No, it seems like that. December of 2004.

DS: Now, I interviewed Dorothy Miller, and she told me about the Benezet problems.

LM: Oh, yes.

DS: She said that Sam was her protector and stood up with her, and she is (34:00) just so in love with Sam, his memory.

LM: Mabel, too.

DS: Who is Mabel? [Dobson]

LM: She was about 80 at that time. She lived in the –

DS: A friend of Dorothy’s.

LM: Yes. She lived in the houses where Dottie was born. She had lived there all her life, too, on Lombard Street.

DS: Tell me about Sam’s involvement in that, his feelings about that.

LM: Well, he always – that was his feeling – he always stood up for what he thought was right, and he spoke out about it. You know, they came to him and asked him for help. He, I think, got in touch with Len Bachman, and Dave [Stevens], your husband, became involved, and I forget who else.

DS: Paul Putney. (35:00)

LM: Paul Putney.

DS: Phil Price.

LM: Right.

DS: Sam was very passionate about getting involved in neighborhood projects? Problems?

LM: Well, no, not really. He was passionate in the sense if something he felt was wrong, he would stand up and fight for that person or cause. He did it with artists who were cheated. He went to court for them. I mean, he just helped a lot of people. With the – we had a dinner at the Mother Bethel Church. Do you remember that?

DS: About what?

LM: For the housing. We were trying to get money for the housing.

DS: Yes, I do.

LM: We were all baking sweet potato pies. We had it over there. It was really – I mean, Ani still remembers it, because everybody was cooking here and (36:00) baking pies. It was really a fun kind of community thing. The McCall School was like that, too. They used to have the Olympics every four years.

DS: Did your children – do they have comments about growing up in the city? Did they like it? Not like it?

LM: Oh, they both live in the city now, not far away from here. Izak lives in Queen Village and Ani lives at South Seventh Streets. And Izak says that Queen Village where he lives now is very much like this neighborhood was like when he was growing up.

DS: When he was growing up.

LM: Except for the fact that there aren’t lots to play on. I mean, everything’s been built up, and a lot of the neighborhood kids went to McCall’s. It was a terrific time for growing up here. (37:00)

DS: Yes. You raised a family and went to work. Right? At Smith, Kline and French?

LM: Well, I worked at the Durham School for a while, part time, and then I went back to work full time when Ani was about five, when she went into kindergarten. Someplace else. Then I went back to SmithKline in the early ‘80s, in 1980 actually.

DS: That was an easy commute?

LM: Yes. Then I left there and went to work at Hahnemann, in the department of Radiation Oncology. But I always worked with Sam also.

DS: You worked with Sam?

LM: Oh, yes.

DS: In what capacity?

LM: Well, I mean, I had training as an artist. But I didn’t go to art school. (38:00) I went a little while. One time he was doing a painting for the Christian Association out at Penn, and it was an odd shape. It was the width of the studio. Sam built a trolley with a board across it with wheels so he could step up – there was a step on each side – he could step up and then lie down in the middle and would paint from there. But he couldn’t see clearly what he was painting. It had a – it wasn’t rectangular. There are some paintings here where you can see what it was like. There are sketches for it. In any case, I would come home from SmithKline, and we would go to the studio, and until about 11 o’clock I would be pushing him over to this side and that side. Because he couldn’t see it fully without having to get on a ladder and look down at it. That was (39:00) one thing.

Then he did windows, engraved windows over at Pennsylvania Hospital, I went over and measured things with him. But there were a lot of things like that. Even the kids – I mean, they’d come down stairs and he’d say, “Don’t leave yet! You have to see this! You have to see this!” We’d all go down and pass our …. [Laughs]

DS: Other stories about things in this neighborhood that are gone now or things that have changed. Can you think of what you got involved in? Can you tell me about the house? The people? The neighborhood?

LM: Well, I remember all the kids in the neighborhood used to congregate (40:00) here for Sam, because he was like this surrogate father. He was just here all the time. We would be listed as the people to – if there was a problem with school, when a kid had to come home or on a snow day, all the kids were over here. Or we were signed up to be called, without ever being told about it.

DS: Sam enjoyed that.

LM: Oh, yes. I enjoyed it, too. I liked having kids around.

DS: There were a lot of children in the neighborhood.

LM: Oh, yes. Well, we were sort of part of your area, too. Second and Delancey [Streets], because Izak and Ani had so many friends down there. A lot of the kids went to – were in the same class. Michael Denworth, Andy Roberts, John Fayer. When they (41:00) had school strikes, I started some schools. I had one in the basement across the street, and we had scholarships for kids and everything. We got a teacher right off the picket line. We had one at Society Hill Synagogue, we had one school – class – there. Another one across the street, and then a third one Sam actually ran, because I had gone back to work. It was over at Pennsylvania Hospital in the endocrinology area. Those kids were in high school at that point, and that was really hard to get together. Steve Kay taught a class, part of a class, and then Liz Mednick came in and taught English. And (42:00) several others.

