MARBLE COURT: A FORGOTTEN INDIAN CAMP GROUND IN CENTER CITY PHILADELPHIA?

Harry Kyriakodis Philadelphia was once reputed as the only city in the United States in which Native American camping grounds were established to accommodate Indians whenever they visited the city. Two such reservations were said to have been set aside in Philadelphia. The first was purportedly located in what is now Center City Philadelphia, near the southeast corner of Broad and Walnut Streets. (I present the tale of Philadelphia's second alleged Native American reserve in another piece: "The Wampum Lot: A Legendary Indian Camp Ground in Old City Philadelphia.") According to Philadelphia lore, the first Indian campsite in Philadelphia was established by William Penn for the exclusive use and perpetual ownership of members of the Six Nations of Indians, also called the Iroquois. Both local and visiting Native American delegations could freely erect a teepee, smoke a calumet pipe, and make treaties at that location while in the city. The open plot of land could never be built upon, as per tradition. Not much is known about the details of Penn's supposed land grant, including when it was made. Was it during the founder of Pennsylvania's first visit to America (1682 to 1684) or his second (1699 to 1701)? Or was it a subsequent bequest of some sort? The courtyard-like tract still exists as a secluded paved area directly behind the former Ritz-Carlton Hotel at 201 South Broad Street. (Designed by Horace Trumbauer, the 17-story tower was completed in 1911. The University of the Arts purchased the building in 1997 and renovated its interior into classroom and studio spaces, naming the building "Terra Hall." A Robinson Luggage store is on the ground floor.) The rectangular space under discussion was identified as "Marble Court" by the mid-19th century, although the origin of the name is unknown. Marble Court is 85 by 50 feet and is fully enclosed by buildings, except for two ten-foot-wide alleys that connect it to the Philadelphia street grid. One of these cartways is a short stretch of South Watts Street that runs along the back of Terra Hall from Walnut Street and enters Marble Court on the north. Watts Street does not continue through the small square towards Locust Street. The alley stops short of connecting to Marble Court from the south by about a dozen feet because a part of the parking garage fronting Juniper Street juts out to where Watts Street would be. Most atlases indicate that Watts Street never went all the way through to Locust Street, but some maps suggest otherwise.

L: JOHN PAXTON'S NEW PLAN OF THE CITY AND ITS ENVIRONS (1810), WITH MARBLE COURT, UNIDENTIFIED, AT BOTTOM; R: SYDNEY, SMITH & WISTAR MAP (1849), SHOWING "MARBLE CT"

The other entry to the quadrangle is Chancellor Street, a Belgian-blocked alleyway off of Juniper Street on the east. Chancellor Street adds another ten feet to the width of Marble Court. Both of these stretches of Watts and Chancellor streets had different names in the past; Chancellor Street may have been called "Indian Lane" at one time. A 1922 atlas even labeles Marble Court as "Indian Reservation." Along with its history and dimensions, Marble Court was referenced in a 1947 decision of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. The personal injury case Hall v. Robert Hawthorne Co., 161 Pa.Super. 470, 55 A.2d 557 (1947), includes the following:
Chancellor Street (also known as Indian Lane) in the city of Philadelphia, begins at Juniper Street, between Walnut and Locust, and runs east and west, and at the latter end enters Marble Court,1 also known as Indian Reservation.2 The northern curb of Chancellor Street continues past Marble Court and intersects the eastern curb of a narrow street known as Watts Street. The length of Chancellor Street to the eastern line of Marble Court is 100 feet. The street is paved and curbed, the cartway being about 7 feet, with a paved footwalk about 18 inches wide along each curb, so that the buildings on each side of Chancellor Street are within 18 inches of the cartway curb.
1 2

A space approximately 90 x 45 feet. Originally laid out as a trailer camp for Indian tepees.

Stouffer's Restaurant fronts on the east side of Broad Street and extends easterly to Marble Court on the line of Watts Street. To the north of Stouffer's Restaurant is the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, also fronting on Broad Street and extending to the line of Watts Street and the line of Marble Court.

