Franklin Kline Fretz.

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Furnished Room



Franklin Kline Fretz

A Thesis Presented to the Faculty of the
Graduate School of the University of Pennsylvania
in Partial Fulfillment of the Require-
ments for the
Degree of Doctor of Philosophy






A Thesis Presented to the Faculty of the
Graduate School of the University of Pennsylvania in

Partial Fulfillment of the Require-
ments for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy




The Rooming District 5-18

The Evolution of the District 19-24

The Boarding House 25-41

The Furnished Room House 42-59

Furnished Rooms for Housekeeping 60-66

The Economic Condition of the Roomer 67-75

The Social Condition of the Roomer 76

(a) The Church 76-89

(b) The Schools 90-95

" " " (c) Amusemenfe 95-108

" " " (d) The Saloon 108-115

" " " (e) Booze Parties. ...116-119

" (f) Agencies for Up-
lift 119-126

The Social Condition (g) Prostitution and

Crime 126-142

The Social Condition (h) Use of Drugs 142-148

Summary 149-169



This study deals with investigations made in the
furnished room district of Philadelphia. This dis-
trict is difficult to define and is constantly changing.
A compact furnished room district in Philadelphia
may be found in the 6th, 10th, llth, 12th, 13th and
14th ward, which comprise that section of the city
bounded by Chestnut street on the south and Pop-
lar street on the north, the Delaware river on the
east, and Broad street on the west. For the purpose
of studying the problem and reaching an historical
explanation of the same we consider this large dis-
trict. In our actual investigations of the roomer
and his problems we have confined our researches to
small typical districts.

In this study we want to find out why the furnish-
ed room district is here rather than elsewhere;
through what evolutions it has gone; what may be
its future development; and what new social prob-
lems it furnishes or what old ones it accentuates.
We shall consider the problem of the owner of the
house as well as that of the occupant. The investi-
tigations have been conducted for this purpose, and
present, therefore, (1) The economic problem, (2)
The social problem characterizing the district, in-
cluding inquiries into the life of the lodger or room-


er, his family life, his amusements, etc. The church-
es and schools in relation to the roomer; the saloon
and its problem. (3) The problem of crime and vice.
(4) Vital statistics.

To trace the evolution of the district it would be
necessary to include the whole history of the city of
Philadelphia. This is impossible. Watson, in his
annals of Philadelphia, and other writers as well,
have given us a mass of material dealing with the
social condition of the city in early times. Phila-
delphia has always been famed for its comfortable
homes. The lower part of the district, which forms
the basis of our studjy in earlier years, contained the
homes of the gentry of Philadelphia. Up to 1800
all of the best and richest merchants of Philadelphia
dwelt under the same roofs with their stores on
North Front street. After the merchants began to
change their homes from Front street and the shores
of the Delaware to the western outskirts of the city,
the improvement of Philadelphia became rapid and
great. "It may mark the character of the change to
state, that when Mr. Miarkhoe built the large double
house out High street, between Ninth and Tenth
streets, in the front centre of a fenced meadow, it
was so remote from all city intercourse, that it used
to be a jest among his friends to say, "He lived out
High street, next house but one to the Schuylkill
ferry." (Watson's Annals of Philadelphia, Vol. I,
p. 225.)

People were surprised in the beginning of the 19th
century that merchants would leave their former old


dwellings in excellent condition in the neighborhood
of the Delaware and move out to Ninth and Chest-
nut or Arch streets, where there were no pavements
and no street lights. Gradually business and com-
mercial interests drove out the old inhabitants from
the river front; then the retail stores had to give
way to the large wholesale houses and shipping places
which are found along the river front, and extending
for blocks along the principal intersecting thorough-
fares up from the river such as Chestnut, Market,
Arch and Race streets. Arch street had no stores in
any part of it sixty years ago. Today it is one of
the principal streets of wholesale trade in the city.
We see a gradual evolution in this district due to
the great economic changes which caused the growth
and development of the city.

