Historical Society learns about Philly mansions

Talking history: The Historical Society of Frankford re-elected its board during its last meeting. LOGAN KRUM / TIMES PHOTO

Attendees at the Historical Society of Frankford’s April meeting heard a lecture from Philadelphia journalist Thom Nickels about his studies and experiences staying in local mansions.

Nickels has published 12 books and has worked as a reporter and columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia magazine.

His presentation focused on mansions all across Philadelphia and in other states. He talked about Stephen Girard, the primary financial backer of the War of 1812 who was the wealthiest man in America at the time of his death. He lived at 2101 W. Shunk St. in South Philadelphia, in the area currently known as Girard Estates.

“Thanks to 19th-century industrial squall, the Frankford section of Philadelphia is mostly an uncelebrated part of the city,” Nickels said. From the early 1700s to the Revolutionary War period, it was a place where the Philadelphia upper class had its summer mansions.

The historic John Ruan House, located at 4278 Griscom St., was built in 1796 by Dr. John Ruan. The physician and community leader treated patients on the second floor of the structure. It was purchased by the Knights of Columbus and currently is home of the Grand Army of the Republic Civil War Museum and Library.

Three board members were also re-elected at the meeting. Jim Young will continue to serve as president, Jerry Kolankiewicz will continue to serve as vice president and Vanessa Couvreur will continue to serve as secretary.

“We had a good year last year,” Young said, citing accomplishments including an increased web presence by setting up a website and Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. Treasurer Bruce McKenzie said the organization grew by 53 single memberships and 33 group memberships in 2018.

Meetings are held on the second Tuesday of every month at 1507 Orthodox St. The next meeting will be held May 14.

To learn more about the group, visit the website at thehistoricalsocietyoffrankford.org/ or search for it on social media. ••