History

1800s: H.W. Butterworth & Sons

H.W. Butterworth & Sons, a foundry for finishing machinery for the textile industry established in 1820, moved to this location on York Street in 1870 from a smaller facility in the area. The building(s) on this site were constructed in five phases from 1870 to 1925 using mostly Italianate and later Commercial architectural styles [1].

The late 1800s saw a boom in industry and the construction of industrial manufacturing facilities in the Kensington area because of the available open space and access to the Delaware River and rail roads. The nickname “Fishtown” caught on because of the fishing industry [3], but the most dominant trade was the textile industry. H.W. Butterworth & Sons was one of six textile machinery manufacturers in Philadelphia at the time, supplementing the dye works and yarn factories of the growing textile industry [1].

Drying Machine: H. W. Butterworth & Sons [5]

1900s: Textile Industry on The Rise

According to the Industrial Directory of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, in the early 1900s, “Textile products were not only Philadelphia’s leading industry, but the city was America’s foremost textile center.” [1]

During and after WWII, the facility expanded to manufacture mounts and parts for anti-aircraft machine guns [1]. In 1950, H.W. Butterworth & Sons relocated to the suburbs and in 1955 was sold. According to the National Register of Historic Places, “From the time of its foundation until after its sale in 1955, the company was always managed by the Butterworth family, a record that has no equal in Philadelphia manufacturing.” [1]

1884 Hexamer Survey [2]
1920 Advertisement [4]
“Textile products were not only Philadelphia’s leading industry, but the city was America’s foremost textile center.”

1970s: Jacob Holtz Co.

In 1970, Jacob Holtz Co., manufacturers of furniture casters and metal stamping, moved their factory to this location [5]. Many residents of the area can recount family and friends who worked at the Jacob Holtz building.  Train tracks, which are still visible in the street, carried boxcars from the Riverfront Railroad directly into the building through what is now the front entrance.  By the 1990s, Jacob Holtz moved much of their distribution to North Carolina and by 2007, they moved their entire operation to Lester, PA [6].

2424 E. York was an operational manufacturing facility through the 1990’s, however most of the other factories in the area had moved or closed by the mid-1900’s, leaving behind empty industrial buildings. Many were demolished or derelict and the construction of I-95 in the 1960s cut off the neighborhood from the Delaware River and the once bustling port.

2006
Jacob Holtz Co.
Jacob Holtz Co.

2000s: 2424 Studios

In the early 2000’s, 2424 E. York was largely vacant before being purchased in 2009 and renovated in 2010.  In 2014, the building changed ownership and management. Much of the original architecture remains today. Two sets of hoists and cranes from Alfred E. Box & Co. are in place in an open atrium. The occupants, visitors and neighbors, are an ongoing part of the history of this significant Philadelphia landmark.

References:

  1. National Register of Historic Places, H.W. Butterworth and Sons Company Building.
  2. Hexamer General Surveys, Volume 20. H.W. Butterworth and Sons, Iron Founders and Machinists, 1884.
  3. Maule, Bradley. (2016, May 17). Defining “Historic Fishtown”. Retrieved from https://hiddencityphila.org/2016/05/defining-historic-fishtown/.
  4. American Wool and Cotton Reporter, Advertisement, page 75, 1920.
  5. Drying Machine: H. W. Butterworth & Sons, Philadelphia. The New York Public Library Digital Collections.
  6. Jacob Holtz Website. Company History Timeline. Retrieved from www.jacobholtz.com/about.html.
  7. Milano, Kenneth W. Hidden History of Kensington & Fishtown. Charleston: The History Press, 2010. Print.
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