DS: That strike was in the ‘70s? There were two of them, but one was really big.

LM: Well, the big one was the first one when they were in first grade. That went on for – oh, the big one was also when they were in high school. Because I remember a group of us would drive up every day to pick them up – oh, that was a SEPTA strike.

DS: When they were in high school.

LM: When they were in high school there was a SEPTA strike and then a school strike. There were two….

DS: Izak would have been in first grade what year?

LM: That would have been in 1970, ’71. Yes, that was when Miss Gabriel was his first-grade teacher. One time, Sam – when they were in Mr. Riley’s class – he was the math teacher. He was run into the hospital, taken out and put in Pennsylvania (43:00) Hospital. They thought he had a heart attack. Sam had to go into the hospital, and he ended up in the same room with him. All the teachers would come up to visit Mr. Riley, and they’d all be visiting with Sam, too. Mr. Riley was Izak’s math teacher; he would give Izak all the assignments and give Ani things to take back. When Sam would go out of the room, the kids would get on his bed to look at TV. Mr. Riley would yell at them to get off the bed. But that’s the way Pennsylvania Hospital was, the neighborhood hospital. When you walked in there, you saw all your neighbors, just like (44:00) the SuperFresh. [Laughs] It was real. They had the research area for Pennsylvania Hospital down on Seventh and Spruce [Streets], which has the façades now, but there’s a building in back. Oh, that was another – we all marched for these façades.

DS: Ellie Gesensway.

LM: Yes, Ellie Gesensway. She was much involved. But they had the labs there, and I would walk by. One time I walked by and there was a little monkey looking out the window in the basement, and he had something on his head. I came home, and I told Sam. I said, “I saw a monkey in there. It looked like he had a hat on.” (45:00) He said, “That wasn’t a hat. That was a – he was attached to something.” They were doing research there.

DS: [inaudible]

LM: Yes. There was Dr. Zubrow, who was in the 500 block of Pine Street. He had been here for years and years. He is about 97 now.

DS: Still alive?

LM: Oh, yes. He just gave up his practice, I think, about two years ago. I may think of other things.

DS: Why don’t we stop here?

[Tape is turned off, then on again]

DS: …. Washington Square?

LM: Washington Square. We would have birthday parties there, and picnics. All the kids would come and run around. People would come into Washington Square that were so unusual. Somebody came in with a goat that he had in his apartment, walking through. Another time, at one of the parties, the entertainment became a man who came through with a monkey, who was in diapers. He was climbing up the trees. The kids were just ecstatic about that. Then there was the button man. He had buttons all over his suit.

DS: He wasn’t selling them. He was just a character. (46:00)

LM: Oh, no, he would just – oh, there were many characters. He had all these buttons sewn onto the pants and the jacket. It was a good time. That was a wonderful park for kids to grow up in.

[End of side one of the tape. Side two of tape begins.]

LM: As a child, my mother would come down – would bring me down to Fourth Street. She would buy fabrics there. There were doctors. This was Doctors’ Row, this block, and I guess probably the 800 block of Pine [Street]. We’d go down to Fourth Street to buy fabric at Staplers. Oh, they had wonderful fabrics there. There was a man at the corner, Abie, who sold pickles and sauerkraut and all of these other – and we’d buy some of these. My mother would talk to him in Yiddish a little bit. Then when I moved down here, I went down to Fourth Street, and there was Abie. Out of nostalgia I bought pickles for Sam and some sauerkraut and everything. I brought them (1:00) home and told him about seeing this man there and how I had known him from before. We opened it up and it was just filled with these big horse flies. Because it was an open-air kind of thing. But that was a memory I had that was sort of just done away with. [Laughs] But it was a very, very active street.

DS: Fourth Street.

LM: Fourth Street, South Street. When we first moved here, I mean, it was – the vendors, the shop owners were out on the street and they talked to people. You had a group of people. It was interesting, because that area had Noah Kramer, who grew up there and taught Hebrew school there, in that area. You had mobsters. You had every (2:00) combination you could imagine. It was a busy, thriving, interactive kind of place. What you see now when you walk places is you see people looking at things. You don’t see them interacting that way any more.

DS: Actually buying. Actually buying. It was a place to go –

LM: Right. Or just to congregate, like Levis’s. I mean, at Levis’s you’d go over, and you’d always meet people you knew. They had the Levis’s Club. That was (3:00) the hot dog place across the street from Starr Garden. But it was a very, very vital, active period. It’s changed a lot now.

