A Fitting Conclusion to a Workshop of New Ideas
The second half of the local history workshop included more digging into the history right around us and the development and presentation of our individual projects. During our fourth week together, participants pored through a variety of books about neighborhoods in Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs and created questions for a local history trivia quiz (PDF).
While everyone gathered information for the quiz, I met with individual participants to help them plan the next steps in their project research. We also read more of Fever 1793 in our fourth week.
We took a walk up Bethlehem Pike during our fifth week to visit the neighborhood along Mather Lane, which grew up around Mather Mill in the early 1700s. We speculated about which houses in the neighborhood were built at the time of the mill’s construction, which came after, and who might have lived in the houses. We looked around the mill, which is closed to the public because of storm damage, and we observed evidence of previous flooding along the creek behind the mill and of a lightning strike to a sycamore tree that might have been a sapling when the mill was built.
When we returned to Talking Stick, we played Architecture Connections, a game that required us to link photographs of structures according to attributes such as building material, style, use, or pattern. Then I distributed the local history trivia quiz for members to solve. They had each submitted a few questions and now had everyone’s questions to answer, using the same collection of history books.
David Contosta, who is a professor of history at Chestnut Hill College, came to speak to us about the history of Whitemarsh Township and showed us a brief video that he made with Whitemarsh Township TV about Mather Mill and some other colonial buildings in the township. He answered some of the questions we had about the neighborhood we had just visited, and he answered questions that some members had about their areas of personal research.
Some members of the workshop took an optional field trip on December 7 to Mother Bethel AME Church and thePennsylvania Hospital to enhance our understanding of life during the time of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 in Philadelphia. Our guide at Mother Bethel, Peggy, gave us a very informative tour of the sanctuary and museum. We learned more about the work of Richard Allen and the Free African Society. At the Pennsylvania Hospital, Archivist Stacey Peeples gave us a clearer sense of what medical treatment and surgery looked like in the 18th century. She showed us several rooms of the Pine Building, including the library and surgical amphitheatre.
The final session of our six-week workshop was devoted to our individual presentations. From each other, we learned more about: the history of inns along Bethlehem Pike, the story of one participant’s house in Mount Airy, the development of Berwyn, one participant’s family tree, another participant’s family traced from their ancestors’ arrival on a condemned ship to the present, the story of one participant’s great-grandfather in Turkey, the history of Butler Pike, the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 in Philadelphia, and the history and philosophies of five Philadelphia-area mental institutions. With these topics, we passed around artifacts, looked at photographs and census records, and enjoyed PowerPoint presentations. It was a rich sharing of ideas and information and a fitting conclusion to a workshop full of new details about the stories all around us.