We’ve got three “Queen” lanes in East Falls — Queen, New Queen, and Indian Queen — but does anyone know who this “Queen/queen” is?
Any Googling fool can tell you that Philadelphia’s Queen Village was named for Sweden’s Queen Cristina, but our local sovereign’s identity is not so apparent. A yellowed newspaper clipping we found in the old Baptist church‘s archives next door to Hohenadel House describes the legend of Indian Queen Lane:
“Originally an Indian trail, it was named for an Indian Queen who is supposed to have lived in the house at the bottom of the hill after she abandoned the wigwams of her forebears for the four-walled comforts of the white man.”
A convenient little tale that doesn’t tell us anything, really. But records do!
Indian Queen Lane has been on maps as far back as 1692, when it was the main trail from the Falls to Philadelphia. This former Native American path wound up from the river, past what is now the Queen Lane Reservoir. The name refers either to a nearby hotel or most likely the Indian Queen Tavern in colonial Philadelphia, where Lafayette recovered after being wounded in the Battle of Princeton, and where historians believe Thomas Jefferson once kept a second-story room to write and study.
By the way, in that instance, the “Indian Queen” part is apparently an ironic nod to the “notorious Indian-massacring Paxton Boys,” who supposedly shot up the adjoining stable when they stayed there in 1755. Yeep.
Today, Indian Queen Lane is just the little part closest to the river; the old highway to Philly is now chopped up into Queen Lane, Abbotsford and Germantown Avenues. A few other streets in East Falls have changed names over the years, too, as industries have come and gone, and politicians are memorialized.
WHAT’S YOUR STREET’S STORY? We’ve come up with some definite namesakes, as well a few long shot explanations. We’re still researching and updating. To any amateur East Falls historians out there: tips (and clues and hints) are most welcome!
AINSLIE. The “Ainslie” family tree in America started with two English settlers who both landed in Philadelphia, Robert in 1796 and James in 1800. Neither seem terribly remarkable, nor do any other local Ainslie’s at that time. However, wikipedia has a story about a James “Annesley” with a brief connection to Philly during a crazy life that possibly inspired the novel “Kidnapped” by Robert Louis Stevenson.
ARNOLD (aka “Hohenadel Street” until end of 19th century). A Benedict Arnold connection? He frequently stayed at the Mount Pleasant estate overlooking the Schuylkill with his Philly-born wife Peggy Shippen.
BARCLAY. Possibly named for Thomas Barclay, Philadelphia merchant and diplomat who negotiated this country’s first treaty with the sultan of Morocco in 1786.
BOWMAN. Could be named for Thomas Bowman, the man who first owned the land where Belfield/the Charles Wilson Peale house is now located?
CALLOWHILL. Understood to bear the name of William Penn’s second wife, Hannah Callowhill.
COULTER. Possibly named after Colonel Richard Coulter who led the 11th PA Regiment into battle at Gettysburg? He later became a big coal and railroad magnate, and left behind a cool journal as a soldier in the mid- 1800’s. Even cooler: Edgar Allen Poe’s travelogue about the Wissahickon, which appears on a website for Coulter Street Supply (a Germantown art gallery/espresso bar).
CRAWFORD. Andrew Wright Crawford, Philadelphia assistant city solicitor, city planner and speaker at 1909’s First National Conference on City Planning in Washington, DC.
CRESSON. Elliot Cresson, Philadelphia philanthropist/Quaker abolitionist who established the Franklin Institute’s “Elliot Cresson Medal” (for a useful contribution in arts or sciences) and helped found Moore College of Art & Design.
CRESWELL (previously known as Elizabeth). Creswell/Cresswell Iron Works (Samuel Creswell & Son), which had a factory on Cherry Street from 1835 – 1969. Manhole covers by SJ CRESSWELL IRONWORKS can still be found on streets all over Center City.
DOBSON. Dobson Mill, of course. John and James Dobson owned many textile mills, which were powered by a small tributary of the Schuylkill River running thru Germantown, Nicetown, and East Falls known as “Dobson’s Run.”
DIVISION. The dividing line between the Jets and the Sharks home turf?
EARLHAM. It’s a bit of a stretch, but a famous Quaker named George Fox traveled the colonies in 1672 and evidently made a big impression in this general vicinity because Swarthmore is named after the home residence of his wife back in England. Anyway, there’s a Fox street in East Falls, and George Fox founded the Earlham School of Religion.
EVELINE. Awww come on, Google! We’ve got nothing here. Are there no famous Philadelphians with the surname “Eveline” ??
FREDERICK. Lots of historical “Fredericks” turn up in Philly but none as a surname. Maybe this street is named for the King of Prussia, Frederick II? He’s the namesake of an 18th century tavern run by Quakers that was conveniently a day’s travel from Philly. The tavern was so popular a rest stop that the whole area came to be known by it. Perhaps there’s a connection somewhere?
FISK. Well this is interesting. Looks like Jim Fisk was a big Erie railroad tycoon in the late 1800’s, who was murdered in a scandalous love triangle with a mediocre actress who eventually wound up living in Philly. We’re not sure if it’s the same man, but it makes for a dramatic street name.
GYPSY. It appears that this street may have actually been named for the “gypsies” who camped out on the banks of the Schuylkill near Belmont at the turn of the 20th century.
HAYWOOD. Possibly named after Rev. Benjamin Haywood, a Philadelphia & Reading Coal and Iron company executive who spent some time in the area and then wound up in Pottsville.
HENRY. Alexander Henry was mayor of Philadelphia from 1858 to 1865, and credited for his defense of the city during the Civil War.
