Old Market Street is rich in historic associations. it was past the old courthouse and the Market Square that General Howe and his army made their triumphal entry into the city when the throngs of citizens, clad in their best arrays, lined the sidewalks to see the grenadiers march by steadfast and composed and splendidly equipped. What a contrast, says the author, to the little patriot army which Washington had led along the same street not so long before, a sprig of green in the men's hats forming the only sign of uniformity!
On the site of the building now numbered 110 the English bible was first published in America by Robert Aitken, and at the southwest corner of Second and Market there stool until 1810 the Meeting House of the Society of Friends. Here the prominent Quakers of our early Colonel history worshipped and here, it is said, the tired lad Benjamin Franklin wandered after his arrival in 1723 and fell asleep on one of the benches. On the same side of street to the westward were the Royal Standard and Indian King taverns, in both of which the lodge of Free Masons was accustomed to meet. John Biddle kept the latter for many years. Matthew Corley began business on Front below Market Street in 1784, where he published the Pennsylvania Herald. John Dunlap, one of the founders of the First City Troop, associated with David C. Claypoole, published the first daily newspaper in this country in a printing house center of Philadelphia until the beginning of the last century. At what is now 135 Market Street Franklin started his first monthly magazine in this country. it is thought that William Bradford, the first printer in he middle colonies, had his shop near Front and Market Streets, and his descendants continued the trade in the neighborhood for a full century or more.
At 43 Water Street dwelt the famous Stephen Girard, "merchant and mariner," and here were entertained Talleyrand, the Duke of Orleans, later Louis Philippe, and his brother and other famous French emigrants. The vicinity of fifth and Sixth Streets and Market was the scene of many historic events. At the site now numbered 526,538 and 530 was a noble old mansion, regarded as the finest in the city. During the British occupation it was taken by General Howe for this headquarters, and on its grounds was quartered the Fifteenth Regiment of Foot. Here Benedict Arnold lived, followed by Robert Morris, the financier, and later by President Washington. Charles Biddle, the president of the Second United States Bank , the father of Nicholas Biddle, lived at what would be No. 611 market Street, and on the north side between Sixth and Seventh Streets Dr. Joseph Priestley, the discoverer of oxygen, dwelt.
No history of Philadelphia would be complete without a record of the early inns and theatres, and interesting reading makes. Philadelphia very fittingly, had the honor of seeing the first Shakespearean presentation in America in 1749. The little company was managed by Murray and Kean, but there is no authentic record of just where they gave their performance. Lewis Hallam's English company came to the city in 1754 and gave as an "opener" "The Fair Penitent" in a large brick warehouse of William Plumsted, situated in King or Water Street, between Pine and Lombard Streets. Eventually a theater was built for them at Cedar or South and Vernon Streets, on society Hill, just outside the town limits, as in Shakespearean days. Like the history of all early theatrical enterprises, this met with great protest on the part of religious organizations and sensitive citizens, and only on promising programs of a "harmless" nature were they allowed to continue. The word play was always avoided, and "Hamlet" and "Jane Shore," are described in their announcements as "moral and instructive tales." The first American play ever publicly acted in the colonies was by Thomas Godfrey, Jr., "Prince of Parthia," recently revived by the students of the University of Pennsylvania. It was produced in 1767 by Hallam's company at a new theatre built for them at South and Apollo Streets the previous year. The theatre was called the Southwark Theatre, and Hallam, with his "American Company," played during the winters of 1768, '69, '70, and '73. It was destroyed by fire in May, 1782, but its walls remained to house a distillery until a few years ago.
Where the United Security Life and Trust Company building now stands was the Chestnut Street Theatre, opened in February, 1794. Joseph Jefferson the elder made his first Philadelphia appearance here in 1803. As often happened, the building fell victim to fire and was destroyed seventeen years later, but was immediately rebuilt and reopened with "The School for Scandal" in 1822. Here Booth made his appearance on February 17, 1823, unknown, and, it appears, with little success. There was a theatre on Locust Street ( then Prune Street) between Fifth and Sixth in 1820, named the Winter Tivoli Theatre and later the City Theatre. The Walnut Street Theatre, the oldest in America at the present time, was fitted up in 1811 by Pepin and Breschard, who combined stage and ring performances in what they had built for a circus. This theatre had only a moderate success for a while, but its first session is memorable on account of the appearance on November 27 of "a young gentleman of this city" as Young Norval. This was no other than master Edwin Forrest, who was born at 51 George Street, and was than fourteen years of age. It was here also that he made his last appearance in this city. Edmund Kean also played at this theatre.
Many important events and illustrious personages are connected with the old inns and not a little of early history was made in them. All the earliest innkeepers, we learn, were Friends, and the most famous inn, the Blue Anchor Tavern, situated at what is now the northwest corner of Front and Dock Streets, is supposed to have been not only the first house erected in Philadelphia, but appropriately the first tavern. It was subsequently called Boatman and Call. The present Blue Anchor tavern, near this spot, is according to the author the third of the name.
Other famous inns were the Penny Pot House, noted for its beer at a penny a pot; Clark's Inn, opposite the State House, famous for its cooked meat; the Indian King Tavern, on Market Street near Third Street, the meeting place of the "Junto Club," and the old Coffee House, situated at the corner of Second and Market Streets, where most of the early business of the city was transacted. An interesting and only survival of tacern days is to be seen in the remains of the Black Horse, on Second Street near Callowhill, which goes back to 1785. It is hardly recognizable as an inn on the front, but the arched entrance, which leads into the old yard, and the quaint old balcony still suggest the busy times of its early history. In 1845 it was still used by teamsters and farmers, "who used to take their beds and lodge on the floors."
DEED HELD IN THE FAMILY 163 YEARS FINALLY PRESENTED FOR RECORDING
(Public Ledger, April 2, 1924)
More than 160 years after its execution, a deed to property at the northeast corner of Fifth and Market Streets was placed on record in the office of the Recorder of Deeds.
The instrument, still in an excellent state of preservation, was brought to light when search was made of title to the present property, which includes not merely the corner but the lots 437 to 443 Market Street and 5 to 7 North Fifth Street. In tracing back the title it was found that no public record had ever been made of the conveyance of the northeast corner of "High and Fifth Streets," on May 9th, 1761, by Thomas Wharton, merchant, and his wife, Rachel, of the province of Pennsylvania to Jacob Barch shopkeeper. The lot in this conveyance was 30 feet 6 inches front by 100 feet deep. The consideration was 800 pounds which is approximately equivalent to $4,000.
The old deed reached the Recorder's office when members of the Graff family, in Kennett Square, recently sold the entire property for $300,000. They delivered the old Wharton-Barch deed, which had been in their family since their ancestor, Barch, had acquired the property nearly 163 years ago. The deed is a large and substantial sheet of fine old parchment, and bears in addition to the signatures of the granter and grantee those of the two witnesses.
The deed shows that the ground at the northeast corner of Fifth and High Streets was granted by the proprietary Government of Pennsylvania on July 12, 1736, to William Hudson. Upon his death Hudson left the property to two granddaughters, Rachel and Susanna Medcalf, the former of whom later was married to Thomas Wharton. Subsequently Susanna conveyed her one-half interest in the property to her sister, retaining a ground rent of $15 a year. This ground rent later was extinguished and the property was conveyed to Barch free from that incumbrance.
The entire group of properties in the recent sale is assessed at $240,000. Of this amount, $135,000 is the assessed value of the corner alone.