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, https://www.temple.edu/maps-and-directions. 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.






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