KRAIL. Possibly George Washington Krail, who appears to have lived and died in East Falls. Or his brother John. Or his father Alexander, who was involved in a legal case that got all the way to the Supreme Court in the mid-1800’s. There was a whole covey of Krails in this town! Oh wait, wrong covey.
MERRICK. Samuel Vaughan Merrick was a co-founder of The Franklin Institute in 1824, and he also donated the land for our Falls of Schuylkill library (along with the Warden estate). No relation to John/Joseph Merrick.
MCMICHAEL. Morton McMichael was mayor of Philadelphia from 1866 to 1869 and a political and civic reformer. He was also Editor-in-Chief of the Saturday Evening Post and is the namesake of our beautiful park.
MIDVALE (previously known as Mifflin). Midvale Steel was a Nicetown company whose steel supplied railroad companies, the U.S. Navy, and the builders of the Brooklyn Bridge. The company closed in 1976. Check out eerie photos of the old plant hidden in a SEPTA depot.
THE OAK. We were hoping to find tales of a gigantic (or otherwise noteworthy) oak tree in the vicinity but turned up nothing. Instead perhaps this road is named for The Oaks Cloister on Wissahickon Avenue? The property had been abandoned to neglect but was purchased in 2002, fully restored, and now the residence occasionally becomes a magnificent venue for choral presentations.
OSMOND. With no evidence of any Donny & Marie connection, the best we can do with this one is Bertram Osmond, who was one of six teenagers who drowned in the Flat Rock Dam Incident of 1901, when unexpected currents on the Schuylkill swept their rowboat under during what was supposed to be a fun day of picnicking with the Elm Social Club. By the way, people are still falling prey to those pesky Flat Rock Dam currents.
PENN. Named for one of the William Penns, either the guy who made treaties with our area’s Native Americans or his late father the English admiral and House of Commoner for whom our state is named.
POWERS. If the historic company Powers and Weightman was the Simon & Garfunkle of 18th century manufacturing chemists, this teeny-tiny street/driveway off Calumet recalls the “Garfunkle” of the pair. No one seems to remember Thomas Powers, but Weightman’s got his own Wikipedia page! His street is much bigger, too.
RIDGE. An easy one — literally the “ridge” between Wissahickon creek & the Schuylkill, which was already a well-traveled native American footpath when the colonists arrived.
SCHOOLHOUSE. Originally an Indian trail, the road was referred to as the “Cross Street to Schuylkill” in the 17th century. Sometime later, it became “Bensell’s Lane” and then changed to School Lane when the “Germantown Union School-house” (later Germantown Academy) opened in 1761. (The name changed yet again in 1893 to Schoolhouse Lane.) Charles Bensell was one of the founders of the school. Interestingly, the school’s bell was brought to America by the Beaver, the same ship that delivered the tea for the Boston Tea Party.
Another obscure fact: The “Schoolhouse Lane Company” was owned by the family of William G. Warden, a major figure in Philadelphia finance and industry (with his own East Falls street).
SCOTTS. Thomas Alexander Scott, another local railroad tycoon.
SKIDOO. 23 Skidoo is American slang from the 1920’s that generally refers to leaving quickly, usually for your own advantage (as in, to “get out while the gettin’s good”). Maybe this tiny crooked street was once a shortcut workers used to sneak or otherwise high-tail it from their mill jobs on the hill to the homes & saloons below on Ridge?
Although we’ve been unable to confirm the reason for the change, we do know that in 1982 Councilwoman Ann Land’s bill officially changed the name from Cresson to Skidoo.
STANTON (previously known as James). Most likely Edwin M. Stanton, an American lawyer out of Pittsburgh, Secretary of War under Abraham Lincoln, with an elementary school in SW Center City named for him, as well. Famous Lincoln quote, “If Stanton said I was a damned fool, then I must be one for he is always right…”
STOKLEY. William Strumberg Stokley, mayor of Philadelphia from 1872 to 1881, buried at Laurel Hill. Apparently involved in some sort of altercation with hobo mobs threatening the city…?? Stokley’s son, Horatio, was a real estate assessor at the time of his father’s death and may have assisted in having the street named.
TILDEN. Famous local tennis whiz, William J. Tilden, who was overwhelmingly voted the greatest tennis player of the first half of the 20th century in an Associated Press poll.
TIMBER. Certainly seems to be a lot of trees on this dead-end off Schoolhouse that backs up to the Wissahickon, but lumberjacks disagree on whether to yell “TIMBER” when chopping one down (the Fairmount Park Commission, however, is unanimous on not felling their trees in the first place).
VAUX. A busy family, could be any of these guys: Richard Vaux, the father, was a well-known local Quaker, and his son, Roberts (with the “s” on the end), was a lawyer, abolitionist and a philanthropist in education and penal reform. His son, Richard, served briefly as Philly mayor from 1856- 1858.
WARDEN. William G. Warden, a NYC “Rockefeller-esque” entrepreneur, in 1870 founded the Atlantic Refining Company which became the giant monopoly Standard Oil (now Sunoco/BP). Looks like his family was still fighting over his money in 2010.
WEIGHTMAN. William Weightman was a chemical manufacturer (“Powers and Weightman”) and one of the largest landowners in the country during his time. He helped establish the giant lab/factory on Ridge. He also introduced quinine for the treatment of malaria and owned a whole line of streetcars. He lived with his daughter, Anne, at Ravenhill until his death in 1904.
WIEHLE. Really reaching here: “Wiehle” was the dream of Dr. Carl A. M. Wiehle, a Philadelphia physician, who retired at 35 to purchase 3500 acres around the Alexandria, Loundoun and Hampshire Railroad to create a self-named utopian community, which never quite happened. Instead: he died, the land changed hands, yadda yadda yadda: Reston, Virginia!