DS: More stories about when you were young and came into this neighborhood? What was on Pine Street?

LM: Well, it was really like Doctors’ Row.

DS: Offices

LM: Well, I guess in the house. The houses had offices. Like Dr. Zubrow was (4:00) down on the 500 block of Spruce – or Pine [Street]. But I was very young then. I hardly remember. But I remember distinctly there was a – this was called Doctors’ Row – and it always fascinated me that I ended up living here.

DS: Other memories about Pine Street or Lombard?

LM: Not about Lombard. I have a lot of memories from Washington Square. Not when I was growing up. It was really rather run down even when I first – well, when I first moved here it wasn’t – it was presentable. But years ago, I mean, it was – well, I remember Izak going up to a derelict man who was lying on a bench sleeping, (5:00) and he had his hat over his head, and Izak, being a little kid, took his hat off his face. The man was so charmed that somebody paid attention to him he offered Izak a nickel. I said, “No, no, I think you’d better not keep it.” But the kids had a good time. Ani had a lot of friends there. The neighborhood, it was just loaded with children, as your area was, too, down around Delancey. The kids walked to school. I remember one time (6:00) Izak was down at Michael Denworth’s, and it was a very hot day. They decided to disappear someplace. Joanne [Denworth] called me and said, “We cannot find the boys.” They were six years old. We both got into our cars and we were driving all over the neighborhood. Joanne finally found the two of them in the fountains at Sixth and Market. They had crossed Market Street. But they wanted to get away from the heat.

DS: They were hot!

LM: Right.

[End of tape]

[Lilyan Maitin’s additional stories given by phone on January 16, 2008 to Dorothy Stevens]

The Jewish Forward, a local newspaper, was published on Sixth Street between Pine and Lombard, west side of street. It closed in the mid-1960s.

In the early 1970s, the Addison Street Park was completed. The southwest corner of Addison and Perth Streets was an open lot where houses had been demolished. This is between Seventh and Eighth Streets. The neighbors were promised a park and negotiated with the Redevelopment Authority not to sell the lot but to create a park. The city was just going to black-top the area with a wall around it. Lilyan designed the space and the city landscaping contractors were able to add some trees and plants. The neighbors have continued to improve and maintain the park with a yearly sale. They have social events such as potluck suppers and a street sale.

There was an ice cream factory next door on Perth Street.

Lilyan took her children to the Nezenir Synagogue, 771 South Second Street for services. Now this building is condos.

On Lombard between Seventh and Eighth Streets was a gravestone factory.

At Seventh and Pine Streets SW corner was Charlie’s grocery store.

The Krass Brothers, who owned a men’s clothing store on South Street between Ninth and Tenth Streets, lived on the 700 block of Pine Street.

Lilyan, Valerie Brown, Susan Pattison and Linda Vernon started a Nursery School in the basement room of Old Pine Church 1971. Today the school is in Old Pine Community Center.

Urhs Restaurant and catering business was on Fifth Street between Lombard and South Streets.

At Sixth and Pine Streets, Leon, Miriam and Manny had a lunch business called Manny’s in early 1960s. They sold Manny’s lunch business and opened a restaurant called The Colonial in approximately1965 located on Fifth Street between Lombard and South Streets-west side. Miriam was the cook. They lived on Delancey Street between Fifth and Sixth Streets. Leon led services at B’nai Abraham Synagogue before they had a Rabbi.

During the low-income housing controversy, people “against” wanted to elect their person for President of the Society Hill Civic Association. People “for” needed to vote Paul Putney into that office. Lilyan was able to canvass the neighborhood for 40 new members to insure Paul’s election. Others helped in their areas.

In 1970s Paul Hogarth, an English artist, lived with the Maitin family when he was in town to write and illustrate a walking tour book of this area. The three adults dined at the British Consulate, Seventh Street and Washington Square, southwest corner, several times during this period.

Transcriber’s Note: The narrator made changes to the transcript when she reviewed it and requested that sections of the narration be omitted from the transcript. Consequently, this transcription does not conform to the narration on the tape in places. Moreover, the narrator gave the interviewer some additional information over the telephone after the interview had been completed. This additional information was not recorded, but the interviewer made notes of the conversation. Her notes are appended to the end of the narration transcript.

© 2008 Project Philadelphia 19106™. All rights reserved.

About the Interview

Dorothy Stevens
Cynthia J. Eiseman
Interview Location
704 Pine Street
Interview Date
January 12, 2008
Maitin, Lilyan
Narrator Type
Redeveloper - Restoration
Oral History Sources