Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Profile-Maximilian F. LaRoche-"Father of Collingdale"

Role played in the borough: Known as the "Father of Collingdale", LaRoche actively worked to incorporate the village of Collingdale by establishing the Collingdale Land and Improvement Company in 1882 and by purchasing thirty acres of land which he sold as residence lots. His florist trade was the main reason why he first decided to settle in what was then known as Darby. He specialized in roses and chrysanthemums which were popular in the late 1880s in wreaths and other floral arrangements. Once the decision of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court came down making it legal for communities to secede from existing boroughs, LaRoche had a petition written up and notarized May 1, 1891 establishing Collingdale borough. The petition was accepted and the borough established December 23, 1891.

Greatest accomplishments: LaRoche established the first government council in Collingdale and was elected as the first Burgess of Collingdale on January 10, 1892. He was also actively involved in the floral business which prompted the borough's officials to place a rose on the borough's seal in honor and remembrance of his service to the community.

A brief history: LaRoche's connection with John Bartram the famous botanist is simple. As a horticulturalist LaRoche would have known of Bartram's work and may have visited his home while he was in Philadelphia. Being a member of the Philadelphia Horticultural Society would have also exposed him to John Bartram. His father, Charles and his grandfather before him would have known John Bartram's work as well. I believe that it was his love of horticulture that may have caused him to seek out information about Bartram and his family. When he found out that some of Bartram's family lived in Darby, he decided to purchase land adjacent to their property. He then realized the potential for growth and knew that having reliable transportation would be essential for its growth. He became actively involved then in the incorporation and eventual establishment of the borough which led him to a political career that spanned from 1891 through 1907.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Past churches-Trinity Protestant Episcopal Church

Location: 801 MacDade Boulevard

Founded: Conflicting records have this church being founded two different times. In my research I discovered that in one of the histories it states that the first service of the church was held on Clifton Avenue in George Perkin's home January 1888 which was conducted by Rev. Doctor Charles A. Maison who was the rector at St. James Church in Paschallville. However while digging deeper I found that Christ Episcopal Church in Ridley Park had a different story of the founding of this church. In their version, some of the congregation of that church who lived in Collingdale wanted to establish a church there and purchased a lot in Collingdale in November 1888. The preceding month, October 1888, Rev. W.F. C. Morsell conducted "parlor services" and decided to establish "Christ Church Chapel" in Collingdale. Christ Church Chapel was renamed Trinity Church as part of the Christ Church Mission. Relations with the church in Ridley Park severed July 10, 1889 when it was deemed that Trinity church could make it on its own. Here's where the founding converge: Both histories dovetail as to when the cornerstone of the new church was laid in the spring of 1890 with the first services held Christmas Day 1890.

Brief history: Trinity Episcopal established the first Sunday School and kindergarten classes in the borough in 1918. Mrs. George Holcomb was instrumental in its conception and it was called "Children's Guild." The church also opened a nursery school and organized the first Young People's Fellowship under the leadership of Mrs. Holcomb. As the church grew, it became necessary build a new Parish House in 1922 and a new rectory in 1957. Margaret B. Harris took part in the groundbreaking of the new rectory as the oldest active member of the church. The old rectory was donated to the Collingdale Public Library Association to use for $1 a year. The church officially closed its doors in October 2010.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Past Businesses-Sun Oil Company

Location: On the corner of Pusey and Clifton Avenues, near LaRoche's house.

A brief history: In the early 1920s gas stations like this one were a novelty. Sun Oil Company Inc started their business in 1886 and ended in 1920 when it was renamed Sun Oil Co. It remained Sun Oil Co until the bicentennial year when it returned to its roots. In 1998, Sun Oil Company Inc formally changed its name to Sunoco. When this photograph was taken in 1920, the gas stations provided all around service such as window shield washing. Rumors have it that this gas station was near the Burgess's residence on the corner of Pusey and Clifton Avenues. Resources have not collaborated on this but it's a great picture of how gas stations used to look in the 1920s.

There is still a Sunoco station in Collingdale today with a convenience store on the corner of Roberta and MacDade Boulevard.
Photograph courtesy of Keith Lockhart.