Events – Past and Future
Some have links to videos or other resources!
- January 2024 (date to be announced): Scan Your Historic Documents and Photos
- February 28, 2024: Old East Falls Newspapers – an Illustrated Zoom Presentation
- Spring 2024: A Walking Tour of The Oak Road
Coming Events – Watch for details
Thursday, November 9, 2023, 5:30
A visit to Ironworks at Pencoyd Landing
On Thursday, November 9, the East Falls Historical Society presented a program and tour of the Iron Works at Pencoyd Landing. Stephen Gibson, the Chief Architect of the Penn Real Estate Group, reviewed the history of the Pencoyd Iron Works. The program ended with a tour of the hotel and the former office of the Iron Works.
What do the Niagara Falls Bridge, the Chicago “L” and the main building of the Philadelphia Centennial have in common? Their steel was produced at the Pencoyd Iron Works in Bala Cynwyd. Established in 1852 as a specialty iron and steel foundry, at its peak the firm employed thousands of workers. It not only made the steel, but came to also design and build bridges all over America.
Pencoyd Iron Works has been re-imagined as a modern destination by the Penn Real Estate Group, which received a Preservation Achievement Award. The site is home to the Residence Inn by Marriott and two restaurants – The Landing Kitchen, a daytime café with indoor and outdoor seating, and Lark, located on the seventh floor. The original (1880s?) office building for the Iron Works, which may have been designed by Frank Furness, was damaged in a catastrophic fire in 1997, but is now home to the Penn Real Estate Group, which completed an award-winning historic restoration of the interior and exterior. This building will be included in our tour.
Although you can get to Ironworks at Pencoyd Landing from Bala Cynwyd, “the only truly spectacular arrival is from the Philadelphia side” (wrote the Inquirer’s Inga Saffron) by the pedestrian and automobile bridge from the parking lot at 3720 Main St. in Manayunk, near the state store and movie theater [Google Map]. This steel truss bridge once connected the Pencoyd main plant with some secondary buildings on the Philadelphia side.
We hope many EFHS members will take advantage of this opportunity!
Registration is required; please email to email@example.com. Then pay in cash at the door ($10 for members of the EFHS; $15 for non-members).
Click to download flyer (PDF)
Saturday, October 21, 2023, 10 AM
The John Dobson Walking Tour
No one was more important to the town known as Falls of Schuylkill (now East Falls) than John Dobson, one of the two Dobson brothers who created the immense Dobson textile mills, which employed thousands of “Fallsers” from the mid-nineteenth century into the 1920s. Many of the homes in which today’s Fallsers now live, and local storefront shops, were built by John Dobson, who became a major landowner in our area.
On this tour, guides Steven J. Peitzman and Nancy Pontone will relate the life of Dobson, from childhood mill worker in Oldham, England, to young immigrant to America and volunteer captain during the Civil War, and finally, to wealthy manufacturer, real estate magnate, and builder. We will see structures he built along Ridge Avenue and Westmoreland Street, remnants of the once sprawling Dobson Mills, a surviving building from his former estate, and more. Participants will also learn about some of the architectural styles found in East Falls.
$10 for current EFHS Members
$15 for all others
No pre-registration needed. Meet at 10:00 AM sharp at southeast corner of Ridge and Midvale Avenues (by LeBus).
The tour goes on unless the morning brings heavy rain.
Saturday, April 15, 2023 at 10 am
Walking Tour of Historic Mt. Vernon Cemetery
Join us for a Walking Tour of Historic Mt. Vernon Cemetery (the burial place of John Barrymore), Now under restoration.
Led by Historian Brandon Zimmerman
Note: This walk will encounter some uneven ground!
Click here for photos of the tour, and more.
Wednesday, March 22, 2023
The Irish in America – The Kellys of East Falls
During the nineteenth century, no ethnic group populated the Falls of Schuylkill so much as the Irish. Many Irish immigrants, and their daughters and sons, found work at the immense textile mills of John and James Dobson. Some had likely been skilled weavers in Ireland. Other Irish immigrants escaping the famine worked as laborers, or as domestics and stablemen at the country estates along School House Lane. The Irish of the Falls founded St. Bridget Church. Soon, the Irish of growing Philadelphia learned a variety of trades. Several became prominent contractors, such as John B. Kelly, father of Grace.
