The site of the Plymouth Meeting Mall is not the only locale in the Freedom Valley that owes its history to a nursery. Many of the streets in Conshohocken were named after trees found at a nursery operated by one of the founding families of the town.
Benjamin Harry, the son of one of the founders of the Borough of Conshohocken, operated a nursery within the town. The specific location of that nursery is not known – the Harry family owned large sections of Conshohocken – but several pieces of land owned by Benjamin Harry were in what is today downtown Conshohocken.
In 1871, among the land holdings of Benjamin Harry were whole blocks or partial blocks of land generally along the east side of Fayette Street from First Avenue to Second Avenue as well as generally along Spring Mill Avenue from Fayette Street to Third Avenue. The top photo highlights what some of this same land looked like in August of 2017. Not surprisingly, portions of his land were along Harry Street – named after his father, David Harry – from Spring Mill Avenue to north of Second Avenue.
According to the Conshohocken Historical Survey, it was Benjamin Harry – through his nursery and with the knowledge of horticulture – that provided many of the trees that lined the streets in the early days of the town and who gave the names to a number of streets in town. You can thank this member of the Harry family for the streets named after trees within Conshohocken and in the neighboring sections of Plymouth and Whitemarsh Townships.
Apple Street is named after the Apple tree. While not native to Pennsylvania, the Apple tree is a common sight throughout the Freedom Valley. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden reports that the first cultivation of Apple trees in what is now the United States was done by English settlers in Virginia in 1607. According to Conshohocken Historical Survey, the Harry family built a homestead in 1706 “at what is now the intersection of Apple and Hector Streets.” Apple Street today formerly went from Spring Mill Avenue to the edge of the Schuylkill River.
Ash Street is named after the Ash tree. According to the Bureau of Forestry of the Commonwealth Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, one variety of the Ash tree – the White Ash – is native to Pennsylvania. In 1871, Ash Street separated the Alan Wood Rolling Mill from J & S Lees Cotton Mill. Today, Ash Street sports office buildings and a hotel.
Cherry Street is named after the Cherry tree. According to the Bureau of Forestry, three varieties of the Cherry tree – the Black Cherry tree, the Choke Cherry tree, and the Fire Cherry tree – are native to Pennsylvania. A lumber yard formerly occupied land along Cherry Street between Hector and Elm Streets. Today, that same property houses families in modern brick houses.
Elm Street is named after the Elm tree. Two varieties of this tree – the American Elm tree and the Slippery Elm tree – are native to Pennsylvania according to the Bureau of Forestry. Elm Street stretches from Connaughtown – in both Conshohocken and Plymouth Township – to Sandy Street in Whitemarsh Township.
Unlike the other street names in the Conshohocken area, Elm Street has several different names within the region. An older section of what was Elm Street is now known as “Old Elm Street” in both Conshohocken and Plymouth Township. The “newer” section of Elm Street is known as “New Elm Street in Plymouth Township. Within much of Plymouth Township, Elm Street is known as “Conshohocken Road”. In the past year, Conshohocken Road has been re-routed near Ridge Pike to intersect that major highway over what has been Diamond Avenue in Black Horse.
Tomorrow, we’ll detail the remaining streets named after trees in Conshohocken as well as the neighboring section of Whitemarsh – Maple, Oak, Poplar, and Walnut Streets.
(Top photo is courtesy of Google, 2017. Image of Benjamin Harry is courtesy of History of Montgomery County by Theodore Bean, 1884)
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© 2017 Richard McDonough