Philadelphia Park Alliance Tours

The Parks Alliance’s ParkTours program features hikes and walks to magical and often unseen places in Philadelphia’s parks and surrounding countryside.  These evening, half-day and full-day adventures convey the history, power and value of our open space and the need to preserve and protect it. Parks Alliance founder and Board President Bob Thomas and local arborist Ken LeRoy have been designing and leading intriguing ParkTours for many years. Let us know if you would like to lead a park tour or if you are interested in having a tour visit your park.


Tuesday, August 7th, 2018, 5:00pm to 7:30pm / Raindate: Wednesday, August 8th

Finding the Frankford Creek Greenway

Through the efforts of the City of Philadelphia and the Tookany-Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership, once derelict Frankford Creek is becoming a greenway linking Tacony Creek Park with the Delaware River and the East Coast Greenway.  Join Bob Thomas for an exploratory tour of new and proposed park and greenway development along once-neglected Frankford Creek as well as several local parks and a walk on the East Coast Greenway down to Port Richmond, including a stellar view of the Delaware River.  We conclude with an option dinner at an interesting local restaurant discussing the importance of The Circuit Trails in the revitalization and appreciation of the history of this industrial waterfront.

Information and reservations: online at or 215-879-8159. Meeting place: Benches at the north end of Womrath Park at Frankford and Kensington Avenues, a block south on Frankford Avenue from the Frankford Elevated’s Church Street Station  Terrain and Difficulty: Walkways and park paths — rated easy. Wear good walking shoes, dress comfortably, and bring snacks to eat along the way. Trip fee does not include the cost of the optional dinner. Total limit: 30 participants – Sign-up deadline August 6th, 5pm


Wednesday, September 5th, 2018, 5:00pm to 7:30pm / Raindate: Thursday, September 6th

Historic Callowhill and the Reading Viaduct

Drawing on its remarkable industrial and transportation history, the Callowhill neighborhood is seeing a significant resurgence, along with the development of the abandoned Reading Railroad Viaduct as an elevated linear park. Join Bob Thomas for a history walk through Calllowhill, and spend time visiting the newly opened portion of what is now known as the first section of The Rail Park.  Following the tour, we’ll conclude with an optional dinner nearby, discussing the history of the Reading Viaduct, and plans for future improvements. Over dinner we’ll also have a chance to see some historic photographs of the areas we will have just visited.

Information and reservations: online , or 215-879-8159. Meeting place: Beginning of the Rail Park at the northeast corner of Broad and Noble Streets, is short walk down Broad Street from the subway’s Spring Garden Street Station.  Terrain and Difficulty: Walkways and park paths — rated easy. Wear good walking shoes, dress comfortably, and bring snacks to eat along the way. Trip fee does not include the cost of the optional dinner. Total limit 30 participants – Sign-up deadline September 4 at 5 PM.


Saturday, October 13th, 2018, 8am to 6pm (All Day Tour) / Raindate: Spring 2019

Fall in Lancaster County

Mid-October is a superb time to enjoy the harvest in Lancaster County and the beginning of the fall leaf season. After a hearty hikers’ breakfast,  join Bob Thomas for an exhilarating walk through this picturesque countryside of farms, one-room schoolhouses, and old mills, visiting many areas not often seen, and sampling some of the local foods.  We’ll conclude this beautiful day in the Amish countryside with an optional dinner at a local eatery, and a discussion of farm life in this landscape just an hour or so from Philadelphia.

Meeting place: at Bob Thomas’ for a hikers’ breakfast: Please confirm address when registering.—Terrain and Difficulty: little-used country roads with few hills.  Rated moderate. Wear good walking shoes, and bring water, snacks, and a picnic lunch to eat along the way. Pre-registration required. Limit of the first 12 participants for the breakfast. Transportation will be by car pools – all are expected to share the cost of driving from Philadelphia.  Sign-up deadline October 8th, 2018.


Chester County 2018 Town Tours and Village Walks / Explore our Roots of Industry and Innovation

The Chester County Board of Commissioners through the Chester County Planning Commission; the Chester County Historical Society; Westtown Township; the Chester County Historic Preservation Network; and the Chester County Conference and Visitors Bureau announce the 24th summer of sharing Chester County’s heritage during the annual Town Tours & Village Walks.

Town Tours & Village Walks is a series of free summer strolls through historic neighborhoods, hamlets, villages and sites. This summer, you can explore Chester County’s heritage on Thursday evenings, June 14th-August 30th. Tours generally last 50 minutes and begin at 5:30 pm with the last tour leaving at 7:00 pm unless daylight allows for additional tours. Each tour is designed to inform, entertain and increase awareness of Chester County’s rich heritage and historic landscape. A number of our sites offer a selection of restaurants and shops to enjoy after your tour.

For descriptions, locations and other information visit:

July 12 — The Birth, Growth and Future of the Mushroom Industry

Sponsors: Kennett Township Historical Commission and Historic Kennett Square

July 19 — Industry Rebels: Women at Yellow Springs

Sponsor: Historic Yellow Springs

July 26 — The Milling that Made Chester County

Sponsor: The Mill at Anselma Preservation & Education Trust

August 2 — The Phoenix Column: A Bridge to the Future

Sponsors: The Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area and Schuylkill River Heritage Center

August 9 — Agricultural Antiques & Modern Machines

Sponsors: Upper Oxford Township Historical Commission & Chester County Agricultural Development Council.