Mary Burke, Professor of English at the University of Connecticut, will discuss Irish identity and the Kellys of East Falls, with a focus on Grace’s uncle, the Pulitzer-prize winning playwright George Kelly. She will also tell us about Philip Barry, another Irish-American playwright, whose 1939 play “The Philadelphia Story” was reworked into “High Society,” the hit musical whose cast included Grace Kelly. The title of Mary Burke’s presentation is “Grace Kelly, George Kelly and Philip Barry in their Irish-American Contexts.”
Burke is the author of the recently published Race, Politics, and Irish America – A Gothic History.
Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023
East Falls: An Historical Overview
An illustrated Zoom lecture presented by Steven J. Peitzman
Click here for YouTube video of presentation.
This overview will trace the neighborhood’s development, literally from the river up the hill—the early mills, factories, and breweries and, later, the residential and institutional development. Early images of East Falls will punctuate the talk.
The now submerged falls on the Schuylkill River, about five miles from central Philadelphia, once provided splendid scenery and excellent fishing (well-known to the Lenape, our predecessors). Several mills built as early as the late 1600s on the lower Wissahickon Creek and on Falls Run added industry to recreation and tourism. With the 19th century came a railroad, steam, and the immense Dobson Mills, which made blankets for the Union Army, and carpets for everyone else. The “Falls Village” became a busy, smoky mill town—”Falls of Schuylkill”—dense with workers’ rowhouses. But how did the renamed East Falls survive the closing of the mills, which at its peak employed 6000 women, men, and children, and find a new way to flourish?
Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022
Grand Re-Opening of the Grace Kelly Gallery
On Saturday, November 12th, the birthdate of Princess Grace of Monaco, the East Falls Historical Society is planning a gala celebration of the reinstallation of the Grace Kelly Gallery at our new location, The Apartments at Henry Avenue, 3232 Henry Avenue from 1 to 4 pm. The cost is $20 for EFHS members, $25 for guests. Free parking is available onsite.
Guests will stroll through the gallery exhibit while enjoying sumptuous hors d’oeuvres, sparkling wine and more. The self-guided tour includes Grace Kelly artifacts – movie posters, dolls dressed in costumes from Grace’s films, photographs, plates and textiles designed by Grace, and many signed Christmas cards and letters. Old movie footage of Grace’s life will be presented to the sound of period music.
The space was granted to EFHS by NewCourtland at the completion of Phase 1a of the Apartments at Henry Avenue. As NewCourtland is graciously co-sponsoring this event, residents will be invited as special guests.
Reservations are required by November 4.
To order by mail – $20 per EFHS member, $25 for others – please make checks payble to East Falls Historical Society and mail to Katy Hineline, 600 E. Cathedral Road, Apt. D305, Philadelphia, PA, 19128. Include names for name tags.
To order online, CLICK HERE to pay by credit or debit card, or by PayPal. Be sure to enter names for name tags when asked. No tickets will be sent; just give your name at the event.
Ticket purchases are not tax-deductible.
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Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022
Tour of Two Modernist Gems in East Falls
The central section of East Falls – the old “Falls Village” – is known for its 19th-century row houses and twins, many in the Italianate, Gothic Revival, and Second Empire styles. Going up the hill, an alert visitor will enjoy seeing our Tudor East Falls Historic District, our unusual Spanish Revival rows, and, finally, the many fine Tudor and Colonial Revival houses east of Henry Avenue, the area once known as “Queen Lane Manor.” But East Falls also can boast of important “Mid-century Modernist” houses (and also a former nurses home and a fire station in Modernist mode). What has come to be called “Mid-century Modern” overlaps with an architectural approach also referred to as “International” or less commonly, Miesian, after the prominent architect Mies Van der Rohe. Such design, broadly understood, aims at clean lines, use of the steel frame to allow glass walls, an “open” floor plan, and minimal ornament.
The Modernist houses of East Falls are mostly to the north, along School House Lane and Apalogen Road. Among them are the Hassrick House and the Rothner House, both of which will be visited on a tour organized by the East Falls Historical society for Saturday morning October 15. Designed by internationally-recognized California architect Richard Neutra, and now part of the Jefferson campus, the Hassrick House exemplifies Modern architecture as it was widely produced in the decades following World War II. Though currently unfurnished, it is still an impressive residence. The Rothner House is owned by architect and aficionado Janet Grace, who has furnished it with excellent examples of Mid-century Modern design. This building was created by respected local architect Norman Rice, known for important contributions to the “Philadelphia School” of Modern architecture.
The tour will be led by David Breiner, PhD of Jefferson University, and Alison Eberhardt, MA, an architectural historian and photographer.
Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022: Mount Vernon Cemetery: History and Resurrection
East Falls’ distinguished neighbors include Laurel Hill Cemetery, founded in 1836 as an early exemplar of the rural cemetery movement. Only twenty years later, and nearby, came Mount Vernon Cemetery (MVC), also then seen as “in the country.” In it rest remains of 33,000 persons, including members of the Barrymore and Drew theatrical family and other notables. The 18th century burial ground of the Second Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia was removed to MVC in 1867. Abandoned by its owners, MVC became a sadly blighted property. In 2021, the Philadelphia courts awarded MVC to a conservatorship, which now works tirelessly to bring it back from the dead.
Join us on Zoom as historian Brandon Zimmerman, MA, a leading activist in the \current restoration effort, presents an illustrated lecture and update on progress. Mr. Zimmerman, is an historian of photography and medicine, as well as an exhibit designer. He has worked for Drexel University, the College of Physicians of Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum, and the Academy of Natural Sciences.
Saturday, June 4, 2022: Reaching Above the Railroad: Ainslie (Fairview) and Sunnyside Streets
Led by Ellen S. Prantl and Steven J. Peitzman
This walk will cover two of the first residential streets developed east (or north) of the Norristown rail line. They arose following the Civil War, when expansion of Dobson Mills produced a need for added housing in the Falls of Schuylkill. Join us to learn about the origins, architecture, and early residents of these historic streets.
Wednesday, April 27, 2022: Buy Local: Textile & Fashion Companies Around East Falls
Textile historian Jade Papa will present a Zoom program, “Buy Local: Textile & Fashion Companies Around East Falls,” for the East Falls Historical Society, on Wednesday, April 27 at 7:00 pm.
Our area was at one time bursting with textile manufacturers and retailers selling homegrown goods to eager customers. Sadly, they’ve mostly disappeared. But, their legacy lives on in the archive of the Textile & Costume Collection on the East Falls campus of Thomas Jefferson University. Join Jade Papa, curator of the collection, as she uncovers the stories and showcases objects from these local manufacturers. She brings to her work not only extensive experience in object preservation, identification, and research, but an intense curiosity about how these objects shaped and were shaped by the people and cultures who wore the garments and created the textiles.
Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022: This Used to be Philadelphia
CLICK HERE to view the video of this zoom event.
Author Natalie Pompilio will talk about her new book This Used to be Philadelphia, which features more than 800 city locations and tells their then/now stories, on Wednesday, February 16, at 7:00 PM. She’ll share a few of the featured sites including two in East Falls; and several that will take us to South and West Philadelphia. Cities do change: Natalie will remind us of “what used to be there,” and the transition stories.
Natalie Pompilio is an award-winning journalist and free-lance writer who has worked for the Inquirer and Daily News, and reported from New Orleans and Bagdad, as well as Philadelphia. Another of her books is Walking Philadelphia: 30 Walking Tours featuring Art, Architecture, History, and Little-Known Gems, with photographer (and daughter) Tricia Pompilio. This will be a Zoom program.
Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021: History and Architecture of the Falls Library
Click here to view the video of this zoom event..
If you have ever wondered about the imposing Gothic Tudor stone structure with its iconic cupola and catfish weathervane gracing the corner of Midvale Ave and Warden Drive, plan to attend the Annual Meeting of the Friends of the Falls of Schuylkill Library via Zoom on Wednesday, November 10 at 7 PM.
The building in question is the 108-year-old Falls of Schuylkill Library, a vibrant and important educational, social, and cultural center in East Falls. Distinguished architect and East Falls resident Ellen Prantl will highlight the meeting with a talk on the library, its history as an original Carnegie Library, its architectural design and construction.
Ms. Prantl’s illustrated talk will focus on the Carnegie library program, the requirements for a neighborhood to be selected as a site, the hiring of librarians under the program and the distinctive architecture of the building.
A resident of East Falls since 1985, Ms. Prantl is an architect with Jacobs, an international architectural/engineering firm with offices in center city. She specializes in institutional architecture with a focus on medical and research facilities. Ms. Prantl has also been an adjunct professor at Temple University, Moore College of Art and at Jefferson University.
Also on the meeting agenda will be the election of vice president and secretary to the Friends’ board.
Presentation co-sponsored by Friends of the Falls of Schuylkill Library and East Falls Historical Society
Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021: East Falls History through Maps and Atlases
Showcasing the variety of materials available in the Map Collection at the Free Library of Philadelphia, join the Special Collections Curator of Maps, Megan MacCall, for a presentation exploring the history of mapmaking in Philadelphia with a focus on maps depicting East Falls. Learn about the evolution of mapmaking while also exploring how this northwestern neighborhood developed over the last few centuries.