Some of the comfortable homes of old Philadel-
phians now used as boarding and rooming houses
were built about seventy-five years ago. Still others
were erected at a much later period. The change
in the district from a residential to a business sec-
tion has been sure though gradual. The Hon. Jona-
than Roberts wrote of the conditions existing in the
city in 1836, saying : "I have been accustomed for a
few years past, to make use of New Year's* day, some-
what like a New-Yorker, as a special occasion' for
visiting the city, and there to hunt up my earlier
and least familiar acquaintances thus to keep
alive early recollections and to preserve their respect
and remembrance. In January, 1836, I made calls
upon as many as twenty families. I pass by the


notice of themselves personally such as their own
waning persons, and their new and growing proge-
nies just starting out in life where I had once begun
as I wish only to notice the wonderful changes of
their houses in furniture and in amplitude of rooms,
etc. The whole is such as to fully convince me, that
I can no longer employ my pen. to illustrate the
changing manners and times of our city. I must
be done with that. I can only say now in general
terms, that the change from the olden time is so en-
tire, and that the traces of the past are so wholly
effaced, that here is now scarcely a vestige left. The
former was an age by itself of homely and domestic
comfort, without pomp, parade or show; and this is
now an entire age of luxuriy and cumbrous pomp.
Now our merchants are princes, and our tradesmen
are men of fortune; all dwell in palaces. The for-
mer little parlors are gone; even large parlors now
are not enough but two must be permanently cast
into one, by double doors, this not for family use
and comfort (they are too refined and delicate for
use), but for admiration and for show, while the
family itself, for the sake of indulgence and free-
dom, seek other apartments behind, or upstairs, or
in the basement story. These big rooms are neces-
sary because social visits being no longer in vogue,
but superseded by parties, they must have halls suf-
ficiently large to hold their semi-annual gatherings.
It is really astonishing to contemplate the class of
citizens who hold such houses, and the annual ex-
penditures they make, even in the same relations in


business wherein their fathers could live only mod-
erately and frugally. One has only to walk along
any given fashionable street, and read the names on
the costly dwelling houses, and see how generally
they comprise the class of fortunate dealers in all
manners of merchandise and trades, one cannot but
wonder how so many families can find means to sus-
tain their freedom of expense. It is, in fact, so com-
mon now to be lavish in show, that riches can
scarcely confer distinction. Surely we have a won-
derful country where the road to wealth is so broad
and safe wherein so many travel and "go ahead."
We wonder, indeed, how long it may continue."

Today the glory of these stately mansions of less
than two generations ago has departed. Man'y have
been torn down to be replaced by immense wholesale
houses, industrial establishments and factories.
Here and there a few still stand, silent monuments
of the glory of the past, and indicative of the great
economic forces which are making all things new.
There is something of melancholy sadness in the
plaint of a few old residents who still linger in the
district and say: "This section of the city is not
what it used to be." The former glory of the dis-
trict has departed forever. No one will ever know
the heart-breaks, the tragedies enacted in the giving
up of homes full of associations and sacred memo-
ries and see them give way before the onward and
resistless march of "business", or in seeing them
occupied by people of foreign birth or by the "bar-
barians" from the country.


This district, then, was once a city of private
homes; now it is a mixture of stores, large business
houses catering to a wholesale and retail trade, tene-
ments and lodging-houses; while many of the small-
er streets are filled with a distinct negro population.
"Chinatown" is found within the boundaries of our
district. Fully three-fourths of the older residences
not occupied by foreigners who have settled in parts
of this district are "furnished room houses." Built
in the fifties, sixties and seventies, they served their
purposes as the homes of Philadelphia's prominent
merchants and professional men, for a generation
or more, and then a transformation came which was
almost startling in its suddenness. The economic
forces were stronger than the sentiment of the own-
ers, and consequently prevailed. Some of the older
inhabitants lingered on determined to keep up the
appearance of the district, but the destructive
forces were too strong for them. Style changes in
the character of the homes of a people just as surely
as it does in matters of dress. Those who have
moved from the district into the suburbs and have
superintended the erection of their own homes, have,
in no cases, modeled them after their former homes
in the heart of the city. Whole rows of the old
houses were built on the same plan. There was no
individuality exercised on their construction. On
the first floor were the double parlors, the dining
room, the kitchen, with one or two out kitchens. The
parlors are high-ceiled, with a large amount of
stucco-work which characterized the houses built a


