A Hollywood starlet’s home, America’s first Bible Society, a 300-year-old bridge that you might be crossing every day to work, and a really, really good Jewish basketball team that still survives – in a surprising form.
To the 250 or so other state historical markers you find scattered around town already, add these seven more. They are among the 15 new markers the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission approved statewide on Monday.
These markers will be popping up soon:
Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia
It’s kind of astounding this didn’t have a marker already. It’s the oldest natural science research institution in America, and has played a leading role in biological research around the world.
Not sure where this one is going to go. Furness (Nov. 12, 1839 to June 27, 1912) was born somewhere in town, but he’s most famous as the architect for grand buildings in and around Philadelphia, as well as throughout the country. Some of those projects still survive, including the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts on North Broad and Cherry Streets.
The Kelly Family
This is the family of Grace Kelly (Nov. 12, 1929 to Sept. 14, 1982), the Philadelphia girl who grew up to be one of the top film actresses in American history, and then became Princess of Monaco. It turns out her whole family was already prominent locally. Her father, John B. Kelly, Sr., (Oct. 4, 1889 to June 20, 1960), was the first person ever to win three Olympic Gold Medals in rowing. And her brother, John B. Kelly, Jr. (May 24, 1927 to March 2, 1985) won a gold medal as well, participating in the Olympics four times. Both men also became active in politics.
Pennsylvania Bible Society
It was the first Bible society in America, and it’s still running - founded in 1808 by Benjamin Rush, Bishop William White and Robert Ralston among others. The society used to have offices on Chestnut Street between 6th and 7th Streets (where the Public Ledger building now stands), but began moving to its current location at 701 Walnut Street in 1853.
Pennypack Creek Bridge
This span of roadway is more than 300 years old – built around 1697, the oldest roadway bridge in continuous use in the United States. Maybe you use it yourself. If you commute along Route 13 (Frankford Avenue) across Pennypack Creek, between Solly Avenue and Ashburner Street, you’ve been driving over it every day.
John C. Asbury
Little information can be found about Asbury – which is what one might expect with an African American in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. An alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1912, however, Asbury sponsored an early civil rights bill. Such legislation could not pass back then, of course. But his effort made him the most prominent black Republican in Pennsylvania.
South Philadelphia Hebrew Association (SPHAS) Basketball Team
Yeah, that’s right, a Jewish basketball team. You got something funny to say about that, jerk face?
Yeah, that’s what I thought.
Established in 1918, the SPHAS grew to dominate the American Basketball League during the early days of the sport. The team faded when the NBA appeared, But it’s kind of interesting what happened next.
Long story short, they evolved into the Washington Generals – the team that always loses to the Harlem Globetrotters.