It seems that plaintiff Arthur Hall was walking west on Chancellor Street, having just entered the alley from Juniper Street, when a truck owned by the Robert Hawthorne Company turned onto Chancellor Street so as to exit Marble Court. As the truck approached him heading east, Hall stepped onto the 18inch-wide sidewalk on the north side of Chancellor Street. But he did not see that the truck bed extended beyond the wheels and occupied the space above the sidewalk until it was too late. Hall was crushed between the truck bed and a building on Chancellor Street as the truck passed. Hawthorne claimed that Hall was contributory negligent in that he flattened himself against the wall without knowing whether there was sufficient clearance between himself and the truck. Hawthorne further asserted that Hall should have moved into one of the doorways on the north side of Chancellor Street, or should have retreated to Juniper Street when he saw that there was insufficient clearance. In affirming the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas No. 4, the Pennsylvania Superior Court determined that Hall was confronted with a sudden emergency, not caused by his own conduct, which required a rapid decision and which was a factor in determining the reasonableness of his choice of action. His possible conduct in this situation was thus a question for the jury. As such, the lower court could not say as a matter of law that Hall was testing a known danger. The scene today along Chancellor Street is still exactly the same as that described in Hall v. Robert Hawthorne.

1875 PHILADELPHIA ATLAS (G. M. HOPKINS), SHOWING MARBLE COURT

1895 PHILADELPHIA ATLAS (G. W. BROMLEY)

Two years earlier, the following appeared in Philadelphia, Holy Experiment (Doubleday, Doran & Co., 1945), by Maxwell Struthers Burt:
Philadelphia, at all events, is the only city in the United States which has an Indian camping ground in its very midst, and in perpetuity. That it has never been used for this purpose is something else, although it has long been a matter of debate, among Philadelphians who know of it, what the police would do if some itinerant brave and his family decided to put up wigwams and light a cooking fire. An enticing legal question. Meanwhile, the Indians would be very uncomfortable unless they were used to roughing it, for the plot is paved with cinders and surrounded by tall buildings. It is in what is now the business center of the city, at Broad and Walnut streets, directly behind the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

The scenario Burt suggests more or less plays out in The Worlds of Chippy Patterson (Harcourt Brace, 1960). This lively work by Arthur H. Lewis tells the life story of Christopher Stuart "Chippy" Patterson, Jr., a colorful criminal defense attorney who came from a socially-prominent family yet spent his career representing poor Philadelphians in the early 20th century. Lewis researched and wrote about Patterson in the 1950s and relates the following events that occurred in 1926 while Philadelphia was hosting the Sesqui-Centennial International Exposition:
On a lazy July afternoon that summer, an ancient Indian pitchman set up shop in a little alley [Watts Street] on Walnut Street, just off Broad, near the side entrance of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. The Redskin and the unwashed dog which slept fitfully at his master's feet were contributing factors to the general aroma, much of which was wafted into the elegant lobby of the hotel itself. Strung carelessly between two bedraggled feathers dangling limply from the Chief's tarnished headdress was his peddler's license. For that privilege to hawk rattlesnake oil on the Sesqui grounds or elsewhere in Philadelphia, he had paid $10 to the city fathers. Business at the gates to the Exhibition where he first set up shop was so bad he decided to move to another site. He may or may not have known why he chose this particular spot, which for a hundred years or more has been a favorite location for mendicants, street hawkers, and Indian pitchmen, who usually were allowed to peddle their wares unmolested by the police department. Occasionally the Indian would glance down lovingly at the animal who was not merely his best but his only friend. Then the pitchman would look about him in utter disgust, gazing from unfriendly passersby who ignored him to the haughty hotel doorman who was staring at him viciously.

The Native American peddler started drinking in the alley of Watts Street and suddenly let out a huge drunken whoop. The outburst attracted much attention from bystanders, which included Christopher Patterson, fellow attorney Ben Lemisch, and City Solicitor Abraham Wernick. The hawker's howl also raised the ire of the Ritz-Carlton's assistant manager, who alerted a local traffic cop and demanded that the aged Indian be arrested for disturbing the peace.

