First HSP Experience
on May 30, 2006
A large aspect of the MDPN project is gathering descriptions of the housing in the 7th Ward so that it can be easily displayed on the final website. Amy and Cathy have decided to gather this data from a small part of the 7th Ward first, in order to see how we should go about it. The test area is between 7th and 8th, South and Addison.
To start gathering the housing data, Cathy recommended going to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, located at 1300 Locust. Tim and I went there today and looked at old fire insurance records. The records provide a description (and sometimes a photo or floorplan) of specific properties. The process for looking up the properties is somewhat slow, as you are only allowed to request three property records at a time, and it can take them up to 30 minutes to retrieve the records.
Today we tried to gather a few sample properties so that we know what kind of data we have with which to work. While the process for retrieving the data is slow, it is also pretty exciting, because you get to handle original hand-written documents, most of which are from the 19th century.
We made some photocopies so that everyone could see the way the data works. While photocopies are not practical longterm (50 cents a page adds up), the ones we made provide a good way of gauging the data at this point in the game. I scanned in the photocopies and will upload them to my personal penn account so everyone can see. The files are too big right now to upload/download but I should be able to get them up on Wednesday.
I can think of a couple problems with this information that we'll need to be careful about:
1) The records are not necessarily from the time of the Philadelphia negro- some are significantly earlier. I looked at one today that was from 1834. Things could have changed by the time DuBois did his work, and so the description might lack significance for this project's time period.
2) Not every property seems to have a listing. However, maybe we haven't looked in the right places yet or need to look more in the next few days/weeks.
The HSP also has a considerable photo archive. While we did not have time today to look at any of the photos, I was able to look at the card catalogue that lists them, and wrote down what I found for the sample area. Some examples:
1) Image of Hospital at 7th and Lombard, Henry Philips Institute, 1920.
2) Bath house on Lombard near 8th Street, Seal of the City of Philadelphia above door, 1907.
3) 806 Lombard - robert Morris Hose House, n.d.