Help Wanted at 1500 N. Broad

At this point in our project, a great amount of information has been unearthed regarding Alfred E. Burk’s business enterprises, political activity, and social involvement. While Burk never married, he did not inhabit the mansion at 1500 North Broad Street alone. While I was searching through early twentieth-century issues of the Philadelphia Inquirer, I found some help wanted adds that offer some interesting and frustrating glimpses into life and work at Burk Mansion.

Wanted – Man to help gardener

Beginning with work outside the mansion, an advertisement was posted for a groundskeeper in July of 1919. The advertisement, depicted above, called for a “man” of no particular race or ethnic background to “help gardener cut grass and weed lawn” at the mansion. While the blurb is not specific, we know that Burk already had a well-kept botanical garden in the building behind 1500 N. Broad so there is a serious possibility that this worker could have helped maintain that or at least handle the simpler jobs in order to free up the professional gardener to attend to these gardens. No other advertisement for a groundskeeper were posted, meaning that either the man who was eventually hired successfully held onto the job or the job was eventually discontinued.

COOK. German or Hungarian

Alfred Burk, a descendant of German immigrants, seemed to be a fan of central or eastern European fare. In two advertisements posted both in October of 1920, Burk called for someone of “German or Hungarian” descent with references to apply for the position of cook at the mansion. Whether this was due to feelings of ethnic kinship or personal taste, it highlights the ethnic mixing present at 1500 N Broad and presumably the surrounding neighborhood. The fact that these similar adds were posted in quick succession and then stopped implies that the position, though not immediately filled, was eventually occupied by the end of the month.

HOUSEMAN. colored.

Adding to this picture of ethnic mixing is the evidence found in an advertisement also posted in October of 1920 for a “HOUSEMAN.” Tasked with completing domestic tasks in Burk’s home, this man not only needed references but also needed to be “colored.” While we can only make educated guesses about why Burk wanted his servant to be African American, the fact that the houseman was a position with more visibility than a cook or chambermaid implies that men of high social standing such as Burk could use their servants to reinforce their social status.

CHAMBERMAID: Protestant, Hungarian, or Competent

The most interesting collection of advertisements were for the chambermaid. Posted in October of 1909, October of 1920, and then April of 1921, they offer glimpses into the domestic life of the mansion. The first advertisement called for a chambermaid that possessed good references and was “first-class: Protestant.” This add contains the only mention of religion in the collection I found and implies an anti-Catholic disdain or impartiality that mirrors the preferences for German or Hungarian workers over Italians or Irish. Whoever was hired seemed to do a good job because another wanted advertisement for a chambermaid was not posted for another eleven years. This time, rather than being “first-class” and “Protestant” they needed to be Hungarian, a pattern that mirrors the wanted adds for cooks posted at about the same time. Between the second and third advertisements six months passed. We cannot definitively know what happened but the April 1921 advertisement’s changes and specificity compared to the other six advertisements implies that the chambermaid hired in October did not meet Burk’s expectations. The April advertisement stated that the applicants “must be competent,” and instead of preferring Hungarians it now called for “German or Hungarian” applicants. Lastly, it explicitly stated that the worker had to “go to Atlantic City for summer,” an addition that seems to imply that the past chambermaid took issue with leaving the confines of Philadelphia to go to the Jersey Shore.

Taken together, these small fragments illuminate the ethnic and gendered division of labor within 1500 N Broad Street. While they can also be frustrating in what they do not tell us, they nonetheless offer glimpses into the day-to-day activities of the individuals who worked at 1500 N. Broad under Alfred Burk.


Citations in order of appearance:

“WANTED – Man to help gardener cut grass and weed lawn. 1500 N. Broad st.” Philadelphia Inquirer, July 21, 1919, p. 18.

“COOK. German or Hungarian preferred; references. Apply 1500 N. Broad st.” Philadelphia Inquirer, October 9, 1920, p. 21.  

“COOK. German or Hungarian preferred; ref. 1500 N. Broad st.” Philadelphia Inquirer, October 14, 1920, p.25.