The case was quickly brought before local magistrate Ferd Zweig, with Patterson representing the Indian for nothing:
"Has counsel for the defense any reply to the charge?" asked Zweig. "Your Honor," answered Chippy, "my distinguished colleague and I admit everything." The Chief looked utterly crestfallen, the policeman disappointed, and the audience depressed. Magistrate Zweig appeared puzzled. "You don't leave me much of an alternative. Do you want me to fine the Chief or send him to jail?" "On the contrary, Your Honor," Chippy replied. "The Indian was within his legal rights to give that whoop." "Come, come, Mr. Patterson. That would constitute disorderly conduct on a public thoroughfare." "But, Your Honor, this Indian was not on a public thoroughfare." "Not on a public thoroughfare, Mr. Patterson?" queried the magistrate. "Where did you make the arrest, Jack?" "Near the southeast corner of Broad and Walnut Streets where Watts cuts into Marble Court," Gahagan answered. "Now if that ain't city property why I'll . . . I'll . . "Your Honor," Chippy went on, "the spot where the Chief gave his war cry is not city property. It is an Indian reservation." "Wait a minute, counselor," remonstrated the startled magistrate. "You're not going to hand me that old fairy tale about Penn's Marble Court Indian Reservation back of the Ritz, are you? I've heard that one ever since I was a kid." "It is no fairy tale, Your Honor. We'll prove it to you. I've asked Mr. Wernick to have the city solicitor's office prepare a certified copy of the original deed, and you'll see that our client acted entirely within his legal rights. It will take a few hours to prepare, Your Honor. In the meantime, I'd appreciate it if you would continue the case until tomorrow morning."

1922 PHILADELPHIA ATLAS (G. W. BROMLEY), SHOWING "INDIAN RESERVATION" FOR MARBLE COURT

The parties then return to the scene of the crime:
Squeezing its way through a narrow corridor, 10 feet wide and 98 feet long, which fronted on Walnut Street between Juniper and Broad, the mob surged into Marble Court, a wide, blind alley the hotel used for deliveries. This was the "reservation." While the pitchman set up shop deep inside the "reservation," Lemisch slipped into the hotel, apprised the manager of the last half hour's events, and got his promise that the Indian would be unmolested. When Magistrate Zweig convened court the following morning, the room was jammed to capacity. A smiling Indian, pockets lined with yesterday's unexpected take, sat between his two lawyers. The magistrate turned to Patterson and Lemisch. "Gentlemen," he said, barely concealing a smile on his cherubic face, "how does your client plead?" "Not guilty," replied Lemisch. "Go ahead, then." "Your Honor," Chippy said, "in order to save time we are prepared to admit the Chief gave out with a whoop. However, we would like to call Jack Gahagan to the stand to establish the position where our client was arrested." Zweig nodded his head and the policeman took the stand. "Exactly where was the Chief when you arrested him?" Patterson asked. "He was standing on Walnut Street just off the sidewalk in a little alley called Watts Street, about thirty feet from the southeast corner." "Now, Jack, Mr. Wernick has a map showing the area surrounding Broad and Walnut Streets. Will you mark an X on the spot where the Chief was standing?" The chief clerk unfolded a large piece of parchment, which he put in front of the policeman. The policeman gazed at it for a moment or two, then placed the X as Patterson requested. "Your Honor," Chippy said to Magistrate Zweig, "this map was made by the Bureau of Engineering and Surveys under the direction of the city solicitor. It is drawn to scale. If you will note the spot marked X, you'll see it was placed on lots eleven eighteen to eleven twentyone inclusive." "I see," nodded Zweig. "These lots are not on the city plan because they are not city property. They were part of a tract of land originally owned by the Penns and set aside by them in sixteen eighty-two as a reservation for visiting Indians, to be held in fee simple." "This is all very interesting, gentlemen," Zweig said, "and I've done a bit of research myself since last we met. You've dug up some fascinating history, but unfortunately for your client it is not legally sound." "Why do you say that?" asked Patterson. "Because, counselor, this and other so-called reservations and grants of the Penns were adequately disposed of in the Divesting Act of November twenty-seventh, seventeen seventynine under which the Commonwealth became the owner of as much of the soil of Pennsylvania as was still held by the Penns. That ought to take care of lots eleven eighteen to eleven twenty-one even if they aren't on the city plan." "But it doesn't, Judge," remonstrated Patterson. "Go ahead," Zweig said. "At the time the Divesting Act was passed, the Revolution was still in progress. The purpose of the Act was to get funds for the Army. Thousands of acres of land, including lots eleven eighteen to eleven twenty-one, were pledged as security and funds borrowed upon them. They were still not permitted to be sold until a subsequent Act of the Legislature granted the Commonwealth the right to dispose of them at public auction. The first buyer was Joseph Ogden, who paid one hundred and sixty-four pounds for them October eleventh, seventeen eighty-one."

