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SHCA History
The Society Hill Civic Association came into being in 1965 as the result of a merger of two pre-existing civic associations. The older of those two was the Society Hill Area Residents Association, generally referred to as "SHARA." It was primarily the organization of those who lived in Society Hill before the redevelopment programs of the late 1950s and early 1960s had taken place. Its membership was restricted to persons who owned and occupied single family houses. The younger of those two was the Home Owners and Residents Association, generally referred to as "HORA." It was primarily the organization of those who came to live in Society Hill as a result of the redevelopment programs. It was created in part so that renters could become members. The openings of the Hopkinson House and Society Hill Towers apartment buildings were bringing into Society Hill a new group of renters who believed that they had a stake in the neighborhood and wanted to help it.

The members of the two associations were a bit wary of each other. However, the gap between the old-timers and the new-comers was neither universal nor serious; it was primarily the result of somewhat different agendas. In late 1964 and early 1965 growing sentiment in the neighborhood looked with favor upon the merger of the two associations. The members of the two groups were coming to know each other better and to recognize that they faced common issues. Four people in particular took the lead in urging a merger: Phoebe Patterson, President of SHARA; William Eiman, a SmithKline & French (as it was known then) executive who was the President of HORA; John Bracken, a prominent lawyer who had recently restored a house in Society Hill; and Maureen Murdoch, an old-timer who worked at N. W. Ayer and acted as a bridge between the two associations.

A committee was formed to effectuate the merger, and its work proceeded smoothly. Stanhope Browne, a young lawyer who had recently moved into Society Hill Towers , was asked to prepare the by-laws for a new combined organization, which was initially to take the form of an unincorporated association. A joint general meeting of the members of the two organizations was held on April 22, 1965 . John Bracken was asked to preside. Phoebe Patterson and William Eiman reported for SHARA and HORA, respectively, that both memberships had adopted the new by-laws. The Society Hill Civic Association was born. Margaret Walsh, who owned a small insurance company located at Walnut and Fifth Streets and who had recently restored a house, was elected the first president. A new board of directors was elected, with six members each from SHARA and HORA.

At the annual meeting held on January 22, 1966 , Franklin Roberts, an advertising executive and theatrical entrepreneur, was elected president to succeed Margaret Walsh.

A decision was soon made to incorporate the new association. Articles of incorporation were filed with the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court (as was the procedure in those days) and the decree granting the requested charter was issued on January 10, 1967 . At the February 17, 1967 annual meeting Philip Price, Jr., a young lawyer, was elected president. He was in turn succeeded by David Stevens, a SmithKline & French executive, on January 17, 1968 , and he in turn was succeeded by yet another young lawyer, Paul Putney, on January 14, 1969 . Presidents served for one year only in those early days.

The merger was a confirmed success. One factor in uniting the community was, as frequently happens, a major threat from the outside. In early 1965 plans were revealed for the construction of Interstate 95 with its multiple lanes of traffic. It was to be built on an embankment as it came through the historic area of the city, and would cut off Society Hill and the rest of the historic district on the west from the Delaware River which gave birth to the city. It was a very bad idea, but the silver lining was that it gave the new civic association an opening task in which the constituencies of the two previous associations were united in their enthusiasm to fight the highway engineers.

From the start there were also the issues arising from the development of the remaining large open parcels of land in Society Hill. Among the earliest examples were the plans for (i) what is now Penn's Landing Square (originally destined to be a federal Food and Drug Administration laboratory), (ii) what are now Bingham Court, Blackwell Court, Delancey Mews and Lawrence Court and (iii) the commercial uses on the 300 block of South Fifth Street.

History from 1969 to present to be added in the near future.  Please check back at a later date.

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Franklin Lamp

  ©2007 Society Hill Civic Association
P.O. Box 63503 Philadelphia, PA 19147
Phone: 215-629-1288 Fax: 215-629-9914
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