Elfreth’s Alley, John Barry will be commemorated with state historical markers

State historical marker acknowledging the work of former City Planner Edmund Bacon. Credit: Rikard Larma
A state historical marker acknowledging the work of former City Planner Edmund Bacon. Credit: Rikard Larma

Nine historical landmarks and figures in Philadelphia will be commemorated with historical markers, state officials announced late yesterday.

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission approved the markers, which are reserved for sites of statewide or national historical significance, that will pay tribute to Elfreth’s Alley, believed to be the oldest residential street in the country; John Barry, who was dubbed the father of the U.S. Navy; and world-renowned Philadelphia Orchestra conductor Leopold Stokowski, among others.

In total there were 21 new state historical markers approved by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. The choices were selected from 57 applications.

The commission counts roughly 2,300 blue plaques with gold lettering acknowledging historical significance thoughout the Keystone State.

According to the statement, the following markers were approved:

Byberry Hall: African-American abolitionist Robert Purvis built Philadelphia’s Byberry Hall for use as a meeting place and arena for discussion of anti-slavery topics. Many black and white abolitionist leaders of the time spoke here and urged support of the Underground Railroad, protested fugitive slave laws and engaged in other related activism.

Eddie Gottlieb: One of the founders of the National Basketball Association (NBA), Eddie Gottlieb was influential in the sport since its earliest years. He managed the dominant SPHAS basketball team, leading them to numerous championships, and helped run the international tour of the Harlem Globetrotters. A member of the NBA Rules Committee for 25 years, Gottlieb introduced new rules to improve the game and spent his life advancing the sport.

Elfreth’s Alley: Impeccably preserved vernacular neighborhood in the heart of Philadelphia, one of the nation’s oldest and a National Historic Landmark. There have been extensive studies of the houses, their owners and the neighborhood’s transformation over its nearly 300 years of existence, shedding light on a very diverse working-class community.

John Barry: Along with John Paul Jones, John Barry is considered the father of the U.S. Navy. After numerous naval victories, Barry was appointed commodore by Gen. George Washington during the American Revolution. As such he won the final battle at sea against the British in 1783. When the U.S. Navy was created in 1794, Barry was chosen to lead the new department.

John J. McDermott: At age 19, McDermott became the first American and youngest competitor to win golf’s U.S. Open in 1911 and again in 1912. Traditionally a British game, McDermott’s wins helped to popularize golf in the U.S. In the years following, the PGA was established, two additional golf majors emerged in the U.S. and American golfers dominated the U.S. Open and achieved prominence in the world of golf.

Leopold Stokowski: A world-renowned orchestra conductor, Stokowski directed the Philadelphia Orchestra from 1912 to 1940. During his tenure, he developed a unique sound that came to be known as the “Philadelphia sound.” He adopted a seating plan used by most orchestras today. He is probably most famous for his collaboration and appearance in the Disney film “Fantasia.”

Muhammad’s Temple of Islam #12: This place of worship was the first Nation of Islam temple in Pennsylvania. In its formative years, Malcolm X and Wallace Muhammad had active roles in its development. It played a pivotal role in conveying to Black Pennsylvanians a healthy sense of racial pride and self-worth that gave rise to the Black Nationalist Movement.

Thomas A. Edison High School Honorable 64: The number 64 represents the graduates of Philadelphia’s Edison High School who fought and died in the Vietnam War. No other school in the nation lost so many. This poor community’s loss gives perspective to the tragedy of the draft system: These young men had no options for waivers, served their country and made the ultimate sacrifice.

Wesley A.M.E. Zion Church: Wesley is the first A.M.E. Zion denomination in Pennsylvania. In 1820 its congregants split from the Bethel Church and soon after affiliated with New York City’s Zion Church and several other black parishes to form the new A.M.E. Zion Church. The church was very active in the 19th century in abolitionist causes and race improvement events, and hosted nationally renowned African-American leaders.


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