735 East Hector Street
110 Years Ago it belonged to Alexander Kilpatrick
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.
Hector Street, originally Barren Hill Road, is one of the oldest streets in the borough of Conshohocken. As the James and Alan Wood steel mills began to expand in the 1830’s, houses started popping up along Elm and Hector Streets, Marble, Forrest and Maple Streets on the west side of the town. Early residents didn’t intend on opening stores in their home but as time passed they found there was a need for these corner stores and mid-block stores.
Alexander Kilpatrick purchased the wood-framed house at 735 East Hector Street back in the early part of last century. Since East Hector Street already had several corner stores along the strip Mr. Kilpatrick decided to open a Cigar Store and Pool Room, you might say an entertainment center for the working class man. There were several Cigar Stores and Pool Rooms in the borough, it created a nice alternative to stopping at the one of many watering holes on the way home from the mills to wash the steel dust from ones throat. The Cigar Store and Pool Room was also a refreshing stop after dinner, just like the bars it was a great place to catch up on the day’s news, remember no televisions or radios back then, juicy news was discussed at the bars and pool rooms.
From 1908 throughout the teens Mr. Kilpatrick opened up his living room and was quite successful selling cigars and pool table time. However Mr. Kilpatrick also devised ways to increase his income that didn’t sit-well with the local authorities. Just before Christmas in 1909 the cigar store was raided by Constable Gilmore and Conshohocken Police Officer Ruth. Mr. Kilpatrick was quickly arrested on charges of allowing underage boys in his establishment and underage gambling. It was charged that a paddle wheel was run in the store of the accused and was largely patronized by boys. The game cost one cent to play, with one chance in fifteen to win ten cents. Another machine was a penny-in-the-slot card machine. If the player won he was rewarded with candy and chewing gum. Mr. Kilpatrick was arrested on charges of underage gambling and held on $1,000 bail for court.
In the early part of last century young men gambling and drinking was quietly accepted in the community, throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s Conshohocken was a gambling mecca with mob ties. During prohibition it was said that some of the best moonshine in the Philadelphia area was mixed right here in Conshohocken.
Many of these old houses in Conshohocken hold secrets, have a back story, served as something more than a house. Some were lifelines to the community providing a running tab for food for the family until the tab could be paid off come payday. Every house has a history, and some of that history is very interesting.
See ya next time when we’ll look at another house with a history located on West 8th Avenue in the borough of Conshohocken!