This program, showing the maps in close detail, will be best viewed on screen. A Zoom link will be emailed to EFHS members and will appear on our website October 26.
Saturday, Sept. 25. 2021: The Old “Falls Village”: The Core of East Falls
Meet at Inn Yard Park [click for Google Map]
This walk will cover the nexus of the oldest part of East Falls, where the Ridge Road, Indian Queen Lane, and Midvale Avenue (formerly Mifflin Street) meet. We will cover Ridge Avenue from the 4000s to the 4100s, and up Indian Queen Lane and Midvale to the rail line. Addressing both history and architecture, we will view an 1868 fraternal hall, our modernist fire house, the site of a Woman’s Medical College clinic, a former movie theater, and houses of various ages and styles, including some grander forms of the Philadelphia row house on Ridge Avenue. No registration needed. Fee: $15, $10 for EFHS members.
Tuesday, June 1, 2021: Mid-Century Modern Houses of School House Lane
The East Falls Historical Society will present an illustrated zoom talk, Mid-Century Modern Houses of School House Lane in their Context, presented by Dr. David Breiner on Tuesday, June 1 at 7:00 pm. The program is free and all are welcome.
Dr. Breiner, Associate Dean of the College of Architecture and the Built Environment at Thomas Jefferson University’s East Falls campus, will give a brief history of “School Lane Hills” and two adjacent estates, and the houses that were built on them along School House Lane, Timber Lane, Apalogen Road, and Gypsy Lane. Selecting examples of houses which represent the Mid-Century Modern style, most popular from the 1940s to the 1960s, he will discuss the characteristics of this architecture, the local architects who designed these houses, and a bit about the people who bought them.
Dr. Breiner’s research is part of a planned book, School House Lane, which is near completion.
This presentation received enthusiastic feedback when a version of it was presented in March for the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia.
Tuesday, Mar. 30, 2021: The Hidden Modern Houses of Schoolhouse Lane
Mid-century Modern Houses of School House Lane in their Context – Dr. David Breiner, Associate Dean of the College of Architecture and the Built Environment at Thomas Jefferson University’s East Falls campus, former vice-president, East Falls Historical Society
During the 20th century, some country estates of previously remote School House Lane were subdivided for suburban development. As new neighbors, many prominent citizens commissioned houses from talented local architects, who were influenced by Cret, Howe, Kahn, Stonorov, and other local masters. Based primarily on archival research and interviews with current owners, this talk provides an overview of the distinctive enclave of nearly three dozen Modern residences, which remain largely secluded along the edge of Fairmount Park.
This is a lecture within the Building Philadelphia series of the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia. There is a small fee.
As a special partnership for this lecture of local interest, EFHS members enjoy discounted tickets for Dr. Breiner’s March 30th presentation. Tickets are $12 and can be purchased online (use Alliance Member ticket type).
Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021: Two Educational Stories: Germantown’s Concord School House and the Old Academy in East Falls
Click here to view the video of this zoom event.
In East Falls and nearby Germantown are found two remarkable survivors: The Old Academy on Indian Queen Lane (1819), and the Concord School House in Germantown Avenue (1775), on a corner of the Upper Burying Ground. Both began as community efforts, with similar objectives. Both found new uses and meanings when no longer needed as “one-room schoolhouses.” Some of the history of the Old Academy Players will also be presented. The program will be free.
Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020: The Falls Bridge: Structure and History
Click here to view the video of this zoom event.
Justin M. Spivey, PE, APT, RP
Senior Associate with Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc.
The 1895 Falls Bridge over the Schuylkill River, which connects the river drives, is much beloved by Fallsers, but also by admirers of bridges everywhere. It will soon undergo major renovation. Justin Spivey is a preservation engineer with special expertise and interest in the Schuylkill River bridges. Please join us to hear him speak about this iconic structure.
Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020: Architectural Gems Of Upper East Falls: A Reprise Plus
Led by Steven Peitzman, MD
Drexel University; Vice-President, EFHS
In 2015 the late Ken Hinde and I created a walking tour of selected buildings in the “upper” East Falls (formerly Queen Lane Manor), representing a variety of architectural styles. On this virtual walk we will revisit some of these, but also ignore time and distance to look at some other gems, even wandering a ways into Germantown! Of course, we will tell the stories of the various sites. – Steve Peitzman
Wednesday, June 17, 2020: Yellow Fever, Philadelphia, 1793 – A Virtual Walking Tour
Click here to view the video of this zoom event.
