History of our Street Names including Fayette StreetJanuary 29, 2024
Carol’sFebruary 15, 2024
West Conshohocken Borough Celebrates
150 Years of Incorporation
By Jack Coll
West Conshohocken Borough is celebrating their sesquicentennial throughout the 2024 year with a number of scheduled events that will include events for both children and adults. When a town celebrates 150 years of incorporation, there’s a lot of town history, decades of family generations, and a lot of stories to tell.
West Conshohocken is a town built on the early Bullock textile mills, and many industries to follow. In 1874, the year of incorporation, West Conshohocken was nothing more than a dirt-road village with no law enforcement, no fire company, and slightly resembled a wild-wild west town. The mill workers were a bunch of hard working, hard drinking, strong-willed individuals.
With more than 150 years of information in my files about the birthday town, I thought a nice article for the current residents to read and reminisce was in order. So, I headed to my library and started to withdraw a number of files that might be of interest.
A few of the files I pulled were on the borough’s schools, the West Conshohocken education system might be of interest, but I don’t know about an entire article on schools, it didn’t really seem all that interesting to me. Then there were files on the history of the churches, bank, industries, police, fire company, corner store businesses, streets, and residents. All good topics to look back on, but then I ran across a file that read “West Conshohocken Tales and miscellanies.” That sounded like a good place to start for an interesting article, so here you have, “West Conshohocken This-and-That,”
Let’s crack the file open, if you’re not familiar with a column I write called “This and That,” the column is made up of headlines and short stories found in the Conshohocken Recorder newspaper from over the past century -or-so. Typically, I’ll give you the date of the article, a headline and a sentence or two about the article, read-it and tell me what you think!
October 1952, “Clothing Store Opens Tomorrow,” West Conshohocken’s first clothing store will open tomorrow at 200 Ford Street. The Quality Clothing Store was conducted by Michael and Rose Ploope.
July 1949, “Funeral Home For West Borough,” Edward B. Russell To Open Own Business There. For the first time in the borough history, West Conshohocken is to have its own funeral director, a native son, who had lived his entire life there with the exception of three and one half years spent in the Army Air Force during World War ll. He planned to set up his office and practice at his home at 411 Ford Street.
July 1939, “Nine Bathers Fined $1 Each,” Five Boys, Four Girls, Arrested on Trespassing Charge—Bathing in West Side Dam.—Given Hearing Before Magistrate.
Nine West Conshohocken persons ranging in age from 14 to 17 years were arrested Monday afternoon by Alan Wood Steel Company police for bathing in the Hall dam along Crawford Avenue. They were arraigned before Magistrate Bobenrieth, Wednesday night when a charge of trespassing was lodged against them. They were fined one dollar each and discharged upon payment. Those arrested included Alexander Duliba, Russell Stauffer, Anthony Wagner, Mildred Pasquerella, Frances Milakeve, Margaret Wodarski, and Jane Baronowski.
1911, Fredrick Lukens was removing from Upper Ford Street to the house in Noblit’s Row recently vacated by William Martin. (Noblit’s row is the row of stone houses on upper Ford Street, I think around the 600 block)
September 1905, While assisting in building the high wall at the George Clay Fire House on Tuesday, Benjamin Wack, one of the masons was seriously injured. While he was lifting a heavy stone to the place on the wall the scaffold upon which he was standing broke and he fell heavily upon a pile of stones.
August 1939, “Foxes Raid West Side Hen House” Chicken thieves have been extremely active in certain sections of the West Side during the past few weeks and the coops most frequently visited are those on the school hill. Dozens of chickens have disappeared with the losses being about equally divided between hens and roosters.
Alarmed at their heavy losses a number of owners decided to personally watch their coops and, if possible, catch the thieves. The watch was kept all night for nearly a week before any signs of the thieves were detected. Late last week one owner, peering from a building near the hen house, saw an animal about the size of a dog. He watched it until it was about to enter the chicken house then fired. The animal dropped dead in its tracks. The man hurried to where it lay and to his surprise it was a full grown fox. Later in the week with men taking up vigil three more foxes we shot.
February 1929, “No Married teachers for West Side” School Board Will Not Make New Contracts With Married Teachers. Two Are Affected. No married teachers will be employed in the future in the West Conshohocken Schools. This action was taken at the regular meeting of the school board. A motion was adopted that no married teachers be employed in the future and those at present in the employ of the district will not be given a contract for the next school year. At this time there are four married teachers in the district but only two will be effected by the new ruling as the other two have already signified their intentions of not being applicants for re-election. Any teacher who marries during the school year will be permitted to teach until the end of the term if she so desires.
February 1959, “West Side 50—Gallon Still Seized” 1600 Gallons of Whiskey Found in Vacant Row House. A 50—gallon Still capable of producing 300 gallons of whiskey a day was accidently discovered in West Conshohocken last night. More than 1600 gallons of whiskey in wooden barrels were confiscated and destroyed. Chief of Police Frank Altopiedl, West Conshohocken, and agents of the Liquor Control Board raided the illegal distillery located in a house at the foot of a ramp off the Matsonford Bridge, near the former Merion Worsted Mill.
