Small Repositories Subject Guide: Planning, Development, and Preservation

Collections that fall under this category include those that document urban planning and development in Philadelphia, as well as those that relate to the suburban sprawl that affected many areas outside the city beginning in the mid 20th-century.  A few collections also document preseveration and revitalization initiatives.

The Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR), a project of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is uncovering the hundreds of hidden archival collections held by the many small historical repositories in the five county Philadelphia area. Some of the collections cataloged in the HCI-PSAR project are summarized in this subject guide, which is designed to facilitate and encourage research at small repositories. The guide is not comprehensive but will serve to highlight underutilized collections and reveal the depth and breadth of resources available at small repositories.

Finding aids to all small repository archival collections surveyed in the HCI-PSAR project are available at our finding aid website, hosted by the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries. Finding aids are being added on an ongoing basis, so check back frequently.

City
Suburban

City

Colonial Germantown Inc. records, 1963-1977 (GHS.12)
Germantown Historical Society
4 linear feet
Colonial Germantown Inc. was formed in 1956 and held its last formal meeting in 1975. Its goal was to revitalize the Germantown section of Philadelphia through both historic preservation and modern development. The Colonial Germantown Inc. records, 1963-1977, consist of administrative and financial records, including meeting minutes, reports, tax returns, and other document types.

Fairmount Park Maps, Plans and Drawings collection, 1684-2010 (FP.2010.004)
Fairmount Park Historic Resource Archives
98 linear feet
Items in this collection relate to East and West Fairmount Park, the original components of what has become the vast Fairmount Park system. Unique in its composition, these areas not only contain naturalist landscapes, but they are also home to a truly diverse set of historic and functional structures. In addition to a vast trail system and traditional recreational facilities (such as swimming pools and baseball diamonds), these parks are also home to an array of 18th and 19th century historic houses, the nation's first zoo, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the imposing Fairmount Water Works, and Philadelphia's iconic Boathouse Row.

Germantown Historical Society oral history projects, circa 1992-1993 (GHS.31)
Germantown Historical Society
10 linear feet
Germantown and Mount Airy are neighborhoods in the northwest section of Philadelphia which underwent dramatic demographic change, from nearly all Caucasian to significantly African-American, over the course of the 20th century. During the early 1990s, the Germantown Historical Society, in conjunction with other groups, conducted three oral history projects. The Germantown Historical Society oral history projects, circa 1992-1993, contains about 140 tapes of interviews, as well as some transcripts, interviewee data sheets, and other associated documents. The three oral history projects focused on the topics of Integration in West Mount Airy, African-Americans in Germantown between the World Wars, and Awbury Arboretum.

Thomas South papers, 1861-1914 (HST.09)
Historical Society of Tacony
16 linear feet
Thomas Winfield South (1847-1922) moved to Tacony, Philadelphia in 1872 to work for the Disston Saw Works as manager and land-agent for the Disston-owned properties. South was a prominent figure in the area who worked as Director of the Suburban Electric Company, as Magistrate at the Central Police Court, and as the Assistant Director of Public Safety under Mayor Weaver (1903-1907). South invested heavily in Florida real estate with a vision of developing the St. Petersburg area, although his plans were not realized until many years later. The Thomas South papers, 1861-1914, documents much of the working life of South and includes correspondence regarding his work as a magistrate and his dealings in the development of central Florida. There are legal records and registers from his time as a magistrate, as well as a large amount of court summons.

Suburban

William Collier slides and files, 1925-1977 (HSHT.03)
Historical Society of Hilltown Township
25.5 linear feet
William E. Collier (1902-1977), a resident of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, worked for Pennsylvania's Bureau of Employment Security from the 1930s to the 1960s. A majority of his work related to the state's response to the Great Depression, unemployment compensation, and labor unions. Collier was also an avid amateur historian who photographed Bucks County landmarks from 1966 until his death. The William Collier slides and files, 1925-1977, consist of approximately 5,200 slides of structures and sites of Bucks County and surrounding areas, local history research files, and professional papers relating to his work for the government.