Thesis Semester [blog] 25 years ago
2006.02.07 12:09

I'm still in kind of in shock over the fact that my mother owns a piece of one of the oldest white man settlements of Pennsylvania, and that the men who ultimately became the first three presidents of the United States had actually been there. Did they visit the place because of its historical significance? I mean, how often does one get the chance to visit a 17th century Swedish fort in North America? "Even Edward VII may have stopped overnight on his visits to Philadelphia while he was Prince of Wales, for the Fishers were Loyalists to the Crown. Benjamin Franklin was also a special guest." But it's thinking about the original Swedes that manifests the most 'chills and thrills'. Since I'm now very familiar with the site, I'm pretty sure I know why it was chosen, and trying to imagine living at the fort is not all that difficult--at least I personally know what it's like to see a herd of deer there, or the footprints some of them left in my mother's front garden after they eat her flowers.

Most of the information (so far) about Ury House comes from Fox Chase: 300 Years of Memories by Johanna Frueh Gaupp, 1976, and there is also good information about the early Swedish colony and Ury House in Architecture in Philadelphia: A Guide by Edward Teitelman and Richard W. Longstreth, 1974.

"But the settlement of the Delaware Valley had begun over forty years previously [i.e., before William Penn] with the founding of a Swedish trading post at Fort Christina (now Wilmington, Delaware) in 1638. Five years later Governor Johan Printz established a post further up the Delaware at Tinicum, just below the southwest border of present-day Philadelphia [--the Swedish fort at Pennypack Creek, Ury House, is right on a northwestern border of present-day Philadelphia]. Other concentrations of settlers began to form at Upland (now Chester) and Kingsessing, and, although Swedish rule ended in 1655, the people remained and continued to thrive, extending over a fair portion of the region."

Nowadays, on a typical Saturday evening, I leave my home in a 17th century Lenni-Lenape camp and head toward a 17th century Swedish fort for dinner. For most of the way I follow the path of Tacony Creek and then one of its tributaries until I reach the ancient trail that is now Oxford Avenue, and then go a little further on Pine Road until I reach the fort. After dinner, I take my brother for a ride, part of which takes us through Bryn Athyn whose 'center', the Academy of the New Church, is what I call "a little Land of Reenactment"--Mitchell/Giurgola Architects designed a Campus Plan, and the Administration Building and Men's Dormitory in 1962-63.

This part weekend it was my thinking about the position of the Academy of the New Church Administration Building along Huntington Pike, which is the northern extension of Oxford Avenue, that got me to read Fox Chase: 300 Years of History on Sunday night. Saturday morning I was reading some of Christian Norberg-Schulz's "The Genius Loci of Rome" in Architectural Design Profiles 20: Roma Interrotta.

My parents moved to Fox Chase mid-May 1981, a couple of weeks after my thesis jury. I never particularly liked where my parents moved because of the undeniable bland design of the 1970s housing development. Now, suddenly, there is even a reason for me to consider becoming a real architect again.

"Ury House: Perhaps one of the oldest surviving structures in the city. It is now wrapped in a Regency "Grecian Villa" somewhat reminiscent of the residential commissions of John Haviland."



Quondam © 2006.02.11