Tacony Historical Society talks Penn, neighborhood projects

Philadelphia founder William Penn was the main topic of discussion at the Historical Society of Tacony’s meeting on May 6.

Tour guide Jim Murphy gives a presentation May 6 on William Penn at the Historical Society of Tacony meeting. JACK TOMCZUK / TIMES PHOTO

William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania and the City of Philadelphia, was the main subject of last week’s semiannual meeting of the Historical Society of Tacony.

Penn has several links to Tacony and the Northeast. The Frankford Avenue bridge over Pennypack Creek, which underwent repairs last year, was constructed at his request in 1697.

The historical society meeting featured a small exhibit on the structure, which is the oldest stone bridge still in use in the country. A table featured photographs and a stone from the bridge’s original construction.

In addition, the iconic statue of Penn atop City Hall was cast at Tacony Iron Works in the late 19th century. The historical society put together a display about the statue for those attended the May 6 meeting.

Jim Murphy, a tour guide, writer and amateur historian, also made a presentation to residents about Penn and his role in growing Philadelphia. Penn deserves more credit, and people often confuse him with Benjamin Franklin, Murphy said.

“(Penn) is so underappreciated, even in our own city,” he said.

Murphy also provided a rundown of major events in Philadelphia’s early history, including the yellow fever epidemic of 1793, the nativist riots of the mid-19th century and the city’s consolidation in 1854.

The May 6 meeting of the Historical Society of Tacony featured a stone from the original construction of the Frankford Avenue bridge over Pennypack Park. The bridge was built at the direction of William Penn. JACK TOMCZUK / TIMES PHOTO

In other news from the historical society meeting:

Tacony Library Branch Manager Suzin Weber said she and members of the historical society are trying to get a blue state marker for the library. This is their third attempt at securing a marker.

This time around, Weber said they are trying to tie the library to M. Louise Thomas, a prominent woman in the 19th century. She and her husband were friends with Abraham Lincoln, P.T. Barnum and Susan B. Anthony, according to Weber.

Weber said Thomas in 1876 started the Keystone Scientific and Literary Association, which later evolved into the Tacony Library. Thomas’ house and the association’s first home are no longer standing.

“This is the one remaining place in the community where she can be celebrated,” Weber said.

Tacony Historical Society President Lou Iatarola said the organization is planning to move part of its collection from the society’s office at 6913 Tulip St. to the Tacony Library to make the materials more accessible to the public.

Community members on Saturday, May 4, held a dedication ceremony for the Disston Memorial Clock, which hangs inside the library. The clock features a pair of saws as hands and pays tribute to Henry Disston Saw Works and the workers who built Tacony. It was constructed by Ring Lardner, who used to work for Disston Precision.

The Historical Society of Tacony’s next meeting will be in the fall. More information on a date and time will be released later in the year. ••

Jack Tomczuk can be reached at jtomczuk@newspapermediagroup.com