110 WEST SEVENTH AVENUE
WILLIAM HALLOWELL BUILT HIS HOUSE IN 1859
By Jack Coll
Editor’s Note: (This is one in a series of short articles on random houses throughout the borough of Conshohocken, enjoy)
Houses up-and-down the avenues and streets of Conshohocken are, well, today, just houses, but back in the early part of last century, say a hundred years ago many of these houses provided needed services to the community. Many of them were corner stores or mid-block stores, the living rooms of some of these houses doubled as pool rooms, barber shops, cigar stores, candy stores and doctors’ offices. I thought it might be fun, and interesting to point out of few of these houses, that today are occupied by residents who I’m sure had no idea that their house was at one time something more than just a house.
Most of us at one-time-or-another noticed the big beautiful house on the corner of West Seventh Avenue and Forrest Street. The Moore family has owned the property for several decades now, but to trace its origins we have to go back to 1859.
In 1859, a wooden covered bridge spanned the Schuylkill River between Conshohocken and West Conshohocken. The borough had no running water within the borough limits, the Washington Fire Company was incorporated five years later in 1874 and the Conshohocken No. 2 Fire Company was established 43 years after the Washington Fire Company.
William Hallowell was a contractor and built hundreds of houses and buildings in the borough during his lifetime. You might recognize some of his work as he built The First Baptist Presbyterian Church that once sat at the corner of West Third Avenue and Fayette Street, the property is currently occupied by Marshall Lee Towers. Hallowell also built the P.O.S.of A. building, (Patriotic Order Sons of America) located at the corner of East Second Avenue and Fayette Street, a building we all know as “Tony & Joe’s.”
In 1859 Hallowell built a beautiful Gothic Revival style mansion on a large corner lot located at West Seventh Avenue and Forrest Street. Hallowell and his second wife Matilda lived in the house along with their five children, (the oldest child was with his first wife Harriet Thomas) and four children with his second wife Matilda Preston of Upper Merion.
William Hallowell was born on August 15th 1818, in the old farm house which still stands today at the corner of West Sixth Avenue and Colwell Lane. He was the son of Nathan and Esther (Potts) who had six children, however William was the only child who survived. As a youngster he attended a private school run by Miss Folk in the village of Conshohocken in the early 1820’s, (Conshohocken wasn’t incorporated until 1850). He later attended the Eight Square Schoolhouse in Plymouth Township.
When the borough of Conshohocken was incorporated on May 15, 1850, Hallowell was among the first class of borough councilman elected to serve this community. Hallowell served for nine years on council from 1850 until 1859 and was elected and served as Burgess from 1862-1864 and again from 1870-1874.
Mr. Hallowell was a founding member of Conshohocken First Baptist Church in 1871, and later became a Deacon in the church. He served on the committee to construct a church on a corner lot at East Fourth Avenue and Harry Street, a lot donated by George Nugent.
Hallowell was also engaged in the undertaking business, he was the borough’s first undertaker operating out of his residence at West Seventh Avenue and Forrest Street. Hallowell was a Director of the First National Bank of Conshohocken founded in 1873.
Hallowell became known as “Conshohocken’s Grand Old Man,” he died at his home May 18, 1912 at the age of 94 years old. In a newspaper article published in 1915, three years after Hallowell’s death, an article written by Richard W. O’Donnell , he reminisced of a time from when he was a child, and the Civil War was blazing, O’Donnell noted how, “he and other Conshohocken children formed a company of boys and drilled with wooden guns, made by William Hallowell, a builder and very patriotic citizen of the town”
Hallowell Street was named after William Hallowell and other members of his family.
Matilda Hallowell sold the Seventh Avenue house in the spring of 1922 to Peter Misciagna who lived at Harry and Elm Streets. Mr. Misciagna intended to convert the three story stone dwelling into two dwellings and expressed an interest in building several homes on the 140 foot by 150 foot lot of land. Mr. Misciagna vision of constructing several houses on the property never materialized.
One final note about the house William Hallowell built back in 1859, when the blueprints were laid out for the construction of the house there was a massive boulder, in the middle of where the basement was to be constructed. In 1859 jack-hammers weren’t available so Hallowell continued to construct his house around the massive boulder, the boulder can be seen in the basement to this day.
Today Hallowell’s house at West Seventh Avenue and Forrest Street is owned by the Moore family and houses several apartments, on a spring day when the flowers are blooming Hallowell’s former home still stands out as one of the most beautiful houses in the borough.
Join us next week when we discuss yet another borough house located on East Hector Street.