Northeast Philadelphia History Network to host fair

Check out demonstrations, documentaries and more at Holy Family University this Saturday.

By Martha Esposito

Two hundred and forty-one years ago, when Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were busy forging a new nation in downtown Philadelphia, there was nothing going on in the Great Northeast.

Since then, the 44-square-mile section of the city has made up for lost time.

And on Saturday at Holy Family University, the Northeast Philadelphia 2017 History Fair will celebrate the rich history of Frankford, Holmesburg, Tacony, Mayfair and the other neighborhoods that give those that took place in and around Independence Hall a run for their money (but not for the history textbooks).

This is the fifth time the Northeast Philadelphia History Network has mounted the history fair, which takes place every other year (the off years for the Northeast Philadelphia Hall of Fame inductions).

Each history fair revolves around a theme, or a publication, said Fred Moore, treasurer of the Friends of Northeast Philadelphia History (the parent organization of the history fair), and the driving force behind the bi-annual event.

The first history fair, said Moore, featured a reprint of Samuel C. Willitts’ 1885 history of Lower Dublin Academy. Moore and other volunteers transcribed it from photos of the 450-page manuscript, which belongs to Holmesburg Library.

“It was very important for the historical community. People wanted the book,” he said.

Two years ago, the fair was themed to the 1969 History of Northeast Philadelphia, compiled by students at Northeast High School.

This year, while there is no publication, there will be one-hour presentations on the Baker’s Bay and Delaire Landing properties, wide swathes of land off State Road that today house condo developments but have historical significance.

AECOM, the company that has done excavation work under I-95 in Kensington and Port Richmond, will host a demonstration of artifacts found during its work.

And Jason Sherman, the documentarian responsible for The King’s Highway, a historical recounting of the inland road along the Delaware better known as U.S. Route 13/Frankford Avenue, will return to the fair in advance of the documentary‘s airing June 1 on WHYY.

The Friends of Pennypack Creek table will host Roland Williams, who grew up on the creek and is an expert in its history, said Moore.

Numerous community and historical groups will be represented, including the National Railway, Old York Road and Frankford historical societies; the Boy Scouts of America, who will discuss artifacts they have found around and along the King’s Highway; the Union League (owner of Torresdale Country Club); Byberry Friends; Bethany AME Church, the second-oldest AME church in Philadelphia, which will celebrate its 200th anniversary in October; and, of course, the Friends of Northeast Philadelphia History, which will have books and prints available for sale.

Admission to the history fair, which runs 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., is free, and Moore said 400 people are expected during the day to learn about and discuss the Great Northeast’s place in the annals of time. It will be held in the Campus Center Building at Holy Family University, 9801 Frankford Ave. For more information, call 215–370–4626. ••