August 16 — Fricks Lock: Birth of a Canal Village

Sponsor: East Coventry Historical Commission

August 23 — Special Supper & Lecture at the Springs — The Mills of Chester County

Sponsor: Chester County Historic Preservation Network

6 – 7:30 pm; limit 50 participants. Advanced reservations required!

Wayne Junction Historic District


The Designation Committee of the Philadelphia Historical Commission has called for recommendations concerning the creation of a new industrial heritage district in Nicetown/Lower Germantown. Kim Broadbent who wrote the nomination, gave our chapter a tour back in 2013. She has written a terrific, in depth nomination of the area and its industries. It can be accessed at this link:

The Chapter is sending a recommendation for approval of this nomination. If you have any comments, please send them to the committee members. Here is their request and contact information.


The Wayne Junction Historic District will at last be on the Agenda of the Phila Historical Commission July 13, 2018 (It has been on the National Register since 2012.) At this time the commission will vote to determine if the district will be added to the local register. It is important for the commission to know there is support for this important nomination. We need you/your organization to send letters of support. They can be emailed or mailed see below information. You are welcome as always to attend the public hearing July 13, 9 am-noon, 1515 Arch St 18th flr.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Regards -Allison Weiss,, 215 843 5555

link to nomination:

Email Support:

Designation Committee/Historical Commission

Executive Dir: Jonathan Farnham,

Staff: Kim Broadbent,

Committee Chair: Robert Thomas


Hold onto your engineer caps, railroad history lovers


One of the World’s Largest Steam Locomotives Is About to Make a Triumphant Return

Now, six decades after the last Big Boy was taken off the rails, the Union Pacific is rebuilding one of the famous locomotives in honor of the upcoming sesquicentennial celebration of the first Transcontinental Railroad. It’s a project so ambitious that Ed Dickens Jr, a Union Pacific steam locomotive engineer and the man leading the rebuild, has likened it to resurrecting a Tyrannosaurus rex.

More on the story at this link:

A 3D-printed house you can actually live in should be ready by 2019

This piece seemed an appropriate follow-up to the post on Edison’s concrete houses.

3D Cement1

In The Netherlands, a company called Van Wijnen is working with the city of Eindhoven to build the world’s first community of 3D-printed houses. The planned community will have five houses, all printed with concrete. Each subsequent house will build on the ones that came before; the first house will be relatively simple, just one story. The fifth house will be two stories and incorporate what the team has previously learned.

At the beginning, the houses will be printed offsite and brought to their final location in the Meerhoven district of Eindhoven. The aim is to make the futuristic-looking houses a work of art in and of themselves, so the final community looks like a sort of sculpture garden.

Van Wijnen is embarking on this project for multiple reasons. According to The Guardian, there are a shortage of bricklayers in The Netherlands. The craft is becoming more expensive as a result. In contrast, concrete is relatively in expensive and versatile. What’s more, 3D printing it is economical because none of the material goes to waste, and the method allows printing different types of concrete (reinforced with insulation or coated with dirt repellant) at once. Additionally, it can be easily customized according to the wishes of the person who will live in the home.

3D Cement 2

The real key here is that these homes aren’t just models; they will actually be lived in. And if this project is successful, more 3D-printed concrete homes will follow. The first home of Project Milestone should be ready sometime in 2019. For now, the homes are being printed offsite, but the company hopes that by the fifth house, the work will be done at the Meerhoven site. And apparently, the waiting list for the first house is already 20 people long, so it’s clear that Van Wijnen won’t have trouble finding someone to rent their 3D printed homes.

Edison held 49 cement patents


Patent for single-pour concrete house

This Saturday several OE members will be taking the Cement in the Lehigh Valley tour. The Intermountain Concrete Specialties website features information on Edison’s cement products that might be of interest to our group.

“Most people know Thomas Edison for the light bulb, but did you know the famous inventor also held 49 cement patents? An important part of concrete history, Edison’s patents included cement processing equipment, waterproofing cement paint, and even a mold for single-pour concrete construction. The visionary thinker imagined a future with concrete houses, concrete furniture, and even concrete pianos and refrigerators!”

More on Edison’s cement houses:

The Edison Portland Cement Company secured the contract to build the original Yankee Stadium in 1922.



Demo Days at the Thompson-Neely Grist Mill

Thompson Neely Mill


The Chapter is looking into a visit to a local mill operating the technology devised by our namesake, Oliver Evans. Also members might be interested in a visit to this farm and mill complex recently opened after restoration to a working mill by volunteers. Now the building will be able to function as a 19th century period-accurate grist mill, and tours will explore how the mill once fit into the farmstead.

Posted by Washington Crossing Historic Park on Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Demonstration Days at the Grist Mill

See the newly restored Thompson-Neely Grist Mill in action during a live milling demonstration on Sunday, May 20, June 17, July 15, August 19, September 16 or October 21. Demonstrations will be held at noon, 1:30 PM and 3 PM.

During a demonstration, the park’s miller will use 19th century techniques and tools to demonstrate how the Grist Mill would have functioned as part of the Thompson-Neely Farmstead.

Admission is $7 per person and includes a guided tour of the Grist Mill and Thompson-Neely House and Farmstead. Visitors who have purchased a $15 multi-site tour on a Demo Day may attend a demonstration at no charge.

The mill is located across the street from the Thompson-Neely House and Farmstead, 1635 River Road, New Hope, PA.