Chippy paused and looked up at the magistrate, who nodded his head. Then Chippy continued. "On June fourteenth, seventeen eighty-two, a patent was issued conveying these lots to Ogden. We won't bore you with their history except to say they've changed hands many times since seventeen eighty-two." "What's the point of your argument, Mr. Patterson?" Zweig asked. "You and your colleague have proven the Commonwealth had a right to acquire lands and subsequently sell them to Ogden." "That's true, Your Honor. The sale to Ogden was perfectly legal, but Ogden's heirs and executors had no right to dispose of them." "Why?" "Because, Judge, when the patent was issued to Ogden there was an additional stipulation— that Ogden pay to the Treasury of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on the first day of September, and in every year thereafter, a rental of one acorn. That rental was never paid." "Can you prove this?" "At the moment, Your Honor, my evidence is hearsay, but if I may call Mr. Wernick to the stand I think he will give us some enlightening information." The magistrate looked questioningly at Wernick. "Is this true, Abe?" he asked. "Don't bother taking the stand, because at this point I believe my humble court is being called upon to perform functions not granted it by the Legislature." "So help me, Ferd," Abe answered. "The story is true. I verified it a couple of years ago."

As it turns out, the so-called chief was not a Native American, but an immigrant Lithuanian Jew. Thus, he could not take advantage of the protection that Marble Court ostensibly offered him. So, did all this really happen? It's hard to say for sure. Arthur Lewis was a reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer and the author of several non-fiction best-sellers. He writes at the beginning of Chippy Patterson: "Reported conversations included herein have been examined, whenever possible, by the actual participants and are as accurate as individual memory and the passage of time allow." Whatever the case, it will be shown below that Mr. Patterson's defense argument was faulty anyway.

1962 LAND USE MAP

The story of Marble Court figures in another book, this time a novel: The Doctor Digs a Grave, by Robin Hathaway (St. Martin's Press, 1998). In this Agatha-Christie-like mystery, cardiologist Andrew Fenimore comes across a teenager, Horatio, looking for a place to bury his dead cat. The Philadelphia doctor is familiar with Marble Court and takes the teen there:
On Saturday there were few shoppers on Walnut Street and no commuters to get in their way. The boy walked behind Fenimore, Indian file. Fenimore turned only once to make sure was still there. Between Broad and Thirteenth, he stopped at the entrance to a narrow alley flanked by two buildings, a cart track long ago. On the wall of the facing building, the words "Watts Street" were carved deeply into the stone, a reminder of more permanent times. He turned in. The boy followed. The alley ended in a small open space—a swath of hard-packed dirt walled in on three sides by tall buildings. The only occupant of the area were a couple of pigeons and a gray van. The pigeons took off with a rush of wings and Fenimore noted the license tag on the van: SAL123. He wouldn't be apt to forget that. His cat's name was Sal and her litters never exceeded three. "This was an old burial ground set aside over three hundred years ago by William Penn for Indian. . . er. . . Native Americans," Fenimore explained, "and the deed still prevents anyone from building here or paving over the ground. People shouldn't be allowed to park here. The Lenape Indians have unmarked graves, but there should be a historic marker or sign." He made a mental note to bring this to the attention of the Historical Society soon. But for his present purpose, it was better to have the place unmarked, anonymous. A historic secret. "Only a few people know about this place," Fenimore told the boy. "Just the Lenapes and a few history buffs like me." The boy looked down. The ground was smooth and black and hard. But not macadam. Real dirt, packed down by feet and tires.

