Back to top

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, General and Physical Description (Hayward)


John Hayward, Illustrated Gazetteer of the United States... (Philadelphia: James L. Gihon, 1854), 516-523.

Philadelphia, Pa. City, and port of entry. Situated between the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers, about 5 miles above their junction, and 55 in a direct line N. W. from the Atlantic, coast; although the distance from the mouth of the Delaware, following the course of the river, is 120 miles. Population in 1800, 70,287; in 1810, 96,287; in 1820, 119,325; in 1830, 167,325; in 1840, 228,691; in 1850, 409,352, including the county. The city is the seat of justice.
The city was originally laid out in the form of a parallelogram, extending across the neck of land between the two rivers, at a point where their courses curve inward towards each other, and where, at their nearest approximation, they are about 2 miles distant. The streets were laid out straight, from river to river, in a direction which varies but slightly from the true meridian, with transverse streets, over the whole width, crossing the others at right angles. With the exception of Front Street on the E., which somewhat deviates from a right line, conforming to the shore of the Delaware, and one other short street, called Dock Street, which occupies the site of a former navigable creek, all the streets in the city proper, included between Vine Street on the N. and Cedar Street on the S., are accurately delineated in the above description. This regularity of arrangement is less exact in the districts, which have extended N. and S. far beyond the city proper, although it is there, also, a prevailing characteristic. These districts are the Northern Liberties, Kensington, and Spring Garden, on the N., and Southwark, Moyamensing, and Passyunk, on the S., embracing more than one half of the population contained in the aggregate given above. Including the whole of the densely-built portions in one description, as they properly belong to one uninterrupted area, it may be said that Philadelphia has a circumference of nearly 9 miles, stretching about 41/2 miles along the shore of the Delaware. The ground on which the city is built rises gradually, from each of the rivers, to an elevation of 64 feet above high-water mark. It is divided nearly in the centre by Market Street, 100 feet broad, running E. and W. from river to river, and transversely by Broad Street, 130 feet in width, which crosses Market Street at right angles, a little W. of the middle. Front Streets, on both of the rivers, are 60 feet wide; Arch Street, running parallel with Market on the N., is 66 feet wide ; and the other principal streets generally are 50 feet wide. The streets running from river to river, in the city proper, were originally 9 in number; to all of which, except Market Street, were given the names of the trees of the forest. Thus on the S. of Market are Chestnut, Walnut, Spruce, Pine, and Cedar; and on the N., Mulberry, Sassafras, and Vine. In one or two instances these names have given place, in popular usage, to others more convenient, as Mulberry to Arch, and Sassafras to Race; while the names of other trees have been given to some of the secondary streets, running parallel with these, by which the original sections have been subdivided. The memory of the stranger is often much assisted in finding the localities in Philadelphia by the popular rhyme into which these names so naturally fall, reading them each way from the central avenue: —
Chestnut, Walnut, Spruce, and Pine, Mulberry, Cherry, Race, and Vine.
The great streets at right angles with these are numbered First, Second, Third, &c., inward from their respective rivers, towards Broad Street, which is the central avenue running N. and S. Those on the Schuylkill side are distinguished from the others by prefixing the name of that river; and the sections on each side of Market Street, throughout, by the addition of North or South. So that, out of the indefiniteness and uncertainty at first resulting from such an entire uniformity of plan, there soon arises a beautiful simplicity in the system, by which the stranger learns to guide his steps.
The gradual inclination of the ground, each way, towards the rivers, favors the most perfect drainage of the city, which is effected by common sewers or arched culverts constructed under most of the principal streets. From the same cause, also, the streets are easily washed superficially by rains, and by the abundant supply of water from the hose attached to the water pipes. Philadelphia is consequently one of the cleanest cities in the world...
There is quite a number of public squares m the city, which are generally ornamented with fine shade trees, and laid out in other respects with much taste and beauty. Penn Square lies about in the centre of the city proper, and is intersected by the two great streets, Market and Broad Streets, which divide the city into its four quarters. Independence Square, in the rear of the old State House, has been referred to above. Washington Square, not far from this, is a delightful public ground. Franklin Square is between Race and Vine Streets, having Sixth Street on the E. In the centre of this square is a beautiful fountain. Other squares are Logan Square, also between Race and Vine Streets, and Rittenhouse Square, between Walnut and Locust Streets...
Fairmount and its vicinity is a favorite place of resort for the citizens, and for persons visiting Philadelphia. A fine gravel walk surrounds the reservoirs, from which a beautiful view of the city and of the scenery in other directions is obtained. A light and graceful wire suspension bridge is carried across the Schuylkill at this place, which is itself an object of curiosity, while it affords, in crossing, a pleasing view of the dam, the river, and its banks.

Analysis of the Schuylkill water by Professor Benjamin Silliman, Jr.: —
Chloride of sodium, . . . . . . . . .1470
Chloride of magnesium, . . . . . . . .0094
Sulphate of magnesia, . . . . . . .0570
Carbonate of lime, . . . . . . . 1.8720
Carbonate of magnesia, . . . . . . .3510
Silica, . . . . . . . . . . .0800
Carbonate of soda, from decomposed crenates and nitrates, and
loss on analysis, . . . . . . . 1.6436
Total solid matter, . . . . 4.2600
Carbonic acid in one gallon in cubic inches, . . 3.879
“No living animalcules were visible. Inodorous and nearly quite insipid, perfectly sweet, and like distilled water to the taste.” Of lead subjected five weeks to the action of this water the professor notes— “Quite bright, and not much acted upon.”
...Philadelphia was the seat of the United States Of the environs of Philadelphia, which are very beautiful, much might be said. The territory included between the rivers below the city is highly improved and cultivated in farms and gardens, for the supply of the rich vegetable market. There are many attractive places in the immediate vicinity of the city, to which the inhabitants resort for rides and recreations, or for their country residences. Camden, on the opposite bank of the Delaware, and accessible at several points by steam ferry boats, besides being a place of considerable population and business, has much of its soil under high cultivation, for raising the delicious fruits, which, during their season, are so tempting to the eye and to the taste in the stalls of Market Street. Kaigns Point, Gloucester Point, and Greenwich, all of them a little below the city, on the Delaware, are favorite places of resort, to which steamboats are constantly running. The banks of the romantic Wissahicken Creek, about 6 miles above the city, offer a delightful excursion for parties of pleasure. Laurel Hill Cemetery, in the neighborhood of Fairmount, is one of the most beautiful places of the kind in the country. The naturally-diversified surface of the ground, including about 20 acres, the trees, shrubs, foliage, and fragrant flowers with which it is adorned, and the costly and finely-sculptured monuments with which it is interspersed, render this a retreat at once of pleasing and of solemn interest. There are also Germantown, Manayunk, Norristown, and other places, a few miles distant from the city, which invite the citizens to pleasant drives over beautiful roads, and amidst scenes of rich luxuriance and beauty.

How to Cite This Page: "Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, General and Physical Description (Hayward)," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College,