Things That Aren't There Anymore

Temple University Edition

Several years ago, Ed Cunningham, an alum from both Temple University and WRTI, produced a television program for WHYY-TV, Channel 12, the PBS station here in the Delaware Valley. It was entitled, "Things That Aren't There Anymore." The reprise program was cleverly called, "More Things That Aren't There Anymore." The show highlighted "things" in the area that have, over the years, disappeared. We promised upon the demolition of Thomas Hall, the original home of WRTI, we would start a new section about "things" that are no longer on the Temple campus. This is that section. Here's a foreword e-mailed to us by Ed Cunningham....

In 1993, I wrote and produced a TV show for WHYY-TV entitled, "Things That Aren't There Anymore" which highlighted places in the Delaware Valley that don't exist today. At that time, I never thought that Thomas Hall would fit into that cateogory. It was an exciting time at WRTI in the sixties and the charm and beauty of the old Park Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church added to the excitement. But places like Thomas Hall never really die as long as we remember and cherish them. That's what this section is about; good "Things," beautiful "Things," unique "Things" on the Temple University campus that are now just memories. Relive the days of old. Turn back a page in history as you visit, "Things That Aren't There Anymore; the Temple University Edition."


At the top of the list is Thomas Hall. It sat on the corner of Norris Street and Park Avenue for 112 years. Because the University wishes dormitory suites for out of the area students, the building had to go. Check out the history and photos of this great building.


Until the fifties, the 1800, 1900 and 2000 blocks of North Park Avenue were city streets with automobile traffic flowing in both directions. Slowly these streets disappeared. Think back to the placement of two buildings in particular, Curtis Hall and Peabody Hall. At one time, both buildings bordered Park Avenue. The actual street passed between Curtis Hall on the east and a row of brick row houses on the right. While the eastern side of the 1800 block of Park is now filled with Curtis and Speakman Halls, the western side still exists. These row houses are actually the oldest buildings on the University's campus, built around 1873. However, they are not free-standing structures, but are inter-connected. Currently, on the western side of Park, 1800 to 1830 still exists. 1832, 1834 and 1836 have been demolished in the last thirty years. Six more of these houses will shortly be destroyed as the University applied and received permission from the Philadelphia Historical Commission in June of 1998. They are 1822 thru 1830 which includes Wiatt Hall.

The 2000 block is now totally devoid of the row homes, which were built in 1877. In the fifties, some were torn down to erect Peabody Hall. One of them was the corner property at Park and Norris, 2000 North Park. Another was 2004 North Park. This building was the first home of Dr. Russell Conwell, founder of Temple University. He lived there from 1882 to 1892 when he moved to 2020 North Broad (next to the Owl's Nest), which is now a frat house. However, while living at 2004 North Park Avenue, he first taught William Thatcher (Thomas Hall was previously called Thatcher Hall) in his home. Thatcher brought six of his friends. These seven students formed the very first class for what would later be called "The Temple College," now Temple University. This first class was in 2004 North Park Avenue. The house would have been the third from the corner. Sitting on top of 2004 North Park is PEABODY HALL. So, history repeats itself with more history being destroyed to built yet another dorm.

The last two houses on the 2000 block to be torn down were 2001 and 2003 pictured in the lower portion of this photo. In 1960, the University tore down the rest of the row houses on the western side of the 2000 block of North park Avenue. However, the eastern side remained totally intact until the mid-sixties. These houses were gutted to build Annenberg Hall and Tomlinson Theater.

The row houses on the western side of the 1900 block of Park, built in 1875 are still pretty much intact. In fact, until the demolition of Thomas Hall in July of 1998, the western side of the 1900 block of North Park was pretty much as it was a century ago. The eastern side of 1900 Park was "erased" around 1960 to build Barton Hall. We have found a photo of the 1900 block of North Park which dates from the late fifties. It was taken from the northern part of the street (probably the top floor or roof of Peabody Hall) looking south. On the left side of the photo is the eastern side of the block, the area where Barton Hall now stands. On the Barton site was the Alpha Chi Rho house at 1903 N. Park Avenue. Here's a photo looking towards Sullivan Hall taken from 1903 N. Park Avenue.


