by Connor Grady
Throughout my work as an intern for the Chestnut Hill Historical Society, I have learned much about Chestnut Hill’s history and its role in the Philadelphia area.
In particular, I have learned a lot about some of the buildings in Chestnut Hill. One of the more interesting facts I came across was the development of Mower Hospital, which was built in 1863 during the Civil War. At the time of its construction, it was the country’s largest Army hospital, treating more than 20,000 patients before its destruction in 1865.
During its time as a hospital, the complex occupied the site of what would later be the Wyndmoor SEPTA Station, Market Square Shopping Center, and Chestnut Hill Village Apartments.
I also discovered much about the history of the Chestnut Hill branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia, which dates back to 1871 and has a rich history after being founded by Henry Williams, a devout Presbyterian. The library was known as the Christian Hall Library until 1907, when it became the Free Library of Philadelphia. In addition, the building was funded by affluent industrialist Andrew Carnegie, making it one of just 18 Carnegie libraries still in use in Philadelphia.
Saint Martin’s Station, a SEPTA station on Saint Martin’s Lane, is another structure with a great history. The station was constructed in 1884, and its second floor was added soon after in 1889. To this day, Chestnut Hill’s infrastructure and transportation systems continue to function, even with their long history of usage and development.
This continued success can be attributed to constant renovations of roads and train stations, like the work of the Friends Committee of St. Martin’s Station and other volunteer groups. In addition, ongoing city work, such as the project being undertaken on West Chestnut Hill Avenue and Navajo Street, displays the city’s commitment to its infrastructure.
With Chestnut Hill’s long, well-documented history available to everyone at the historical society archives, I strongly encourage everyone to research their house, street, or any other structure they are interested in. There are many great articles and photographs that can give you an insight into an area’s past and how that has affected it today, and I recommend checking it out. Being involved with the historical society also allows you to help protect Chestnut Hill’s structures and continue its deep history.