Marble Court is regarded as an old Indian graveyard—not campground—throughout the novel, but this discrepancy is later resolved. Furthermore, it is understandable that the author changed the surface of the ground to dirt for purposes of the story, as the real Marble Court is paved. Note, also, that the longestablished name of the place is not mentioned anywhere in the volume. Dr. Fenimore and Horatio find a spot in the isolated quad for a grave for the cat, but the dirt is too hard to dig with the toy shovel Horatio brought with him. So the two return later with a shovel. On the way, Fenimore explains how the land that Philadelphia occupies was once populated by the Lenni-Lenape of the Delaware Valley:
"A few settlers treated the Native Americans fairly. Paid with goods for the land they took, instead of just stealing it. The most famous, of course, was William Penn." "That dude on top of City Hall?" Fenimore nodded. "He was an honest man and made a treaty with the Indians that stipulated—" "Huh?" "He saw to it that certain Indian burial grounds remained sacred and no one was allowed to build on them, like this one we're headed for now." They paused at Broad Street for the light. "Somehow, through all the growth and change in this huge city, that little plot has remained intact." They crossed and came to the alley. Fenimore started to turn in, but Horatio hung back. "What's wrong?" "Are there. . . Indians buried there now?" "Yes, but they're nothing but dust." "But their ghosts. . .?" "Don't worry." The doctor smiled and shook the spade. "I'll take care of them."

While digging the grave, Fenimore discovers the body of a young woman buried very recently in a sitting position and facing east in the customary manner of the Lenni-Lenape. And so the mystery begins for the amateur-sleuth doctor. The dead woman turns out to be a non-traditional (i.e. westernized) Lenape who was more or less poisoned. Her brother, a traditional Lenape Indian who the police considered a suspect, clarifies the historic purpose of Marble Court for Dr. Fenimore at the very end of The Doctor Digs a Grave:
He turned back to Fenimore. "I'm glad you came. I wanted to clear up something with you. "Yes?" "That place where you found my sister?" "The old burial ground." "It is not a burial ground. That is a popular belief among the wacechus [white men]. It is a camp ground. Look at the deed again. As soon as you told me that, I knew a white man was to blame. No Lenape would bury anyone there."

The legend of the Marble Court Indian Reservation is thus reaffirmed in this work of fiction. Since Penn's alleged grant was made in perpetuity, the site may very well still be a Native American camp ground. Yet there is no indication that Marble Court was ever used as a camping site by any Indian group or individual. And today, it is hardly a place where any self-respecting Native American would want to spread a blanket and build a campfire. Despite being celebrated in books and even a judicial opinion, Marble Court is most surely one of the most forlorn and fearsome places in Philadelphia. Dented cars and trucks are typically parked in the shabby courtyard during the day. Litter is all over the ground, and graffiti abounds on the surrounding buildings. The rear entrances of several eateries line the quadrangle and its connecting alleys, so the kitchen grease and food waste accumulated on the crumbling asphalt stinks up the place—not to mention the dozen or so dumpsters in the vicinity. Rusty razor wire drapes off the parking garage immediately on the east, making this spot seem even more perilous. (The garage was built in 1949 on the site of Library Company of Philadelphia's "uptown branch" building, designed by Frank Furness and erected in 1879-80.) Looming large overhead is the former Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

L: WATTS STREET, LOOKING SOUTH FROM WALNUT STREET R: CHANCELLOR STREET, LOOKING WEST FROM JUNIPER STREET

Still, the next time you walk east on Walnut Street from the Avenue of the Arts, turn right into Watts Street, a narrow alley just a few steps from Broad Street. Walk quickly as you enter the grimy plaza and be careful where you trod. Hold your breath as you survey the dumpsters and debris. Stay alert and be reassured if you happen to be carrying a baseball bat. And don't bother looking for a marker of any sort that explains the site's unusual story. Curiosity satisfied, exit Marble Court with haste via Chancellor Street to Juniper Street, but beware of any approaching vehicles that may squash you against a wall. There: a full tour of a faded fabled Philadelphia place.

