Hidden City Philadelphia’s website is really amazing. Back in October when we were busy with Design Philadelphia events, they posted a neat Ethan Wallace piece about the single extant coalyard building on N. 13th Street. Inside, a treasure trove of Coal Heritage indicating the area’s immense presence of the P&R and its 1871 invention, the Philadelphia & Reading Coal and Iron Company (P & R C and I) (PRCI).
Like Spring Garden and Green Street, here too, things changed quickly.
the brilliantly lighted coal silos between Callowhill & Nobel Streets must have been quit a site from your passenger train. A piece of the trestle servicing the yard still exists coming off the City Branch over the Peco plant. These early views are pretty impressive.
In March of 1927 sign painters and electricians were busy….
CLEAN SMOKELESS SAFE ECONOMICAL
FAMOUS READING ANTHRACITE COAL SILOS
PHILADELPHIA & READING COAL & IRON COMPANY
Philadelphia & Reading Coal & Iron Company. P. & R. C. & I. PRCI.
In 1871, the ever-so-busy Franklin Gowen, while overseeing wage settlement in the anthracite region and using legislative investigation to denounce early trade unionism started on his plan on purchasing coal lands. In March he formed a front company, the benign sounding Laurel Run Improvement Company. By the end of the year it was remanned PRCI and had purchased 66,605 acres. In 1872, another 15,000; it reported it controlled over 80,000 acres. By 1874 the P&R, through it’s PRCI would over 100,000 acres of coal land and dominate the mining industry of the lower anthracite region. In 1873 the P&R controlled the retail coal trade in Philadelphia. The wholesale price of coal was fixed AND, so was the amount of coal producers could ship to market. You get the drift. We’ll explore this further in upcoming chapters. It gets juicy.
Stone Coal. Rock Coal. Hard Coal. Old as the Earth. Nobody could figure out how to burn it. Philadelphia did. Benjamin Franklin, Oliver Evans. For a very short glowing time, it powered the country. Read more here. Today, mostly I think of pizza.