Before the automobile age, how did people in the neighbourhood take a break from the hustle and bustle of city life?
In 1891, de Sales parishioners who wanted to enjoy a quiet Sunday afternoon in the countryside just stepped out the door of our first combination chapel/school building (today’s auditorium) and crossed forty-seventh street!
At that time, most of the 4700 block of Windsor/Warrington was an open field; while the 4700 block of Warrington/Baltimore, belonging to Mary R. Wilson, was occupied by a stone farmhouse, a barn, and fruit trees. More fields stretched out beyond, to 50th street. On the other side of Baltimore Ave., the grounds of the Twaddell Estate, with 1640s mansion, spring house, antique rose bushes, and fruit trees, sat in the middle of a swathe of property stretching from from 44th to 48th Street; Baltimore Avenue to Lombard (today Larchwood), with other farms beyond it.
The area grew quickly. By 1911, when our church was completed, only part of the Wilson farm remained on this side of Baltimore Ave. Its former 48th Street edge was accessorized with an eyebrow-like row of new houses – including two at the end that were moved around the corner onto Baltimore Avenue in 1905 to make room for a the new Calvary M.E. Church! Neat lines of tract housing quickly filled in the rest of the neighbourhood. Even the 275-year-old Twaddell mansion – which had survived both the Revolution and the Civil War – would be demolished in 1921, for new construction.
Our parish bought the remains of the Wilson farm in 1920, and third grade and commercial classes (business skills for those not attending high school) were held in the 3-storey stone farmhouse for a few years as the school continued to expand. The parish also held several Lawn Fetes and Carnivals on the grounds. A 1925 event featured the Philadelphia Firemen’s Band and the SFDS Boys Battalion Band. The prize for a lottery drawing was “a Chest of Linen Service.”
The parish had planned to build a new school building on the Wilson land, but in 1926, Bishop Crane changed his mind, and bought and demolished several houses on Farragut Terrace to make room for a new wing added to the original school building. The Wilson farm property was sold to Brown & Sons developers, who, by 1927, advertised a newly-built Automobile Showroom at 4730 Baltimore Ave.; with a theatre (the Byrd), apartment building, and 17 stores in the planning.