A Visit to William Penn’s Vineyard — UPDATE


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.












2 thoughts on “A Visit to William Penn’s Vineyard — UPDATE

  1. This is a bit of shameless self promotion, but anyone interested in learning more about the history and development of Francisville (named after Tench Francis), a truly unique Philadelphia neighborhood, can check out the Francisville Neighborhood Development Corporation’s website at http://www.francisvillendc.org

    A short historical account of Francisville, explaining the area’s relationship to William Penn and his vineyard, is also available for download on the City Planning Commission’s website as part of the Community Heritage Preservation Project: http://www.philaplanning.org/plans/chpp/chpp4.pdf

    What is left of the original historic core of Francisville is only a few collective blocks that consists of “off-the grid” streets found nowhere else in Philadelphia like Francis, Shirley, Wylie, Vineyard, Ginnodo (pronounced Guinea-Do), and Perkiomen. However, the current modern boundaries of Francisville include Broad, Fairmount, Corinthian, and Girard. It is s neighborhood with a rich and amazingly vibrant history and a glowing future just on the horizon.

    FrancisvilleNDC has been engaged in a resident-driven Comprehensive Neighborhood Planning process over the last year–thanks to a generous grant from the Wachovia Regional Foundation. The final neighborhood plan will be released to the public on August 25, 2007 and will be available on the FrancisvilleNDC website. This is definitely a neighborhood to keep your eye on!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s