This is an overlay of Paxton’s 1811 map of Philadelphia with a modern Google map showing a small community clustered around the Ridge Road/Ave. Running east to west roughly along the current track of Fairmount Ave. was a rutted farm road called Francis Lane. From the name of this road and Francis St. which still exists comes the name of the community wedged in in the V between Francis and the Ridge Road/Ave. The conventional name of this community is Francisville though an out-of-use handle gives some clues as to the reasons why one street’s named “Grape”. Just northwest of Wylie St. is Vineyard St., which you can faintly see in Paxton’s 1811 map.
Though William Penn spent very little time in the province, he was a great propagandist of the agricultural bounty of the new colony. In pamphlets Penn wrote — sometimes fancifully — of the climate, soil, and booming population of his New World seat. In order to champion Pennsylvania as the “best poor man’s country,” Penn urged the creation of enterprises and industries that bespoke the colony’s culture and affluence. Thomas Pinney’s A History of Wine in America recounts how Penn was impressed with French Huguenot Gabriel Rappel’s “good claret” in 1683. Another Frenchman, Andrew Doz was enlisted to plant and maintain Penn’s “vineyard of French vines at Lemon Hill on the Schuylkill.” This may or may not have been the vineyard located around Francisville, but Memoirs of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, published in 1836 suggests that north of Penn’s manor at Springetsbury a vineyard was planted:
At his manor of Springetsbury, which covered the larger
part of Penn Township, he had no mansion; the villa, to
the north of Bush Hill, of which we may all recollect the
stables, green-house, and shrubbery, was built by his son
Thomas about a century ago ; but on the same estate, to the
northward, a vineyard was planted by his directions, which
gave its name to the estate now covered by the village of
Francisville; though, according to old draughts, an eminence
nearer the Schuylkill (perhaps on the site of Pratt’s Garden) is
denominated ” Old Vineyard Hill.” There he established a person
skilled in the culture of the vine, whom he had sent for
from France, and supported at considerable expense, having
much at heart the making of wine in his province.”
As Kristin Szwajkowski points out below, Francisville is poised to make a recovery with the Francisville neighborhood plan to be released on August 25th. Clearly there are some talented and energetic people behind this plan; it remains to be seen how the drive for neighborhood improvement is balanced against the needs of longtime residents.