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East Falls Historical Society local history collection


Held at: East Falls Historical Society [Contact Us]3728 Midvale Ave, Philadelphia, PA, 19129-1633

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the East Falls Historical Society. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

"Originally a settlement of the Lenni Lenape, a Native American tribe, East Falls was a collection of villages located in the vicinity of the falls of the Schuylkill River. . . . In 1732, Fort St. David, the first fishery in East Falls, was built and attracted many similar investments. Catfish were so plentiful in this part of the Schuylkill River that fishermen's nets could barely hold the abundant catch (Wissahickon is derived from "Wissha mechan", meaning "catfish"). Catfish became even more popular in the area because of the "catfish and waffles" delicacy introduced by Mrs. Robert Watkins, owner of the Falls Tavern. The creation of the Fairmount Dam three miles down-river ultimately submerged the falls, leaving only a few rocks remaining protruding from the river.

"As America began to industrialize, the river provided residents with waterpower to build mills along the Wissahickon and Falls Creeks, encouraging a small community to form. . . . During the Civil War, the Dobson Mills were built, which produced woolen blankets for the Union Army. Dobson Mills was demolished in 1872 by the Fairmont Park Commission and then rebuilt and moved to Scott's Lane where it flourished until the 1930s.

"The Powers & Weightman Chemical Company, which started in 1848 on Ridge Avenue, was yet another important business that brought East Falls more economic and social success. William Weightman, considered the wealthiest person in Pennsylvania at the time, built the "Ravenhill" estate on School House Lane, next to the mansions of other industrialists, such as railroad tycoon Frederick Kimball's "Red Gate". These historic properties were eventually charitably bequeathed to Philadelphia University which continues its careful stewardship of them as part of its campus.

"As was standard at the time, both Dobson Mills and Powers & Weightman also built homes for its employees, developing many of East Falls' still existing attractive row house neighborhoods. As more and more people gathered around the successful industries, East Falls continued to expand and develop. More homes were built, quickly followed by schools, churches, and neighborhood corner stores. East Falls became a town where people both lived and worked.

"East Falls is also known as the childhood home of Grace Kelly, Academy-Award winning actress and Princess of Monaco, who was born in 1929 and began her acting career at the Old Academy on Indian Queen Lane, which is still operating as an amateur theater in the neighborhood ( She was born into a new but prominent family in Philadelphia society: her father, Jack Kelly, was a self-made millionaire and a triple gold-medal-winning Olympic sculler at the height of rowing's popularity. Her brother, John B. Kelly Jr., followed in his father's footsteps, winning the Sullivan Award in 1947 and the bronze medal in the 1956 Summer Olympics, which he presented to his sister as a wedding present. She married Prince Rainier III of Monaco and had three children."


Quoted text from: East Falls Development Corporation. "A History of East Falls." Accessed March 26, 2012.

This collection of subject files was compiled by the East Falls Historical Society. The subject files are on topics of local interest and are comprised mostly of newspaper clippings with some pamphlets, invitations, and ephemera. Some files focus on individuals or families, while others cover businesses, schools, churches, community organizations, or historic sites/houses. A partial inventory of the subjects in the collection is provided below.

The files on individual people and families include Joseph P. Kelley, the Kelly family (including Grace Kelly), and Olympic rower Paul Costello. There are a significant amount of original materials from Jean Benjamin, Joseph P. Kelley, Charles McIlvaine, and LeRoy Shronk. The Shronk materials include correspondence, legal documents, and photographs dating from 1916 to 1966.

The files on significant events and institutions in East Falls history include: Dobson Mills; the Falls of Schuylkill Library; a proposed Trump Casino; the East Falls regatta programs and clippings, 1925-1931; and the Falls Bridge Centennial photographs and negatives, business records, invoices, correspondence, and newspaper clippings, circa 1995.

The society maintains a binder of historic photographs, postcards, and negatives, most of which have been scanned. There are also loose folders of documentary artifacts set aside for possible future exhibitions, such as invitations, ephemera, and materials relating to World War I and World War II (including a ration booklet, autograph book, blank stationary, etc.).

Subject files:



-Bella Vista


-Boat House Row

-Breck School

-Carlton Mansion

-Castle Ringstatten




-Chadwick Papers

-Computer History

-Costello, John

-Costello, Paul

-Dobson Mills

-East Falls Althletic Association

-East Falls Bank And Trust

-East Falls Bicentennial Committee

-East Falls Bibliography

-East Falls Buildings Demolished

-East Falls Business Association

-East Falls Community Council

-East Falls Development Corporation

-East Falls Directories

-East Falls Festival

-East Falls Golf Association

-East Falls History

-East Falls Historical Quiz

-East Falls Maps

-East Falls Regatta

-East Falls School

-East Falls Senior Citizens

-East Falls Social Conditions

-East Falls Streets

-East Falls Timeline

-Fairmount Park

-Falls Bridge Centennial/Lighting

-Falls Center

-Falls Methodist Church

-Falls Tavern

-Flanagan, Charles

-Forrest School

-Fourth Of July Celebrations



-Gustine Lake

-Historic Research



-House Preservation

-House Research



-Falls Of Schuylkill Building And Loan Association

-Falls Of Schuylkill Library

-First Presbyterian Church

-Five Fishes

-Gov. Ed Rendell

-Kelly, John B.

-Kelley, Joseph

-Kelpius, Johannes

-Lankenau School

-Laurel Hill Cemetery


-Masonic Orders

-Mcilvine Collection

-Mcmichael, Norton

-Mcpearson, Amy

-Meade, George Gordon, Gen.

-Memorial Church Of Good Shepherd

-Midvale Steel

-Mifflin Mansion

-Mifflin School

-Military History


-Neighborhood Research

-Newspapers Historic

-Old Academy

-Old Falls Tavern

-Oral History

-Palestine Lodge. Masonic Hall

-Penn Charter

-Phila. Canoe Club

-Phila. University


-Plush Hill

-Powers & Weightman


-Railroad - East Falls Depot

-Ravenhill Academy

-Real Estate

-Redeemer Lutheran Church

-Reference Sources

-Revolutionary War


-Roxboro House

-School House Lane History


-Scott's Lane

-Schuylkill Falls Development

-Schuylkill River


-Simpson Mills

-Shronk, Leroy

-St. Bridget School

-St. James The Less Church

-Strawbridge Mansion



-Undine Barge Club

-Urban Archives

-Water Department

-Weightman, William

-Wissahickon Hall

-White Corners

-Whosoever Gospel Mission

-Wolfeer, Catherine

-Women Of FOS-White House

-Women’s Medical College

-Woodside Amusement Park

-World War I Vets Of East Falls

-World War II

-Young Men’s Literary Institute


Materials collected by the East Falls Historical Society at various times.

East Falls Historical Society
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Celia Caust-Ellenbogen and Michael Gubicza through the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories
This preliminary finding aid was created as part of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories. The HCI-PSAR project was made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
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