generation ago. They also have large marble man-
tle-pieces, and some have a stained glass window.
Where there are two parlors they are usually con-
nected by sliding doors. In some old houses these
doors are of mahogany. On the second floor are the
front bed-room with an elaborate wardrobe, the
rear bed-room, the bath-room with a large tub and
stationary wash-stand and a sitting-room in the
rear. On the third floor are from two to four square
rooms painfully alike in construction. The heat is
furnished by hot air furnaces, in most instances in-
adequate in winter weather. How different these
houses with their marble fronts and steps from the
houses in the suburbs with comfort and individu-
ality characterizing every feature.

There is a danger, in every investigation of this
character, of having it assume too wide a scope, and
becoming worthless. We will not consider, there-
fore, the great business places that have sprung up
in the district. Here are found some of the finest
and best equipped department stores in America.
Four or five of them would be a credit to any city.
One store just completed has two hundred and sev-
enty acres of floor space and employs an army of
seventy-five hundred clerks. Here are found the
great banking institutions and trust companies
which have made Philadelphia famous. The leading
theatres are found in the district or on its very con-
fines. The Girls' Normal School of Philadelphia
is almost in the center of the district. The Com-
mercial High School for girls was in the district


until the completion of the new William Penn High
School for Girls in 1909. The Boys' High School is
on the opposite side of the street which marks the
western boundary of the district. The Reading Ter-
minal, which is the railroad station of the Beading
system, is in the district, and the tracks of this road
traverse it.

It is necessary to state these facts in giving a de-
scription of the district. So far as some of these
institutions are of human interest, and bear upon
our specific problem, we shall have occasion to men-
tion them again in our discussion of the problem.

We have said enough to show that this district
under consideration is not a "Furnished Room Dis-
trict" pure and simple. There is no such district
in Philadelphia. Small typical districts might be
found in other sections of the city which would be
more expressive of the term "Furnished Room Dis-
trict." This district has been selected because it
- shows the natural evolution more satisfactorily. The
problems of the "roomer" are the same everywhere.
He is the product of certain definite forces which
we shall consider in this study.

We do not intend making a study of the old-fash-
ioned boarding-house which is fast passing out of
existence. Here, too, we shall have occasion to make
frequent references and comparisons. Nor do we in-
tend entering into a discussion of the cheap lodging
houses conducted by charitable societies for the solu-
r tion of the problem of vagrancy. It is the lodging
house we will discuss. The lodging house, or as it


is commonly known in Philadelphia, the "Furnished
Room House" must be distinguished from the apart-
ment house on the one hand and from the tenement
house on the other. The apartment house is a fam-
ily house, so is the tenement. They are intended for
housekeeping. The furnished room house is cut up
into small rooms and is generally intended for un-
married men and women who sleep there, and get
their meals at some restaurant or cafe outside the
house. The "Furnished Room House" never gives
board. The "Furnished Roomer" is not a boarder;
he is, as the term implies, only a "roomer". He has
never been the subject of much study or concern.
In New York, Chicago, Boston and St. Louis, the
place in which he lives is called a rooming-house;
in Philadelphia, the generally applied term is a
"furnished room house." It is a distinct type of
itself, and is found everywhere in the district we
have selected for its study.

The population of this district, according to the
census of 1910 was:

6th Ward 6,374 12th Ward 15,152

10th Ward 19,426 13th Ward 19,769

llth Ward 11,619 14th Ward 19,477

A comparison of the population of the district
with previous years and with the growth of the
whole population, will be made later. The children
of school age in the district according to the school
census (6 to 16 years of age), number ten thousand,
two hundred and eighty-five.


