Green Hill Lives!

 

1632 Poplar Street | Photo: Richard Gonzalez

1632 Poplar Street | Photo: Richard Gonzalez

Ridge Avenue bifurcates Francisville, splitting the neighborhood into to two triangles. The southwest triangle–once part of a neighborhood called Vinyardtown owing to its connection to William Penn’s Springettsbury estate, which contained a vineyard–is defined by its odd, angst-causing diagonal street design. The northeast triangle was a private 300-acre estate until 1837. The usual Philadelphia street grid was platted into this area around this time, and by the end of 1840, a new neighborhood called Green Hill, after the old estate, was well under construction.

Green Hill as seen in Charles Ellet's 1843 map. West is up.

Green Hill as seen in Charles Ellet’s 1843 map. West is up.

Across town, at the start of the 1850s, talk began of removing the old market sheds that had run down the middle of High (Market) Street for the previous 140 years. Newly formed farmer organizations had begun to advocate indoor market houses to replace filthy outdoor markets. The first of these indoor markets failed because they couldn’t compete with the massive High Street Market. Nonetheless, once it was clear that the Pennsylvania Railroad intended to build a line straight down High Street, a second wave of private indoor market companies formed at the end of the 1850s.

On April 6th, 1859, one such organization was incorporated under an act of the Grand Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania called the Green Hill Market Company. Part of the act read:

That the object and purpose of said corporation be to erect and maintain suitable building or buildings with all things necessary for the use thereof at the corner of Seventeenth and Poplar street…

And erect they did. By the time the old market sheds on Market Street (High was re-named Market in 1858) started being removed in December 1859, construction of the Green Hill Market was well underway. The 15,000 square foot building that resulted would become something of a community fixture. Not only was there a farmer’s market, but an event/meeting space on the upper floor called Green Hill Hall. Local neighborhood clubs such as the Green Hill Literary Association would meet and hold events. A mission school ran out of the Hall during the day.

"Germania Central Market" in G.M. Hopkins' 1875 Philadelphia Atlas.

“Germania Central Market” in G.M. Hopkins’ 1875 Philadelphia Atlas.

Around 1870, with the neighborhood evolving, the old Green Hill Market became known as the Germania Market, and the hall, Germania Hall. At the same time, the Hall became the temporary home to the Second Church of the Restoration Universalist until they moved to their home on the 1600 block of Master Street in 1872 (it still stands). By the time Poplar Lane was renamed Poplar Street in 1873, the Germania Market was too small to serve the needs of the neighborhood, which was growing quickly due to the extension of trolley lines and the explosion of industrial wealth in North Philly.

The Ridge Avenue Farmer’s Market opened in 1875 as a replacement for the Germania, offering added amenities such as a stable for horses and an attached hotel for visiting farmers. The Germania Market stayed open until about 1887, but was more often used for events than bratwurst. Everything from concerts to socialist rallies were held during this period, when it was most often called the “Germania Hall and Market.”

Around 1889, one Gilbert L. Parker purchased the building and moved his company, the Northwest Storage and Trust Company, into the space. For the next three decades, the old market served as a high-end storage bin that held the fancy furniture, silverware, and art pieces of the nouveau riche. At the same time, Memorial Hall near Eighth and Girard became the new Germania Hall. At the turn of the 20th Century, Parker sold the northeast portion of the old market’s property to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. At this location, the state set up a health dispensary that in 1916 became the state’s first-ever STD clinic. The old Green Hill Market would later be known as the Parker Estate after Northwest Storage and Trust folded in the late 1920s.

Church of the Living God | Photo: Richard Gonzalez

Church of the Living God | Photo: Richard Gonzalez

The building was converted into its current use as a church in the mid-20th Century, changing hands several times before being purchased on August 20th, 1973 by its current owner-occupant, Church of the Living God, The Pillar and Ground of the Truth, Which He Purchased With His Own Blood, Inc.

Today, the 153-year-old building is in pretty decent shape considering its age. The exterior has been heavily altered: a stone cladding on the ground level, layers of paint cover the original brick facade, a crucifix installed at the top. Nonetheless, the building still has the same impressive presence it must have had in 1860. On top of that, it has outlasted two of its replacements. The Ridge Avenue Farmer’s Market was torn down after the roof collapsed in 1997 (though the hotel still stands) and the new Germania Hall was taken down in the mid 20th Century.  As real estate activity heats up in Francisville, we have to hope one of the it is comforting to know that one of its original pieces will remain for years to come.

About the author

GroJLart is the anonymous foulmouthed blogger of Philaphilia, where he critiques Philadelphia architecture, history, and design. He resides in Washington Square West. GroJLart has contributed to Naked Philly, the Philadelphia City Paper's Naked City Blog, and Philadelphia Magazine's Property Blog.

Send a message!



2 Comments


  1. I remember riding my bike in the early 90’s to view an old covered market that was slated for demolition. It was somewhere in the Fairmont/Brewerytown area. I would love to find pictures, does anyone remember that market? I just remember it was huge.

  2. Ok, answered my own question, it was the Ridge Ave. Farmer’s Market, which I see you have written about before. I’ve been wondering about this for awhile. Too bad we lost this.

    https://hiddencityphila.org/2012/01/market-dreams/

Trackbacks

  1. The Food Market Bubble of 1859

Leave a Reply

Comment moderation is enabled, no need to resubmit any comments posted.

Recent Posts
City Council To Vote On Ridge Avenue Demo Moratorium

City Council To Vote On Ridge Avenue Demo Moratorium

December 13, 2017  |  News

A bill to place a temporary hold on demolition applications for 300+ historic properties along Ridge Avenue goes before City Council tomorrow. Michael Bixler has the details > more

The Marvelous Multiple Occupations Of The Midtown II

The Marvelous Multiple Occupations Of The Midtown II

December 11, 2017  |  The Shadow Knows

Last June, one of Center City's last classic diners, Midtown II at 11th and Sansom, closed its lunch counter for good. The high-profile property is now under development, although plans for the space remain elusive. The Shadow takes us behind the façade to reveal a lively list of tenants and a colorful history of reuse > more

Secrets! Romance! Scandal! The Hush-Hush Love Of Philly's Paint King And His Irish Lass

Secrets! Romance! Scandal! The Hush-Hush Love Of Philly’s Paint King And His Irish Lass

December 8, 2017  |  Harry K's Encyclopedia

Harry K. takes us to Old City where the flames of a secret affair scorched newspaper headlines in the early 1900s > more

Marc Lamont Hill Energizes Germantown Ave With New Bookstore Cafe

Marc Lamont Hill Energizes Germantown Ave With New Bookstore Cafe

December 6, 2017  |  Vantage

Academic, activist, and political commentator Marc Lamont Hill carries the tradition of the Black-owned bookstore into the 21st century with Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee and Books. John Henry Scott has the details > more

Give $$$, Get a Cool Perk: 2017 Campaign

Give $$$, Get a Cool Perk: 2017 Campaign

December 4, 2017  |  Vantage

Hidden City's annual fund drive is in full swing on Generosity and we've got a brand new batch of perks celebrating Philadelphia available. Here's a look at this year's killer lineup > more

Three Historic Designation Removals Call Procedure Into Question

Three Historic Designation Removals Call Procedure Into Question

November 30, 2017  |  Vantage

Three historic properties on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places were abruptly stripped of legal protection last week. Contributor Starr Herr-Cardillo unpacks the details of each situation > more