The Grace Baptist Church was Dr. Russell Conwell's first church. The one before Baptist Temple. The University tore it down in 1969 to build Gladfelter Hall. This photo dates from 1966. In the late 1800's, this sketch of the building was printed.


Until the mid seventies, the large row houses on the eastern side of the 1800 block of North Broad Street existed. The last ones were torn down 25 years ago to build a high rise, cream colored cement building called "Wachman Hall." These houses, sometimes referred to as "Philadelphia Mansions" because of their huge size were located between College Hall and Carnell Hall. This photo showing a couple of these homes dates from 1901.

By 1918, all the trees that lined the eastern side of the 1800 block of North Broad were gone except one. Here's a photo of some of these houses in 1918. Until 1922, these rowhouses ran from the corner of Broad and Montgomery up to College Hall. These huge houses were four stories high and had gray marble on their front. In this photo from the twenties, the row houses on the left were razed to build Carnell Hall.

One block north, the 1900 block of North Broad Street, the eastern side just north of Mitten Hall, had houses from Mitten Hall to the corner of Norris. The first houses on this side of the street disappeared in 1930 to make room for Mitten Hall. Then in 1964, more buildings were demolished to build the Mitten Hall Annex. Finally in the late nineties, the remaining structures were torn down to build a new dormitory.


South Hall (formerly known as Turners Hall) used to stand where a small park and garden are now. It occupied the northeast corner of Broad and Columbia Streets. The building housed physical education activities, a community swimming pool in the basement and art studios. It was built by the Philadelphia Turngemeinde, the local German sports organization and was the scene of many area sporting events before being taken over by the University in 1946. In this photo of Conwell Hall from the twenties, the building on the extreme right side is "South Hall."


Monument Cemetery was located on the western side of Broad Street. As early as 1928, Temple President Dr. Charles Beury talked about moving the cemetery. Beury once said, "Perhaps, after we buy up the property for several blocks around, it will be possible to 'raise the dead' across Broad Street."

In the January 1954 Temple University Alumni Review, it talks about a movement underway, led by Phillip Klein, "prominent Philadelphia advertising executive and publisher," to get the 400 owners of plots in Monument Cemetery to give or sell the land to the University. That issue mentioned a ballot by mail presenting the idea of giving the site to Temple. An alternate proposal gave the University preference to purchase it at a reasonable price. The cemetery area stretched from Broad Street to 17th Street. Well, so far we haven't been able to find out the result of the vote, but a few months later in a Temple document, it stated that the City of Philadelphia condemned the property.

By June of 1956, the work of clearing Monument Cemetery was well under way. Bodies have already been removed from one section of the old cemetery "which will provide much needed parking space by fall." Eventually, the University had dug up all the bodies and moved them to the suburbs, sort of a campus version of "Dead Flight." They also dug up the Conwells and sent them to Mount Laurel Cemetery where they were placed in sort of a holding pattern. On May 11, 1959, Russell and Sarah Conwell were laid to "rest" in the shadow of Conwell Hall, very near the exact spot on which Dr. Conwell stood when he broke ground for the building on May 10, 1920. At that time in 1959, Bishop Fred Pierce Corson, Chairman of the Board of Trustees for Temple University said...

We gather today to do honor to Russell Conwell, soldier, lawyer, preacher, educator, Christian. Reverently and gratefully we bring his earthly remains to rest in the midst of his handiwork. It is fitting and appropriate that we should do this, for Temple University is his monument.... Russell Conwell and Temple University attest the truth of the holy words which tell us that 'Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, for though they rest from their labors, their works do follow them.'

The University didn't let the Conwells rest for long. They dug 'em up and moved them again in 1968. This time to the southeast corner of what used to be Park and Berks. There in a garden setting landscaped with flowers and trees creating "an enjoyable place to relax and converse outside in good weather." A bronze bust of Dr. Conwell by Boris Blai, former dean of the Tyler School of Art, sits in front of the gravestone and grave site of Russell and Sarah Conwell. The "Founder's Garden" is just to the north of Speakman Hall.