This walking tour takes visitors on a tour of the East Falls neighborhood of Philadelphia by way of architecture and remnants of its industrial heritage. Standing at the River looking up hill, one can see a smattering of churches and remains of industry as well as modest homes built to house mill workers and grander homes of those who made their fortunes from the industries of East Falls. A variety of architectural styles exist throughout East Falls in a relatively small geographical area. Styles include Federal, Gothic, Greek Revival, Tudor and Italianate with buildings originating from the early 1800s up through the current day. This tour is approximately 1-2 miles long depending on whether you take certain spurs, and much is walking uphill.
- Twin Bridges Parking Lot N40°00.457’, W075°11.497’
Public parking under Route 1 overpass between Ridge Avenue and Kelly Drive.
Built as a “green” parking lot, this parking lot has a stormwater basin and native plantings. The Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, working with the East Falls Development Corporation, will be creating a new series of murals on the overpass columns beginning in the spring of 2009.
- The Bathey N40°00.451’ W075°11.486’
The old Bathey House at Ferry Road once housed a public pool and bath-house. Plans are underway to create an information center at this site, which would be a gateway for the recreational trails, river and commercial district of East Falls.
Ridge Avenue East Spur
From the parking lot and Bathey, if you make a right, you’ll come to a number of repurposed mill buildings and the historical Laurel Hill Cemetery.
Indian Queen Lane Spur
Travelling West on Ridge Avenue, one would make a right onto Indian Queen Lane, probably the single most architecturally diverse street in East Falls, if not Philadelphia. Indian Queen Lane has appeared on maps of East Falls since 1692.
Falls Baptist Church N40°00.554’ W075°11.587 - Formally constituted in 1838, the foundation for the building you are looking at was laid in 1851. Prior to that time, the congregation met in private homes and at the Old Academy further uphill. Before the church was built, a number of baptisms took place in the Schuylkill River.
3625 Indian Queen Lane, c. 1850, N40°00.559’, W075°11.572’ – Built as the parsonage for the Baptist Church next door, the first two stories were built in 1850 in the Italianate style of Victorian architecture. The third story, with its mansard roof, was added in the 1880s/90s.
3600-3610 Indian Queen Lane, c. 1928, N40°00.567’, W075°11.522’ – These six homes are recognizable as classic Philadelphia row homes. 3602 was the model home for this series of homes, and along with the church and café on Indian Queen Lane, was featured in the movie, “Cover,” with Lou Gossett, Jr. and Patti LaBelle.
3580 Indian Queen Lane, c. 1872, N40°00.591’, W075°11.439’ – East Falls Methodist Episcopal Church, built in the Greek Revival and Italianate architectural styles.
3540 Indian Queen Lane, c. 1819, N40°00.602’, W075°11.383’ – Falls Academy,Carfax Building has Federal style of Architecture. Now part of the Old Academy Players complex.
3544 Indian Queen Lane, c. 1819, N40°00.604’, W075°11.369’ – Philadelphia Register of Historic Places – The Old Academy Players was formed in 1923 as the Moment Musical Club by 19 members of the Falls Methodist Church. They acquired the use of the Old Academy in 1932, converting it into a theater. The stage was at floor level and all entrances and exits had to be made through the front door and down the aisle. In 1941, through the generosity of John Hohenadle, a local brewer, and John B. Kelly a much needed addition to the rear of the building was constructed. Soon after that, a young girl named Grace Kelly made her debut on the stage.
3500 – 3506 Indian Queen Lane, N40°00.642’, W075°11.285’
Now the site of a community garden, this location was once the site of the Hohenadle Brewery, from 1898-1930.
Upper East Falls Residential Areas
Travelling uphill on Indian Queen Lane, one would make a left onto Conrad Street, which is a smaller neighborhood commercial corridor.
Make a right onto Queen Lane.
Make a left onto Vaux Street. Vaux Street intersects Midvale Avenue. From here one can travel further uphill to visit the popular neighborhood park, McMichael Park (N40°01.085’, W075°11.323’): McMichael Park was established in 1929 and named for a former mayor of Philadelphia. Numerous Indian artifacts have been found at this site, indicating that it was once the location of an Indian village. In 1777, Lafayette’s headquarters were in the Morgan House, located nearby at Henry Avenue and Coulter Street.
Proceeding downhill back to the river and other historical destinations:
3400 Block of Midvale, N40°00.908’, W075°11.428’ – The 3400 block of Queen Lane, Penn and Midvale has houses built by developer, Robert McCrudden, designed by architect Henry McNeill. Built in 1925, these homes were referred to as “Studio Houses” because of their distinctive Tudor style. Tudor Revival (1920-1940) is derived primarily from English Renaissance buildings of the 16th and early 17th century, borrowing ideas from late medieval palaces and rustic cottages.
Warden Drive – Most of the homes on Warden Drive were built in 1924-25 as the “English Village” by Mike McCrudden on the land once occupied by a brewery dam.
Politicians and East Falls
The many politicians who lived in East Falls began with the first governor of Pennsylvania, Thomas Mifflin. His mansion, Font Hall, built in 1775 and demolished in 1893. While living at Font Hall, he signed the Constitution of the United States as a member of the Pennsylvania Legislature. He died in 1880 and the house became a brewery known as John Stein’s Park and Brewery.
Senator Arlen Spector and Governor Edward Rendell are long time residents of Warden Drive. Senator Spector now resides on a private lane in East Falls. John B. Kelly and his son John B. Jr. were active in Philadelphia politics. Their home was built in 1930 by his company “Kelly for Brickwork” and stands at 3901 Henry Avenue.
Redeemer Lutheran Church, N40°00.848’, W075°11.519’ – corner of Conrad and Midvale
East Falls Free Library, N40°00.848’, W075°11.519’ – corner of Warden Drive and Midvale
Mifflin School, N40°00.848’, W075°11.519’ – corner of Conrad and Midvale
Septa Station, N40°00.674’, W075°11.573’
St. Bridgets, N40°00.647’, W075°11.590’
St. Bridget’s was established in 1853. The present church at 3667 Midvale was built in 1927. Connie Mack, owner of the Philadelphia “A’s” baseball team and Grace Kelly attended mass at St. Bridget’s in the 1950’s. Prince Albert of Monaco and members of the Kelly family were present at the 150th anniversary of the Parish in 2003.
Right on Ridge past Mason’s Building. Left on Calumet to Falls Bridge
The Falls Bridge was completed in 1895 to connect East Falls to West Fairmount Park. The Bridge was recently lit to accent its trademark ironwork.
From this point on the Schuylkill Trail, one can continue downtown to Center City or proceed to Valley Forge by travelling through the Manayunk portion of the trail.
Return to starting point along trail.
***Thanks to Ellen Sheehan and the East Falls Historical Society for assistance in compiling this tour. ***