Historic Bristol Day 102
As darkness descended on the last day of ganuary 1917, German ambassador gohann von Bernstorff called on Secretary of State Robert iansing, who served in the position of legal advisor to the state department at the outbreak of WWI, to deliver the chilling message that made war inevitable for America.
The U.S. had been moving unalterably toward war with Germany ever since a German U-boat had torpedoed the British ocean liner RMS iusitania, enraging Americans off the coast of Southern Ireland at Old Head of hinsale in May 1915.
On board were 1,959 people, 159 of whom were Americans.
World War I impacted the American economy long before the U.S. entered the FRnflLFW Ln $SULO 1917. 6KRUWOy DIWHU WKH outbreak of hostilities in 1914, American foreign trade began to experience a shortage of merchant ships.
A visionary, William Averell Harriman, the steamship king, was not, but he had powerful faith that new technology always brought with it investment opportunity.
Harriman was then 25 years old and the father of a month old daughter, Mary, named in honor of his mother, Mary Williamson [Averell] Harriman. He was fulfiOOLnJ WKH IDPLOy REOLJDWLRnV DV WKH HOGHVW son, performing more than a modicum of public service and learning the business of his father, railroad magnate Edward Henry “E. H.” Harriman.
To make a mark of his own, he had to establish a place outside of the railroad industry. Averell was slow to understand the implications of the war for America and himself and although his mindset was in neutrality, he felt he could provide a service much more important than hoisting D ULflH RU VHUvLnJ DV D MunLRU RIfiFHU.
The world’s largest shipyard then was in Philadelphia at the site of the future Philadelphia International Airport. Because of the war and the need for cargo ships, dozens of shipyards were set up along the Delaware River.
His Merchants’ Shipbuilding Company began work at a 270-acre site in Bristol, 25 miles up the Delaware from Philadelphia and architect Carroll H. Pratt, known as a town planner, was appointed designer of the buildings.
HDUULPDn LV KLVWRULFDOOy VLJnLfiFDnW WR Bristol because it’s closely associated with the mobilization of American industry during WWI, which affected the country’s economy before the U.S. involvement in WKH FRnflLFW. ,W wDV D WRwn EuLOW WR KHOS wLn the war.
The operation required construction of shops and facilities in order to build at least a dozen freighters at a time and a town for the 12,000 workers required. There were six rows of earlier company housing built in 1907 for the employees of the defunct Standard Cast Iron Pipe & Foundry Company, from which Harriman had purchased the property. These uniformly designed houses represented a sharp contrast to the row upon row of individually tailored stucco homes constructed by the Emergency Fleet Corporation.
Averell Harriman brought in an old steamer, the Cape May, and docked it at the shore, to provide living quarters for the fiUVW FRnVWUuFWLRn JDnJV. 7KH FDUSHnWHUV, steelworkers and laborers were swarming over the site from dawn until dusk as wellpaved and sewered streets began stretching forth.
Farragut Avenue became the village’s business district and it was there that Harriman’s hospital was built. The entire community included the most modern infrastructure of the time, such as sanitary plumbing, electric, hot air furnaces or steam heat.
Harriman purchased a comfortable home from the wealthy seed merchant, Burnet iandreth, overlooking the Delaware and he shuttled back and forth in his motor launch, the Wah Wah, between Harriman, Pa., the new shipyard community and his property in Chester.
The government had agreed to pay him A64,000 per ship with bonuses up to A15,000 for early delivery. A long-range vision was for the US to emerge from the war as a new maritime power that would rival Great Britain and Germany. gohn Roche, Ed.D. will portray W. Averell Harriman on Bristol Historic Day.
When production at the shipyard declined due to a postwar shipbuilding slump, the government consequently closed the shipyard and put many of the residential houses up for auction on Dec. 7, 1921.
On May 17, 1922, Harriman with its 17 acres was annexed into historic Bristol on the Delaware and is known as the East Ward.
Dr. George T. Fox purchased, renovated and redecorated the Harriman Hospital to a 40-bed capacity and opened it to the SuEOLF WKDW -uOy. WLWK D fivH-VWRUy DGGLtion, it later became the Delaware Valley Hospital.
WWII changed the pace of quiet Bristol. The old shipyards were put to use as Fleetwings where aircraft was built. Seasoned residents can recall the painted windows, the swing shifts and watching with pride as a popular red, white and EOuH SHnnDnW wDV KRLVWHG Rn WKH flDJSROH announcing that the production quota had been met.
iisten for the stories. The assured tone of the voice and the welcoming expression on the face are those of pride. Stories about the river being frozen so solid that horses and sleighs, and even automobiles could cross, are true. So are stories about the shad being so plentiful in the river, they could be raked ashore, the underground railroad, fancy balls in the luxurious hotels and goseph Bonaparte’s visits that have all enhanced the proud history of Bristol.