The still was discovered after the George Clay Fire Company was called to extinguish a blaze in the second floor of the supposedly vacant house. Terrance Campbell, Chief Engineer of the fire company said, the blaze was a minor one confined to the window frame. Campbell said, “We go in to put out this minor blaze and what do we run into but this big still.”
January 1947 “Boosts in Salary Given Employees of West Borough” Walter Freas and John Farrell were reelected Police Officer and Supervisor respectively at the January meeting of the West Conshohocken Town Council. An increase in salary was given to all the officers. Police officers Freas and Supervisor Farrell were each awarded an increase of $120.00 a year. The secretary and treasurer of the borough were given a boost of $15.00 a year while the increase to the janitor health officer were set at $10.00. Members of the street crew had their wages increased from 72 cents an hour to 76 cents an hour, the men were granted five holidays and a week’s vacation with pay.
May 1924 Mrs. William Garnett, who conducts the store at the corner of Ford and Walnut Streets, underwent an operation at Montgomery Hospital Saturday afternoon. The operation was successful and her condition is reported as being very favorable.
January 1959 “Ralph Wilfong Named Head of Recreation Unit” Ralph Wilfong, of 521 Apple StreetWest Conshohocken, again was elected President of West Conshohocken Recreation Council at a meeting in borough hall. Others named were Vincent Kehoe, James Carpenter, Gloria Waszena, Mrs. James Carpenter, Mrs. Edward Campbell, Anne Davis, and Joe Caracappa.
Wilfong is a member of Fritz Lodge 420, Conshohocken Fire Company NO 2, former fire policeman and Boy Scout committee and is employed at the Hale Fire Pump Company.
March 1909 James Maguire, proprietor of the Matsonford Hotel in West Conshohocken and James J. Bradley, proprietor of the Merion Hotel in Conshohocken, returned home from Harrisburg. Both gentleman were in attendance at the session of the legislature, when the local option bill was brought up for consideration on Tuesday.
September 1963 “Old Jail to Go In West Conshohocken” The old West Conshohocken jail, at the rear of Cedar Avenue and Pleasant Street, above Williams Street, will be demolished by Hugh Boyd Construction Company for $416.00, the lowest bidder for the job. Head of West Conshohocken’s Borough Council Charles Asko said work on tearing down the unsafe structure will begin shortly.
March 1947 “West Side Buys Car for Police” West Conshohocken Borough Council voted to purchase a police car for their one man police department. The departments first police car was purchased from the E. F. Moore Chevrolet Agency once located on Fayette Street at Twelfth Avenue at a cost of $1,345.
The bid was for a black Chevrolet two-door sedan with spare tire, heavy duty voltage control regulator, special heavy duty battery, spot light, fog light, police stop light heater and defroster, dual windshield wipers and seat covers. Until 1947, all police patrolling was done on foot.
May 1934 “To Baptize In River” Holiness Christian Church to Hold Ceremony Sunday—Service on River Bank—Maryland Pastor to Administer Rite. The Holiness Christian Church, West Conshohocken, will on Sunday afternoon revive the custom of administering the rite of baptism in the Schuylkill River. Plans have been completed to hold services on the west bank , a short distance below the Matsonford Bridge during which seven persons will be immersed.
Baptizing in the river by the West Side Church was a regular occurrence many years ago but the practice was discontinued more than twenty-five years ago,
June 1925 “Woman Arrested IN West Side Raid” State Police Find Whiskey and Gin in Ford Street Store. Florence Williams, proprietor of the store on upper Ford Street, West Conshohocken, was arrested on Friday afternoon after State Police Barracks had raided her place and claimed to have discovered a quantity of whiskey and gin.
The home of James Hall, upper Ford Street, was searched yesterday for contraband liquor. The search was fruitless as nothing was discovered. Just why the place was visited is unknown to the owners as no intoxicating liquor is ever handled there.
July 1908 What promises to be one of the greatest pleasure events of the season in this borough is the picnic to be held in Bell’s Grove on Saturday under the auspices of the Men’s Bible Class of the Free Baptist Sunday School. At a meeting it was decided all sorts of athletic ports in the afternoon and twenty four different events will be pulled off including races of different kinds, sack, potato, wheelbarrow, old men and young men, a quiot match and baseball game.
P I c n I c G r o u n d s !
All Kinds of Refreshments.
Oysters in Season.
Dancing Every Wednesday and
Floor Manager, Benjamin Ramey
Dancing Pavilion Free to Picnic Parties
By Applying to
Tolson Stead, Proprietor
West Conshohocken Pa.
March 1891 Burgess Crawford of West Conshohocken says he intends keeping that borough clear of tramps if he has to fill all the jails and lock-ups in the county in doing so.
