Monday, November 28, 2011

Traipsing Through the Woods of Tacony

Page from Howell Bickley’s diary, February 4, 1854.  From the personal collection of Joseph Jones.
Researcher Joseph Jones recently approached us looking for images of several estates once located in the present-day Tacony section of Northeast Philadelphia.  We were able to locate an image of the Lardner family farmhouse, shedding light on an 1854 entry in a diary owned by Jones and written by eleven-year-old Howell Bickley, who grew up on a neighboring farm.  In the entry, reproduced above, Bickley describes going for a nine-mile walk in the woods in the vicinity of Mr. Lardner’s estate.  Upon further research, Jones was able to determine that the Lardner property mentioned was in fact the estate of John Lardner, also known as “Tacony Farm.”  
The photograph of John Lardner’s estate below is from the Library Company’s Marriott C. Morris Photograph collection, consisting of nearly 1,500 negatives and a smaller number of photographic prints.  Morris extensively photographed family members as well as geographic locations in and around Philadelphia to which his family had ties. The title of the photograph suggests that Mary P. Lardner was the cousin of Marriott C. Morris. 
Co[u]s[in] Mary P. Lardner’s old house & place at Tacony.  From river--on boat. May 2, 1885.  From the Library Company’s Marriott C. Morris Photograph collection.

The unearthing of this image “…is a major discovery in bringing this diary to life,” in the words of Jones, who hopes someday to publish a children’s book related to the diary. 
In the course of his research, Jones has found that there are currently efforts to redevelop the area where the Lardner estate once stood as Lardner’s Point Park.  A modern-day view of the location can be seen in this article about the project:
The Morris family papers found at the Independence National Historic Park include the personal papers of Marriott C. Morris.  The archivists currently processing the collection have created a blog documenting highlights of their findings, as well as a link to the finding aid, which can be seen by clicking here:

Nicole Joniec
Print Department Assistant & Digital Collections Manager 


  1. How so much has changed in over 100 years! Good article!

  2. Further research has turned up image from the New York Public Libary collection of the Lardner Mansion. This one is a closer view that dovetails with the one on this blog.

    I am still hopeful of finding more surviving pictures of the Tacony properties and of the families who lived there, especially the Bickleys, in the mid-nineteenth century. (Suggestions are welcome)

    Joe Jones

    1. Hi. I descend from John Knowles and Gabriel Wilkinson, both of whom owned farms along the Delaware River in Tacony. In fact, St. Vincent's Orphanage sits on the Knowles Farm. I would like to share information. My email is njguy_south AT yahoo

    2. Mr. Jones, I have just completed a manuscript entitled, "Tacony: Era of William H. Gatzmer and the Philadelphia & Trenton Railroad," concentrating on the period 1847-1867, but also discussing at length, as historical perspective, some of the waterfront estates from the colonial era. I would like to secure your permission to use Howell's diary entry and send you my dissection of it, as I am very familiar with that of which he speaks. Charles A. McCloskey,