“HOUSEMAN. colored. reference. Apply 1500 N. Broad st.” Philadelphia Inquirer, October 26, 1920, p. 20.

“CHAMBERMAID. first-class: Protestant: good reference. experienced. 1500 N. Broad st.” Philadelphia Inquirer, October 17, 1909, p. 3.

“CHAMBERMAID to assist with washing, Hungarian preferred. 1500 N Broad st.” Philadelphia Inquirer, October 7, 1920, p. 25.

“CHAMBERMAID. Must be competent. German or Hungarian, go to Atlantic City for summer. references. Apply 1500 N. Broad.” Philadelphia Inquirer, April 27, 1921, p.18.  

History of Relationships and Maps: Burk Mansion, Temple University, and North Philadelphia

While the last blog post offered a reflection on how Burk Mansion, Temple University, and North Philadelphia related to one another through the experiences of walking up North Broad Street and visually experiencing the juxtaposition of the stone mansion with the ever-expanding sleek buildings of Temple, this blog post is going to focus on a different visual experience: maps. Maps offer historians glimpses into the organization and structure of past landscapes and neighborhoods. A David Kyvig and Marty Moran argue in Nearby History, “maps visually indicate influential landscape elements and the spatial relationships of natural and artificial features” thereby “record[ing] growth patterns and other historical developments” (78). By looking at two different maps, separated by nearly a century and created by different organizations for different purposes, we can glean changes in how this neighborhood looked and extrapolate from these changes the different roles Temple and Burk have received during these periods.

The first map is the Atlas of Philadelphia, a comprehensive property survey of Philadelphia completed by George W. and Walter S. Bromley in 1922. Looking at plates fifteen, sixteen, twenty-four, and twenty-five, readers can see the different sizes and uses for the buildings standing around Broad Street (Temple SCRC G1264 P5 B754x1922; Accessed Online, see links below). The Mansion, labeled as “Alfred E. Burke,” stands on the largest property allotment on the block. Across the street a similarly sized plot and mansion also stands owned by Amanda D. Carpenter. While the other buildings that run along Broad are not as large as either of these homes, they are clearly larger than the smaller row homes squeezed next to one another along 15th Street, N. Carlisle Street, or 13th Street, implying that industrialists like Burk and Carpenter were part of a more opulent and prosperous community that lived and socialized along Broad Street. The Liberty Theatre and Grand Opera House are only two blocks north of Burk Mansion, and the multiple garages placed around the area further highlights the luxuries and amenities accessible to elites like Burk. Further up Broad Street the social clubs are replaced with smaller buildings that appear to be row homes. Temple College sits at the corner of Broad and W. Montgomery Street. While it is limited to only one block, the college owns almost the entire block save for the Grace Baptist Church. In these maps, the world of North Broad Street appears to be world where men such as Alfred Burk are very much the center of the industrial activity that characterizes it. While Temple is more on the periphery of this world, its relatively large size compared to other single property holders in the area implies that Temple has hopes of growth and development that links it more with people like Burk than we would initially think. As early as the 1920s, Temple is beginning to command a major chunk of the real estate on Broad Street.

The second map is the current Temple University Main Campus Map available online at their website, This map, created by Temple not only for the purpose of guiding students but also to delineate what is owned by them and what is not, outlines the different buildings to which Temple lays claim. The campus now includes over twenty blocks and while trying to parse through everything that is there would take a lot of time, I think the more interesting part is what is not there. The blocks that Temple does not own are simply empty grey blocks, surrounding Temple in a sea of undeveloped area. At the corner of Jefferson and Broad, which is pictured, stands nothing. The Burk Mansion, and probably a few other unused buildings owned by the university, is left out of this map. While maps are obviously made for different reasons and serve varying purposes, the stark contrasts between the maps highlights a switch in the geography of the core and periphery relationship around this neighborhood. From the standpoint of the Temple Campus map, Temple is now the hub of development for the neighborhood and the periphery a seemingly endless possibility for growth.