Could it be? Might this Saturday have been the best Falls Flea & Craft ever?
Such a pretty day, everyone was out and smiling. Vendors lined the McMichael Park’s perimeter, leaving a big wide grassy green for footballs, Frisbees, kids, dogs. We even had a dude playing guitar under a tree — like something out of a Chicago song.
You know the tune, yes? A classic from 1970’s. The land of McMichael Park goes back to the 70’s too — the 1770’s.
The year 1777 was a turning point in the American Revolution. That summer, George Washington’s troops mobilized from New Brunswick to the Chadds Ford area, tracking the movements of British general Sir William Howe. For Washington, the level, elevated land around Queen Lane & Fox Avenue was a geographically advantageous place for encampment:
(T)he landscape forms a bowl atop a steep hill, fairly near the Schuylkill River. George Washington had evidently picked it out as a strong military position near the Capital at Philadelphia, either to defend the city or from which to attack it, as circumstances might dictate.
Later that year, following a defeat at the Battle of Brandywine, Washington dispatched the Marquis de Lafayette to this same East Falls location with “an elite corps of rather more than two thousand men, and a few pieces of cannon.” As Washington’s main army confronted the British, Lafayette’s special forces antagonized and distracted redcoats from remote locations. These were perhaps America’s first military snipers.
So why is it McMichael Park, and not Lafayette Park?
Because Morton McMichael was an important guy in his own right. He was mayor of Philly from 1866 -1869 and a political and civic reformer. He was Editor-in-Chief of the Saturday Evening Post and a sheriff officially commended for his part in ending the anti-Catholic race riots of 1844. He was also a brilliant orator and well-loved citizen — in fact, in 1882 he was memorialized in a statue at Sedgely and Lemon Hill drives that literally says “An honored and beloved citizen.”
In 1963, a West Philadelphia elementary school opened with his name.
And somewhere in-between (1929, to be exact), he became the namesake of our beautiful park — although McMichael, unlike Lafayette, never lived here.
The East Falls Historical Society wishes everyone a wonderful summer and invites you to dig a little deeper into your home town with our fun, interactive East Falls Historic Landmark map. In addition to public art and fantastic architecture, you’ll find a 19th century American Gothic church, an Italianate beer baron’s mansion, a sprawling necropolis overlooking the Schuylkill — even the childhood home of a princess.
Share your experiences! Send us your photos, tell us what happened, ask for more information — or fill us in on what you know. We’re always seeking old pictures, good stories, interesting documents, and puzzling mysteries.
History belongs to all of us, we hope you enjoy our new community-focused blog, and join us in celebrating one of Philadelphia’s most distinctive and welcoming communities.
Stroll our streets and discover the colorful stories of our past!