top of page

Main Street Manayunk Historic District

Description

The Main Street Manayunk National Historic District is located on the north bank of the Schuylkill River, approximately 5 miles northwest from the center of Philadelphia. The community of Manayunk has retained a strong individual physical identity. Geographically, Manayunk and the adjacent communities of Roxborough and Wissahickon are separated from other sections of Philadelphia to the east, by the steep ravine of the Wissahickon Valley. Main Street is located within the narrow flood plain of the Schuylkill. North of Main Street, the topography rises steeply to Ridge Avenue on the crest between the Schuylkill and Wissahickon. 


Because of the geographical and cultural isolation of Manayunk, the physical appearance of the townscape and individual buildings differs markedly from those of similar eras built in other sections of the City. While Philadelphia residential and commercial buildings are typically red brick, those of Manayunk are commonly constructed of random coursed stone, Wissahickon Schist, either exposed or faced with stucco. It is the combination of steep topography, and white painted, pitched roof, stucco row houses which epitomizes the physical character of Manayunk.


Add a Title

Describe your image


The clear hierarchy of land use developed in Manayunk followed construction of the canal. The principal mill buildings were located on Venice Island between the Schuylkill River and Canal, though many of the major mills had operations on both sides of the canal, linked by bridges; often mill offices were located on the south side of Main Street. In contrast, commercial uses -- such as offices, hotels and banks, and mixed residential/ commercial buildings tended to concentrate on the north side of Main Street. Residential construction, typically in the form of attached 2- or 3-story row houses occurred on the side streets off the north side of Main Street. While the earliest development consisted of mill buildings and worker housing, later 19th century development included a broader range of commercial uses, including banks, warehouses, and retail stores, particularly at the west end of Main Street, corresponding to Main Street's developing role as a full retail and business center. Little development or redevelopment occurred in Manayunk after the turn of the century, and the overall physical appearance of the Main Street historic district has changed little since this time, although many retail and business uses have been replaced with lower grade warehouses, and storage uses.


The earliest buildings remaining in Manayunk are mills of the 1840s and 1850s, and worker housing of the same era. Several of these mills remain on the Main Street side of the canal, at the east end of Main Street. The finest remaining mill building within the historic district is that located at 4268-72 Main Street, originally known the Blantyre mill. The two, 3-story pitched roof buildings, set at right angles to Main Street were constructed in 1847, of random stone rubble, with cut stone quoins, and brick arches over the window openings. An unusual feature are the fanlights in the gable ends facing Main Street. 


Add a Title

Describe your image


Other important early mills include a 2-story building at 4050 Main Street, constructed about 1850 (originally the Roxborough Mills), a 4-story building at 4100 Main Street (formerly the Dexter Mills - dyeworks) and the rear buildings are facing the canal at 4208 Main Street (formerly Economy Mills). These buildings are typically long, narrow span structures of random stone rubble, often with a later stucco facing, and shallow pitch roofs. Window openings commonly have brick arch lintels, while windows are typically wood, arched head double hung with 4/4 or 12/12 lights.


Another noteworthy loft building located on the north side of Main Street at 4313 in a 3-story, 6-bay structure built in 1859 of Wissahickon Schist. The building has segmentally arched brick labels over each window, and wood double hung windows.


Add a Title

Describe your image


Examples of housing of this era remain, both on Main Street, and on the narrow side streets. The housing is utilitarian, working class attached housing, Vernacular in style, although exhibiting distinct characteristics of formal design styles. The earliest housing is typically constructed in a Vernacular Federal style, while later housing is of a Vernacular Italianate style. The earliest remaining residential buildings are located at 104-106 Levering Street, constructed about 1840. These are 3-story, 2-bay, Federal style, stucco over stone rubble, pitched roof structures. The 2nd floor windows are double hung wood with plan frame, and the 3rd floor windows are casements. 103-105 Pensdale Street is a group of small Vernacular style worker houses built circa 1860. Built of stone rubble faced with stucco they have double hung 2/2 arched head windows and decorative wooden cornices.


In contrast to the early simple random stone and stucco mills, later commercial buildings are commonly of brick, exhibiting the richer detailing typical of the late Victorian era, and are similar to such buildings in Philadelphia Some of these later buildings were manufacturing facilities, but many reflected the increasing importance of Main Street as a business and retail center. The finest example of a later industrial building is 4236 Main Street, an elegant 3-story, 3- bay brick loft constructed about 1890. The 1st-floor storefront incorporates a cornice, and central entrance flanked by pilasters. Crowning the building is a heavy wood cornice. 4346 Main Street is the former Manayunk Trust Company building, a monumentally scaled, single story banking hall, built in 1890. Constructed of brick, the building has pilasters with decorative capitals and consoles, stone cornices, and monumental scale windows with a stone surround enhanced with Greek key design. 4360 Main Street is a heavy 3-story, 5-bay brick warehouse constructed about 1890. The Romanesque detailing includes paired semi-circular headed windows on the 3rd floor, Palladian style 2nd floor windows, brick pilasters and a molded tin cornice. A similar style 2-bay, 4-story Romanesque style brick warehouse is located on 108-12 Levering Street. Noteworthy retail buildings include 4356 Main Street, an elegant 2-story building of 1880, featuring extensive use of glass. The ground floor consists of large storefront windows and recessed entrance way, with decorative metal transom panels above. The 2nd floor has large, fixed sash with transom lights, metal faced dividing mullions, and molded metal cornice.


Add a Title

Describe your image


Finally, there are some interesting turn of the century commercial buildings. 4437 Main Street is a handsome single story brick bar built in 1903. The facade incorporates a decorative ogee arch stepped brick gable parapet, with metal trim. 4323-24 Main Street, the Nickles Building of similar date, is a 2-story, 2-bay brick retail store with elegant, curved glass display windows, and a large ornate metal cornice and parapet.



Add a Title

Describe your image

This information has been posted by RMWHS with the permission of the Philadelphia Historical Commission.

bottom of page