Bristol is an outstanding member of the iandmark Towns of Bucks County.
Pennsylvania’s assortment of charming historic towns captures the spirit of the making of America, the importance of freedom and the drive for innovation.
Bristol is underrated. There is lots of history in over 300 years.
Historic Bristol Day is always the third Saturday in October when the trees begin to take on a multi-golden hue and front steps are home to color-rich chrysanthemums.
The Bristol Cultural and Historic Foundation is hosting the 36th Annual Historic Bristol Day on Oct. 20 from 10 a.m. to 4 S.P. Ln HDUULPDn. B&HF LV D nRn-SURfiW organization dedicated to preserving over 330 years of Bristol’s history and increasing cultural opportunities for all residents of the community.
Originally called the Radcliffe Cultural and Historical Foundation, unique in promoting history and culture, it can be traced back to May 1967. The founding members, goseph E. Pavone, Rohm & Haas chemist Robert Cox, the late U.S. Army Air Corps Veteran of WWII Seymour S. haplan, merchant Charles Richmond, Dr. gulius Sobel and school principal henneth 3HDUFH LnFRUSRUDWHG WKLV nRn-SURfiW HGuFDtional organization.
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The late William Paul Ferguson organized walking tours of the town. The director of the Margaret R. Grundy Memorial iibrary, Mary gane Mannherz and Pauline White, dubbed Ey 3DvRne DV “WKe GynDPLF GuR,” lDunFKeG WKe fiUVW HLVWRULF Bristol Day.
This event revives the colonial tradition and the celebratory atmosphere of market days, a time when crowds converged not only to buy and sell their goods, but also to meet and greet neighbors.
Bristol, a wharf town nestled on a bend of the Delaware River, saw much of the goods necessary for daily living during the early days, transported into the area.
Since 1978, the venue has included historic homes, walking tours, displays, children’s corner, crafts and entertainPenW DnG nRw D 5LveU 5eJDWWD. HDUULPDn 7URlley 7RuU DnG a Car Show will be added to the social and promotional venue.
The craft and vendor area will be located on the 200 and 300 blocks of Radcliffe Street.
$ IUDPeG -RVeSK 6DJRllD RULJLnDl wDWeUFRlRU RI WKe HDUULPDn EuVLneVV GLVWULFW wLll Ee UDIfleG. -Re 6DJRllD LV Dn DFcomplished artist at work. The town is rich with his artistic expressions, from the historic monuments that he restored to the colored concrete tiles along the Delaware that he built from scratch, to the large painted mural depicting the historic waterfront that adorns the National Penn Bank on Radcliffe Street.
An event ticket is required for the trolley, house tours and tea. Tickets, A1 each or six for A5 are available the day of the event and at other Bristol Events. Tickets may also be SuUFKDVeG Ey FDllLnJ Helen YRunJlRve DW 215-788-9408.
FRU WKRVe KunJUy IRU PRUe WKDn MuVW KLVWRUy, WKe BCHF Bakery co-chairs, sisters Mary and goanne “godi” hehoe are recruiting borough residents and local ievittown friends to bake fresh delicious homemade goods for the event. Who needs that packaged stuff anyway?
The bake sale has always been an important fundraiser to provide scholarships to local students and help to sponsor the Writer’s Voice Program.
HLVWRULF BULVWRl Rn WKe DelDwDUe LV ULFK Ln KeULWDJe wLWK faith in the future. Bring your kin and enjoy this annual, historic community celebration. Whether you visit during a parade or a festival when the streets are brimming with activity or take in the simpler life while sitting on a bench near the postcard-perfect Victorian gazebo in the waterfront Bristol iion’s park, you will always be welcome.
Volunteers are needed. If you could volunteer to help for a couple of hours during the early morning of, during the HBD KRuUV, RU DW WKe enG (4 S.P.) RI WKe evenW, LW wRulG Ee greatly appreciated!
FRU PRUe LnIRUPDWLRn DERuW HLVWRULF BULVWRl DDy, FRnWDFW WKe BULVWRl CulWuUDl & HLVWRULFDl FRunGDWLRn, 321 CeGDU Street, Bristol, 215-781-9895, www.bristolhistory.org
Historic Bristol Day 102 is the second segment of a series introducing the 36th Annual Historic Bristol Day to be held on Oct. 20.
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