Conshohocken Baseball & Softball 2024January 25, 2024
West Conshohocken Borough Celebrates 150 Years of IncorporationJanuary 29, 2024
History of our Street Names including Fayette Street
by Brian Coll (with previous research by Jack Coll)
We often get asked about how our boroughs street names came about. Conshohocken is a borough, not a city, not a town or township. West Conshohocken is celebrating its sesquicentennial as a borough in 2024 (150 years) Conshohocken was incorporated as a borough in 1850, so we have a 24 year lead on our sister borough across the river.
Let’s start with the bridge over the Schuylkill River. The bridge, our bridge that crosses the Schuylkill River, is named the Matsonford Bridge. Named after Peter Matson. Peter and his family built a ford across the river from his home in West Conshohocken to Conshohocken. We are going back into the 1740’s for this. We could talk all day about the bridges that have crossed between our two boroughs, but let us move onto Fayette Street.
General LaFayette came through Conshohocken during the Battle of Barren Hill in May of 1778. He led his forces through Conshohocken and over the ford built by Peter Matson and his family. General LaFayette was able to link his troops up with General Washington in Valley Forge. Once again, we could go into great detail about the battle, or the encampment at Valley Forge, but let us focus on General LaFayette. Other parts of our country named streets after General LaFayette and in some cases these other areas had no tie to the General. Conshohocken had good reason to name a street after General LaFayette.
Part of the reason we are writing this is, we have been asked on more than one occasion about the new hotel being named West and Main. People are wondering why they named it that way. Conshohocken has Fayette Street, not Main Street. Main Street can be boring and sometimes misleading…. ever go to Franzones? That is on Main Ave. Ambler has a Main Street, but it really isn’t the main street….. and if you look at Conshohocken and its history, guess what? We have a Washington Street. At the time, that was our “main street” and we named it after an important figure in our nation’s history, just like Fayette Street. So, if for some reason, borough council, or some developer ever wants or try’s to change Fayette Street to Main Street, please don’t. Conshohocken and Fayette Street are both unique because it isn’t a cookie cutter, one size fits all development.
Hector Street…. names after Edward “Ned” Hector. If you haven’t heard this history, you need to read this. This is something I wrote after a good amount of research and feel confident that Hector Street in Conshohocken is the first street or road in America to be named after an African American.
Please read that for more on Edward “Ned” Hector.
How about Colwell Lane, named after Stephen Colwell. Stephen had his iron and lime business in the Conshohocken/Plymouth area and had his own dirt path that is today… you guessed it Colwell Lane.
Hallowell Street is named after William Hallowell. He was a member of our borough council when we incorporated in 1850. His house wasn’t on Hallowell street, it still stands today at 7th and Forrest. He was a builder and is responsible for some prominent buildings that still stand today.
Wood Street, well, if you know any of our history, and it can be a lot sometimes….. Wood Street is named after James Wood. James is known as the “Father of Conshohocken”. James had iron businesses here and his son James went onto become our boroughs first burgess (Mayor) and later went onto become a United States congressman.
David Harry bought over 1,200 acres of ground from Jasper Farmer in 1700. Modern restaurant Jasper’s took its name from Jasper Farmer. Great spot by the way…. David’s grandson also David was involved in the incorporation of our borough as well.
We’ve talked about Hallowell, Wood and Harry, two other men to sign the incorporation letter are James Wells (Wells Street) and Cadwallader Foulke. Foulke Street is in the Connaughtown section of Conshohocken where his farm was located.
We also have Righter Street, John Righter married Elizabeth Legaux, a descendent of Peter Legaux. They owned a good amount of the old Legaux property (currently where Spring Mill Fire Company is and the old mansion).
We have a number of streets named after trees including Walnut, Ash, Elm, Cherry, Poplar and Apple due to David Harry’s nursery in the lower half of the borough.
Freedley, Forrest and Sutcliffe are all names from important people in our boroughs history. John Freedly was in the limekiln business and Freedly street was on maps before Conshohocken was incorporated. I’m proud to have grown up on Forrest Street. Members of the Forrest family built some early important buildings in Conshohocken and members of the family were always looking out for the needs of our borough. Frank Sutcliffe had a hand in developing most of the upper avenues of Conshohocken and he donated 39 acres of land to be used as a park in honor of his wife Mary Jane.
We hope you found this helpful. We could write a history on each of the people we mentioned above. In my opinion, if Conshohocken were to ever get a new street, maybe name it after Vince Flocco or someone who has dedicated their life to our borough, not after someone who has a lot of money and wants to cut down the few trees we have left in our square mile.
If you’ve read this far. Keep in mind Conshohocken has an adult prom coming up on February 24th at the Great American Pub. (reach out for more info on that event or others happening in our great borough)