MARBLE COURT TODAY, LOOKING SOUTHEAST But is the story of Marble Court true? Did William Penn deed away this property to the Six Nations as a camp site in perpetuity? Well, very likely not. An exhaustive report on both of Philadelphia's purported Indian campsites casts doubt that either one was ever a Native American reservation. Published in 1940 and called "Tradition and Fact of the Indian Camp Grounds," the study was authored by a real estate lawyer, Michael P. McGeehan, who was commissioned by the Welcome Society of Pennsylvania to investigate the two celebrated properties. He conducted a thorough title search on both tracts in 1938 and published his report in Records and Activities; Charter, By-Laws, Officers, Members, Minutes; Indian Camp Grounds; Hall of Fame; Pennsbury (The Welcome Society of Pennsylvania, 1940). McGeehan methodically proves that William Penn did not grant any land in the vicinity of Broad and Walnut Streets to any Native American group or person. He begins his analysis:
Now and then, some newspaper columnist, hard pressed for an item to fill his daily stint, retells the story that William Penn or his descendants laid out the court in the rear of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel and its neighboring buildings as a reservation for visiting Indians. It is an interesting story and widely believed, but, alas for the lovers of legend, it is not true. The court has a much more prosaic history.

In the spring of 1808, three Philadelphia lawyers acquired a large parcel of real estate and a problem. The real estate was at the southeast corner of Broad and Walnut Streets and the problem was how to subdivide it into salable building lots which they could partition among themselves in severalty. They solved the problem by laying out the court and the two narrow streets communicating with it. By doing this, they were able to plot the remainder of the real estate into lots fronting respectively on Broad, Walnut and Juniper Streets and to provide each lot with a rear outlet. They gave no thought to the comfort of visiting Indians and, no doubt, they would have been greatly amused had they been told that in the days to come some credulous souls would look upon their court as a hallowed place. At the time the lawyers solved their problem, Pennsylvania was no longer a Colony, but was a sovereign Commonwealth, William Penn had been in his grave for ninety years and twentynine years had passed since his descendants had been divested of their Proprietory rights by the Act of November 27, 1779.

The Divesting Act of 1779—"An Act for Vesting the Estates of the Late Proprietaries of Pennsylvania in this Commonwealth"—was referenced in the Chippy Patterson excerpt above. It allowed the Penn family to retain real estate that was deemed the former proprietary's personal property, while title to the remaining tracts passed to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. McGeehan continues:
Among the lots to which the Commonwealth acquired title by the Divesting Act, were four at the southeast corner of Broad and Walnut Streets. They were contiguous and, taken together, they had a frontage of two hundred and eleven feet on the east side of Broad Street and they extended eastward of that width, along the south side of Walnut Street, two hundred and fifty feet to the west side of a twenty-eight feet wide alley which later became known as Juniper Street. These lots were numbered respectively 1118, 1119, 1120 and 1121 on a plan which had been prepared by order of The [Supreme Executive] Council [of Philadelphia]. At the present time, we find within their bounds the large office building at Nos. 213 and 215 South Broad Street, together with its two story annex at No. 217; the Ritz-Carlton Hotel [201 South Broad Street]; all of the properties on the south side of Walnut Street between Watts and Juniper Streets; the northernmost one hundred and three feet in depth of the Philadelphia Library Company's property; the bed of the court and the beds of the two narrow streets now known respectively as Watts and Chancellor Streets. In pursuance of the directions contained in the two Acts of Assembly which we have mentioned, the four lots were offered at public sale on October 11, 1781, and were sold to Joseph Ogden, an innkeeper of the City, for the price of £176. In June of the following year, a Patent was issued conveying the lots to Ogden in fee and reserving a rent of one acorn to be paid to the Treasury of the Commonwealth on the first day of September in every year thereafter if the same should be demanded. Ogden held the lots until his death early in 1805 and on May 20, 1808, his heirs and executors sold them to Jonathan W. Condy, a lawyer, for five thousand five hundred dollars. Upon the following day, Condy and his wife executed two deeds, one to John H. Brinton, a lawyer, and the other to William H. Tod who was also a lawyer. In these deeds, it was recited that although Condy had purchased the lots in his own name only, Brinton and Tod had each paid one-third of the purchase money and that the three of them had divided the said lots "into three equal divisions" and had laid out, for their common use and convenience, two ten feet

wide alleys, one leading southward from Walnut Street and the other leading westward from the twenty-eight feet wide alley "commonly called Juniper Street," both communicating with a court fifty feet in breadth east and west and eighty-five feet in depth north and south which they had laid out also. By these deeds Condy and his wife conveyed to Brinton and to Tod their respective shares of the smaller lots into which the property had been divided and they granted to each of them "the common use and privilege of the said twenty-eight feet wide alley and the said two ten feet wide alleys and Court with or without Horses Cattle Carts and Carriages at all times hereafter forever.