Steven J. Peitzman, MD
Drexel University and Est Falls Historical Society.
In 1793, the then mysterious illness yellow fever afflicted Philadelphia with an estimated loss of life of 5000. Chaos and panic reigned, and those who could fled. Finally, an unlikely array of heroc volunteers brought order and hope to the then nation’s capital. We will look at sites associated with the 1793 epidemic in the original city, and follow refugees to Germantown.
Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020: The Battles of Germantown: Effective Public History in America
David Young, Author
David Young is Executive Director of the Delaware Historical Society and previous Executive Director of Cliveden. He will discuss his book, The Battles of Germantown: Effective Public History in America.
Known as America’s most historic neighborhood, Germantown has distinguished itself by using public history initiatives to forge community. Progressive programs about ethnic history, postwar urban planning, and civil rights have helped make historic preservation and public history meaningful. The Battles of Germantown considers what these efforts can tell us about public history’s practice and purpose in the United States.
Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019: In Search of Roman Catholic High School’s “Lost Boys” of World War I
East Falls Historical Society will host guest lecturer and writer, Chris Gibbons, with his presentation: “In Search of Roman Catholic High School’s ‘Lost Boys’ of World War I.”
Chris’s lecture, which uses over 130 slides, will chronicle his now eight-year search into finding the names of the Roman alumni who gave their lives in the Great War, and reveals the incredible stories that have emerged from his quest, many of them published in The Philadelphia Inquirer. Refreshments will follow.
Wednesday, Oct 9, 2019: Grace Kelly in the Cinema
To celebrate what Grace meant to East Falls and eventually to the world, the East Falls Historical Society will present a tribute to her memory in her chosen profession on Wednesday, October 9, at the Falls of Schuylkill Library,Midvale Avenue and Warden Drive at 6:30 pm. The program is free and open to the public. Click here to read much more about Grace Kelly and this special event.
Parking is available on street. Come and bring a friend. Refreshments will be provided.
Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019: How William Penn Turned a ‘Howling Wilderness’ into America’s Fastest Growing City
Presented by Jim Murphy, Certified Philadelphia tour guide, writer, and lecturer.
With the William Penn Charter School as a neighbor, and some of us on living on Penn Street, we can still take Penn for granted. Was he not the progressive founder of Pennsylvania, seeking religious tolerance for all, and concerned for fairness to the Lenape Indians? Does he not look benignly down on us from the peak of City Hall? All of this is true, at least in good part, but Penn was also a real estate dealer and trans-oceanic urban planner. Jim Murphy will present his lively overview of one of Penn’s singular achievements, and more. Mr. Murphy likes to season his presentations with little-known facts, so be prepared for education and entertainment.
Event Archives – Download flyers
Saturday May 18, 2019: Tour Of Oak Cloisters [Download PDF flyer]
On Monday, March 4, 2019: Arlen Specter’s Career and Bipartisanship [Download PDF flyer]
Wednesday February 20, 2019: Two Hundred Years of East Falls Architecture [Download PDF flyer]
Wednesday, November 28, 2018: An East Falls Historic Photo Night [Download PDF flyer]
Saturday, September 15, 2018: Henry W. Brown, His House, And The Oak Road [Download PDF flyer]
Sunday, April 29, 2018: Benjamin Franklin Parkway Tour [Download PDF flyer]
Monday, April 16, 2018: Abraham Lincoln Visits Philadelphia [Download PDF flyer]
Wednesday, March 21, 2018: Philadelphia: Finding the Hidden City [Download PDF flyer]
Wednesday, October 11, 2017: Laurel Hill Cemetery And Its Neighborhood [Download PDF flyer]
Saturday, September 23, 2017: The Return of Brewing to The Falls [Download PDF flyer]
Wednesday, June 7, 2017: Could Franklin’s Enemy be Democracy’s Friend? [Download PDF flyer]
Wednesday, June 15, 2016: City in a Park [Download PDF flyer]
Saturday, April 2, 2016: Grace Kelly And A Century of Bridal Fashion [Download PDF flyer]
Saturday, October 31, 2015: Midvale Avenue: The Spine of East Falls [Download PDF flyer]
Wednesday, October 28, 2015: Origins of Modern East Falls: A Suburb in the City [Download PDF flyer]
Saturday, April 18, 2015: Architectural Surprises of Upper East Falls [Download PDF flyer]