We shall take up the whole matter of population
under the subject of population. Suffice it at pres-
ent to state that we are considering a district with
a population of about one hundred thousand. To
learn the economic motives that have caused the
evolution of this district, and to know the social
status and moral conditions found therein, is the
purpose of this study.

The dearth of statistical data handicaps the in-
vestigator on every hand. This is especially the case
in dealing with the vital statistics of any given dis-
trict in our city. Great improvements in the mat-
ter of preserving and tabulating records have been
made in recent years, and the records of Philadel-
phia today are as complete as the records of any
first-class American city. The value of social statis-
tics for small areas is not understood at present,
or, if understood, is not possible because of the
meagre appropriations for the purpose of gathering
statistics. Under the general head of Vital Statis-
tics we expect to deal with the subject of birth and
death rates, marriage, sex-distribution, sickness and
health, diseases characteristic of the district, causes
of death and other social phenomena. We will now
discuss the general movement of population in the
city and the specific district.

Population of Philadelphia, Including the Territory
of the County.

1683 500 1740 24,250

1700 4,500 1760 47,191

1720 9,975 1790 82,913


1800 122,229 1830 269,259

1810 164,982 1840 351,702

1820 200,889 1850 529,838

Same area after consolidation in 1854.

1860 565,529 1890 1,046,964

1870 674,022 1900 1.293,697

1880 847,170 1910 1,549,008

Although Philadelphia is 225 years old, nearly one-
third of its population has been gained during the
past twenty years. The tendency of population to
congregate in cities is the acknowledged feature of
our modern civilization. It is a worldwide tend-
ency. London is two thousand years old, and yet,
it has gained four-fifths of its population in the
past century. Paris multiplied its population five
times in a hundred years. Odessa is one of the old-
est cities in the world, yet nineteen-twentieth of its
population was gathered in the last century. Cairo,
typical of all that is old and degenerate, and to the
superficial observer all that has ceased growing, has
doubled its population in fifty years. In our own
continent, Montreal in Canada, has grown in fifty
years from sixty thousand to four hundred thousand ;
Toronto, in the same period, from twenty-five thou-
sand to two hundred and fifty thousand. A world
movement of population from country to city is,
therefore, proven by every known rule of evidence.
Philadelphia is no exception to the cities that have
been affected by this world movement. To add one-
third to its population in twenty years is a record
exceeded' by few cities in America as old as Phila-


This remarkable growth of the city is due to
many causes, the chief of which is that of trans-
portation. To understand the problem of the city's
growth it is well to bear in mind that the original
boundaries of Philadelphia were the Delaware
River on the east and the Schuylkill on the west,
including all the territory between Vine and South
streets. Today we find outside of the old city, popu-
larly supposed to include the city's financial and
business district, fourteen national banks with capi-
tal and surplus amounting to $10,500,000 supple-
mented by twenty-four trust companies, with an
aggregate capital and surplus in excess of $11,000,-
000, making thirty-eight banking institutions
employing capital of $21,500,000 situated outside of
the supposed financial and business centre of the

The area of the old original city today contains
lees than two per cent of Philadelphia's total area
and eight per cent of the city's population. The
old city, moreover, contains only seventy-five miles
of highways, or five per cent of the total paved
streets within the city limits. The area of the so-
called "outlying districts" is one hundred and
twenty-seven and one-half square miles, as opposed
to one hundred and twenty-nine and one-fourth
square miles for the whole city. The population of
the "outlying" wards is 1,400,000 as compared with
the 1,500,000 of the entire city. To realize the ex-
tent of Philadelphia let us assume City Hall as the
centre or heart of Philadelphia. The eastern bound-


ary is settled for all time by the Delaware River
about one and one-fourth miles distant, and the
western boundary line is fixed by the boundary line
of the adjoining county about four and one-half
miles distant, making an east and west range at
City Hall of five and three-fourths miles. This east
and west range is very narrow in contrast with the
extreme northeastern and southwestern boundaries
of the city. It is about sixteen miles as the crow
flies, to the northeastern boundary of Philadelphia
above Somerton while the extreme southwestern
boundary in the fortieth ward on Darby Creek is
more than se^<sn miles from City Hall.

