205 East Hector Street
For A Short Time It Was a Big Deal
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. Sometimes the house was owned by a borough business-owner, or someone who contributed to the success of our community. 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.
Since Conshohocken’s incorporation more than 170 years ago hundreds of Club’s, Service Organizations, and what were called Secretive Organizations and Secret Societies have come and gone, but a few long time clubs still exist today.
In the spring of 1910, a large group of borough men gathered in the banquet hall of the St. Clair House once located at the corner of Harry and Elm Streets (Demolished in the early 1970’s as part of the urban redevelopment project), the enthusiastic meeting led to the formation of the Conshohocken Loyal Order of Moose. (LOOM)
The Loyal Order of Moose was founded in Louisville Kentucky, in the spring of 1888 by Dr. John Henry Wilson. Originally intended purely as a man’s social club, lodges were soon founded in other parts of the country.
So the newly formed Conshohocken Loyal Order of Moose organization purchased their first clubhouse, a three story brick row house at 205 East Hector Street in the summer of 1910. The first floor of the house was a greeting and business area for the club. The second floor was more-or-less offices and rooms where committees would meet and a recreation area for playing pool. The third floor of the lodge served as the organizations meeting room
The three story Victorian Italianate Vernacular row house at 205 East Hector Street was built in 1875 as part of a movement to expand the borough’s inventory on housing for laborers employed at the local mills along the river. In 1875 there were more jobs available then residents. The borough’s population in 1875 was around 2500 including men, women and children. The mid 1870’s was an explosive period of growth, St. Matthew’s School was founded in 1866 due to the many school aged children, many of the borough’s males owned and operated small family stores and service businesses at that time. Most of the borough’s females were stay at home mother’s leaving a very limited number of available males to works the mills.
Several Quarries, and early foundries cut into the available workforce, then there was the Alan Wood Street Company founded in 1832, by 1875 Alan Wood Steel Company needed close to 2,000 employees at the time. John Wood Manufacturing, was established in 1867, the W. C. Hamilton & Sons Company was established in 1856 and also demanded a large number of employees. In 1870 the Schuylkill Iron Works kept laborers in demand. In 1822 G. & W. H. Corson, Inc. was in full production. In 1850 William Davis, Jr. & Company was a force in the West Borough and in the late 1870’s Ford and Kending went looking for a large contingent of laborers. Above is just a few of the industries not to mention a number of textile mills in West Conshohocken who were constantly looking for laborers.
The two hundred block of East Hector Street was well needed housing relief when constructed back in 1875. In 1910 the Moose Lodge joined several other great organizations at that time like the Fritz Lodge No. 420 Free & Accepted Masons that was founded in the Odd Fellows Hall once located at 37 Fayette Street, then the property of Dr. Comfort, (Is that a great name for a doctor, or what?).
In 1910 the Masons were meeting on the third floor of the Washita Hall once located at First Avenue and Fayette Street. A few other Clubs and Societies at the time included the United Irish League, founded in 1905; The Conshohocken Women’s Club, established in 1897; Washita Tribe of Red Men founded in April of 1860; Washington Camp No 121 of the Patriotic Order of Sons of America, founded 1870, (Currently Tony and Joe’s) Young Men’s Athletic Association, 1894; Shepherds of Bethlehem, 1907; Needlework Guild of America Conshohocken Branch, 1894; North End Gun Club, 1901; Odd Fellows Gratitude Lodge No 216 1847; The Penn Club, 1890; Pen-y-Bryn Tennis Club, 1890, (At one time Tennis was one of the borough’s most popular sport), The Ty Cobb & Hans Wagner Baseball Club, 1909; (Mostly made up of West Conshohocken residents) The Conshohocken Canoe Club, 1890; Foresters of American NO 188, 1898 and dozens more at that time.
The LOOM used 205 East Hector Street as their headquarters for the next five years, due to the growth of the organization they were forced to find bigger quarters. In the spring of 1917 the lodge made a down payment on a set of twin houses located at First Avenue and Harry Street. The price for the two houses cost a total of $6,000. Renovations were made to convert the two houses into one big headquarters at an additional cost of $1,000, the lodge then used the entire building for their organization with the top story of the three story unit as their spacious meeting room making it the largest meeting room among all the organizations at that time. The rest of the building was turned into club rooms, and recreation areas.
When they purchased the buildings they were tenanted by Mark Staley and Joseph McGrath who vacated the property shortly after the purchase. The LOOM had a remarkably fast growth having had 150 charter members in 1910 to nearly 500 members just five years later making them the largest organization in Conshohocken at that time. During the lodges first five years they would offer a box of candy every year at Christmas to every child in the borough among other community events like town picnics and summer outings.
In 1937 the LOOM took-over the Conshohocken community ambulance. An ambulance service was pressed into operation in 1925 and was operated and housed by Conshohocken Fire Company NO. 2. The fire company turned over the service and the ambulance to the LOOM but the ambulance was 13 years old and needed replacing. The LOOM continued to run a free ambulance service for many, many years. Eventually the Washington Fire Company and the George Clay Fire Company ran an ambulance service for the better part of a quarter of a century. If I’m not mistaken, (perhaps an old-time fire company member could chime-in and correct me if I’m wrong) but I think they would ask you for a donation for 20 or 25 bucks for a ride to the hospital. They also offered an ambulance membership for a donation up front you could ride all year for free. (Great service for our seniors)
Once the LOOM vacated 205 East Hector Street undertaker Thomas J. Carroll turned it into a funeral home for a short time where he would also hired out automobiles for all occasions. Mr. Carroll conducted his funeral business there for a number of years until he moved his business to 209 East Hector Street just two doors up the block.
In 1922 Mr. Carroll purchased 1100 Fayette Street where he continued his funeral business until he retired.
Once Thomas Carroll moved his business to Fayette Street at Eleventh Avenue another undertaker William Ostapowicz continued to operate at 209 Hector Street.
I’m just guessing here, but I think sometime in the late 1930’s or early 1940’s 205 Hector Street was converted back to a residence, but more than a century ago all three floors were humming with activity. Thanks to organizations like the Loyal Order of Moose Conshohocken has thrived and continues to make this a very rich community to live in.
Today the Conshohocken Ambucs is still thriving, the Conshohocken Junior Women’s Club has been serving this community for nearly one hundred years and is always looking for new members. The local Rotary Club is a strong organization among several others in the community.
East Hector Street was much like lower Maple Street a hundred years ago, thriving with family owned businesses, crowded Streets, hundreds of kids playing outside until dark. In 1910 World War I had yet to effect Americans, Prohibition was still a decade away, Conshohocken unemployment was at a flat out zero, and for a brief moment, all was well in Conshohocken.
****** Photographs show 205 East Hector Street as it looked back in 1912 when it served as the LOOM organization’s Headquarters.
******205 East Hector Street as it looks today.
******The LOOM Headquarters as it looked in the 1940’s, where the twin houses on East First Avenue and Harry Street were converted into their new Headquarters in 1917.