The Recorder would suggest, Mr. Burgess, that you supply each of your police with a couple of bull dogs, and chase the tramps out of town. It will be more effective and less expensive than jailing them.
June 1909 When the commencementexercises of the West Conshohocken High School are held in Odd Fellows Hall on Thursday evening, four bright pupils will bid farewell to their Alma Mater and embark on the sea of life, each to take up a chosen vocation. The class was comprised of Anna Mahala Fly, Robert Alan Fort, Maude Z. Speaker and Paul Ellis MacFarland.
1931 “Elect Woman President of West Side Board” Mrs. Anna Reid First Woman to Be So Honored in West Borough. For the first time in the history of the borough of West Conshohocken a woman has been elected president of the school board. Anna Reid was unanimously chosen to succeed Alva MacKenzie. Mrs. Ried is not only the first woman to be elected to the presidency of the board but is also the first woman ever chosen by the people as a member of the board.
PLACE ORDER BEFORE FRIDAY
Phone: Consho 1814-W
February 1955 “West Side Market Opens Friday” The grand opening of he West Side Market, 9 Front Street, will take place tomorrow with special dollar day bargains in canned goods, Mr. and Mrs. John Bozewicz, proprietors, have announced.
Mr. and Mrs. Bozewicz, natives of this area, live at 228 Morehead Avenue. They have a son Edwin, 16. Bozewicz is a member of the T. K. Society of Conshohocken and the Holy Name Society of St. Mary’s Church.
September 1964 “Embalming Firm Purchases Old West Conshy Schoolhouse” A school system that is really dead! West Conshohocken’s former school building, which was closed down when the borough discontinued its school system, has been sold for $65,000 to a firm that manufacturers embalming fluids and morticians’ supplies.
Borough school solicitor Lawrence Ruth announced last week that the building was sold to Eckels Corp, 760 Astor Street, Norristown. The one story schoolhouse is bounded by Moir Avenue, Bullock Avenue, and Church Street, on a hilltop that is the highest point in the borough.
The School, once an elementary school of six grades from 1947 to 1963, and a high school from 1930 to 1947, was closed last year and the pupils were sent to Upper Merion Schools. Economic hardships and the opportunity for the children to receive a better education in a “new” system, better equipped for this modern age, were given as the reasons for the move.
A loss in pupil population shortly after World War ll brought economic troubles to the borough’s school system, and it could not afford to support a high school. It was discontinued in 1947, and the students were sent to Conshohocken High School on a tuition basis.
RESTAURANT NOW OPEN
LUNCHEONS AND DINNERS SERVED
SEA FOOD A SPECIALTY
FRONT AND GEORGE STREETS
March 1913 “Merion Hotel Sold” James L. Bradley has disposed of the good will stock and fixtures of the Merion Hotel, on Front Store, West Conshohocken, to Alexander Crackett of Kennett Square, for a consideration not made public.
Mr. Crackett is a former proprietor of the Red Lion Hotel at Kennett Square. He will take charge of his new acquisition on April 1st. Mr. Bradley purchased the Merion Hotel from the estate of the late Dennis Eagan more than nine years ago. For several months past he has been in failing health.
July 1953 Winners at the annual summer doll show that was held at McKenzie Park Playground in West Conshohocken on July 15, 1953 included Marie Elaine Fredrick, Celeste Slater, Christine Eggins, and Irene Risell, second row from left, Mary Ann McTamney, Joyce Kreibel, Elenor Polkowski and Celeste McDermott.
To The Public
We wish to announce that
we have taken the agency for
Abbott’s Ice Cream
And are in a position to supply
The public with all flavors in
Any quantity, either in brick or bulk
J O H N D E A N
27 Front Street
West Conshohocken, Pa.
My West Conshohocken This and That file is endless, but these small bits of information gives us a snapshot into what life was like all those years ago. Looking back at the progress West Conshohocken has made over the past 150 years is a testament to the borough leaders, I’m referring not only to mayors, council members and church leaders, but to all the residents who have stepped-up in an effort to make a difference in their community. When one talks about a successful, one hundred and fifty year old community, then certainly we’re referring to the residents. And certainly, to all the small business owners who at that time in their life invested every penny they had and took a shot on the American dream in West Conshohocken.
Borough leaders and residents today have to stand up and acknowledge the fact that they/we are clearly standing on the shoulders of those that came before us. The steel-workers, the factory builders, the endless line of volunteers that participated in every organization that ever called West Conshohocken home. The George Clay Firefighters who have been at it for one hundred and twenty five years. As far as I’m concerned, we never give our volunteer firefighters enough credit for their time, effort and concern about preserving a safe community, and the George Clay members over the years have been one of the best the state of Pennsylvania.
So, here’s to you West Conshohocken, can we all raise a glass, and toast and reflect, knowing that the best years of the borough and its residents are still ahead of us.
Happy Birthday, and Thanks for all the memories West Conshohocken has given me.