While Philadelphia developed rapidly in the dis-
trict laid out by William Penn, there was at the
same time a vigorous growth in all the outlying
districts. Many of these settlements were located
a great distance from the original city and devel*
oped their own interests and life independently of
the original Philadelphia. This can be readily un-
derstood when we consider that it required a far
longer time to reach these outlying districts in old-
en times, by the only methods of conveyance at
hand, on horseback or walking, than it takes the
traveler today to go to New York or Washington.
An old lady eighty-six years of age, speaking of
ancient Philadelphia recently, said that when she
was a child a relative of her family was to be buried
at Somerton. In order to attend the funeral the
family left for Somerton at noon of the preceding
day. It was in the month of March and the roads


were so bad, owing to the frost coming out of the
ground, that they traveled until midnight without
reaching their destination. A kind farmer lodged
them for the night. An early start was made on the
following morning at five o'clock, and they reached
the house just in time for services at nine o'clock.
Such a story is hardly credible today, especially,
when we take into consideration our present meth-
ods of transportation. So wonderful has been the
transformation in the life history of a single indi-

As a consequence of this isolation of the outlying
sections, each little community developed along in-
dependent lines, lived its own life, developed its
own resources, and a strong community feeling, in
many ways different from that of Philadelphia.
This condition of isolation continued from the
founding of Philadelphia in 1683 up to the consoli-
dation in 1854. Thus for a period of 171 years this
condition of independent development of the outly-
ing districts had continued. The old city of Phila-
delphia in 1854 had assumed the whole of its pres-
ent area of one hundred and twenty-nine and a half
squtfie miles and absorbed into its body politic
smaller communities located within the county of
Philadelphia, the new city having at time of con-
solidation a population of 530,000 or about one-
third of its present population. We see then a
remarkable growth in fifty-six years of three times
the population. Much of this growth is due to the
world-wide tendency we have noted, of people con-
gregating in the large cities.


The question of transportation was the dominant
one in the development of the city, and its rapid
growth in recent years. The first act passed in
America and the first railway built in the State of
Pennsylvania for general commerce, was by the
state; it was the Philadelphia and Columbia Rail-
road, eighty-four and one-half miles long. The first
car was run over it from Philadelphia to West
Chester January 25, 1833, and after that time the
road was open for regular travel between these
points. In the early part of June, 1834, the Phila-
delphia Gazette notes the fact that cars were run-
ning from Philadelphia to Columbia on. regular
fare. The second track between Philadelphia and
Columbia was completed and formally opened by an
excursion in which Governor Wolf took part on the
6th of October, 1834. Passenger cars ran in Market
street long before the days of city passenger rail-
ways, and as soon as the Market street railway was
established, which was about the year 1833, they
ran from Eighth and Market streets to Broad street,
up Broad to Willow street, and out to Fairmount
and the Columbia Railroad Bridge.

The growth of the city, to a large degree, was
coincident with the growth of the street railway


service. The street railways precipitated the expan-
sion of the city more than any other cause. The
slow, cumbrous, and noisy omnibuses* had to give
way to the more convenient city passenger railways.
In June, 1857, or three years after the consolidation
of the city an act was passed by the Legislature,
authorizing the construction of a track along Sixth
street, southward to Morris street. This road was
speedily built, and commenced operations: January
21, 1858, with great success, running on Fifth and
Sixth streets, from Frankford to Southwark. At
succeeding sessions of the Legislature laws for creat-
ing several other railroads for carrying passengers

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Online LibraryFranklin Kline FretzThe furnished room problem in Philadelphia → online text (page 1 of 11)