Thursday, 10 November 2016 14:56

Garibaldi's Row

Written by Michael Green
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Do you recognize any of the children in this picture?  The picture captures what was known as "Garibaldi's Row" in Ambler in 1961, just before it was demolished.  Nineteen-sixty-one was quite significant in the demolition of residential structures and the West Chestnut Street properties associated with Keasby & Mattison Industries of Ambler.

map

The above map is from a 1916 North Penn Railroad atlas and shows the area Keasby & Mattison developed.

The history of Keasby & Mattison with its Ambler residential development is a fascinating one dating back to the 1890's after the company relocated from Philadelphia.  The firm began with the manufacture of asbestos paper and mill board as insulation products, according to the book Early History of Ambler by Dr. Mary Hough.

According to various reports Dr. Richard V. Mattison, the partner of Henry J. Keasby, chose Ambler to develop what became the major asbestos product manufacturing company of the United Sates.  As the doctor expanded the Keasby & Mattison plant, experienced Italian stoneworkers and laborers were recruited and urged to settle and build in Ambler.  Thus, approximately 400 residence were built, including row homes for factory workers as well as more upscale homes for the managers and executives.  This development included Dr. Mattison's estate, known as Lindenwold, which was built in the 1890's and expanded in 1917.

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This photo shows Dr. Mattison's house Lindenwold.

It was during this building period that row homes such as "Garibaldi's Row" and West Chestnut area homes were constructed.  However, by 1961, due to serious health and social concerns and other deteriorating conditions in the neighborhood, the local government made the decision to tear down these structures.  The decision included the creation of a park and recreation area as a replacement.  Many saw this as a positive outcome as the neighborhood was described as a "blighted area" with poor sanitary facilities subject to flooding.outhouses

The row houses did not have plumbing, as shown by this photo of outhouses.

August 10, 1961 was targeted to resettle the effected families and subsequently demolish the homes.

demolition

With this demolition, it seems many found and cherished memories of over seventy years has faded into the history of dear old Ambler.

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