The East Falls Historical Society, founded in 2004, is a non-profit organization dedicated to discovering, preserving, and promoting historic interest in the East Falls community. East Falls was originally settled by the Lenni Lenape, a Native American tribe. In 1732 Fort St. David was established as a fishery and the area became popular for this purpose. As the area became industrialized by mills and other enterprises, employee homes developed into a neighborhood of row houses. East Falls is well known for its prominent residents (including actress Grace Kelly) and history of rowing on the Schuylkill River.
The East Falls Historical Society is active in documenting historic buildings and sites in East Falls. It conducts oral history interviews with long-time area residents and directors of local organizations. The archival collections of the Society are comprised of materials relating to the history of East Falls and its prominent residents. Over 25 linear feet of archival materials span from 1897 to 2012.
Historical Marker Placed at Kelly House
The long awaited Pennsylvania Historical Marker honoring the Kelly Family was dedicated on Saturday, Oct. 27 at 1:00 p.m. at McMichael Park, 3800 Henry Avenue. The marker honors John B. Kelly, Sr., born in East Falls and a three time Olympic gold medal winner for rowing in the 1920 and 1924 International Olympic Games.
A successful businessman, he founded “Kelly for Brickwork” and built the house at 3901 Henry Avenue in 1925. His children grew up in the house: Margaret Katherine “Peggy” and John Brendan, Jr. “Kell, or Jack”; Her Serene Highness Princess Grace “Grace”, and Elizabeth Anne “Lizanne”.
His son, John Brendan Kelly, Jr. won the Royal Henley Regatta in 1947 and a bronze medal at the 1956 Olympics. A World War II veteran and Philadelphia City Councilman, Kelly Drive was named for him.
Princess Grace began her acting career at old Academy Playhouse in East Falls. Grace Kelly was a Golden Globe and Academy Award winning actress. She married Prince Ranier III of Monaco and was Princess Consort of Monaco from 1956 to her death in 1982.
Promising young artists are honored at the Annual Princess Grace Awards in gala celebration in New York City, often attended by luminaries from Philadelphia.
She and her siblings were educated in East Falls and worshipped at St. Bridget Church. The East Falls Historical Society application for the marker, written by Patricia Cheek, was one of only 15 approved by the state out of 59 applicants. The East Falls Historical Society received the enabling grant from the Preservation Alliance of Philadelphia. John B. “JB” Kelly, III., spoke at the dedication, as did Councilman Curtis Jones, John Hogan, Commodore of the Schuylkill Navy.
The East Falls historical Society continues to honor Princess Grace with the opening of the Princess Grace museum in East Falls in very early 2014.