FROM "TRADITION AND FACT OF THE INDIAN CAMP GROUNDS" (1938).

This is the plain and simple story of how and why the court was laid out. If we have found no Indian Reservation, we have at least recalled some half forgotten episodes of Pennsylvania history. It is probable that had Condy and his brother lawyers been able to obtain a right of way, they would have made Watts Street wider and continued it southward to Locust Street. Had that been done, there would have been no necessity for creating the court and we should not have had our legend. A plan of the partition made by Condy, Brinton and Tod accompanies this article and some notes of title follow. They may prove of value to those who have more than a passing interest in the matter.

And so, there you have it: the legend of Marble Court and the Indian reservation that never was. At least through Michael McGeehan's research, we now know when and why this strange enclosed area close to Broad and Walnut Streets was arranged, and why Watts Street doesn't connect to it from the south. Marble Court was simply the result of an ingenious plan, dating back to 1808, that met the challenge of splitting a large piece of property equally and equitably among three joint owners.

MARBLE COURT TODAY, LOOKING SOUTHWEST Mr. McGeehan's investigation echoes what Arthur Lewis later wrote in The Worlds of Chippy Patterson, particularly the part about Joseph Ogden and the rent of one acorn to the Pennsylvania Treasury every September first. In defending the illegitimate Indian before magistrate Zweig, Mr. Patterson posited that Ogden's heirs and executors had no right to dispose of the Marble Court property because Joseph never paid the annual acorn rent. But McGeehan reports that this acorn rental was reserved by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and due from Ogden only if the Commonwealth so demanded. There is no indication that Pennsylvania ever demanded an acorn as a yearly payment from Joseph Ogden—or his heirs, for that matter. And it is very unlikely that Pennsylvania would ever have made such a request. So Chippy Patterson's argument was essentially wrong.

Michael McGeehan never once mentions "Marble Court" as the name of the ground in question. This curious omission, whether purposeful or accidental, casts a slight cloud over his inquiry, given the apparent notoriety the place had for over a hundred years under the "Marble Court" appellation. Moreover, the real estate attorney doesn't bring up the possibility that William Penn simply allocated some land for Indian use far outside the settled part of early Philadelphia and corresponding to that modern-day locale. It could have been a verbal arrangement made almost a hundred years before the Divesting Act of 1779. Penn was a generous man, especially in his dealings with local Native Americans. He was also renowned for giving tracts of land in Philadelphia and elsewhere in Pennsylvania to deserving groups and individuals. But there is no evidence to support this intriguing possibility. Some 20th century Philadelphia guidebooks claim that it was John Penn, William's grandson, who gave the ground of Marble Court to an Indian group in 1755. But this assertion more properly attaches to the "Wampum Lot" campsite near Second and Walnut Streets. I have written a separate article on this other so-called Native American reservation in Philadelphia: "The Wampum Lot: A Legendary Indian Camp Ground in Old City Philadelphia."

RESOURCES:
• Bulletin of the Friends Historical Association, vol. 12, no. 1 (Spring 1923), pages 2426. Francis Burke Brandt & Henry Volkmar Gummere, Byways and Boulevards In and About Historic Philadelphia (Philadelphia, PA: Corn Exchange National Bank, 1925), pages 38, 74-75. Imogen B. Oakley, Six Historic Homesteads (1935), pages 157-158. Federal Writers' Project & Pennsylvania Historical Commission, Philadelphia: A Guide to the Nation's Birthplace (Philadelphia, PA: William Penn Assn. of Philadelphia, 1937), page 19. Henry Paul Busch, comp. & ed., Records and Activities; Charter, By-Laws, Officers, Members, Minutes; Indian Camp Grounds; Hall of Fame; Pennsbury (Philadelphia, PA: The Welcome Society of Pennsylvania, 1940), containing "Tradition and Fact of the Indian Camp Grounds," by Michael P. McGeehan, Attorney at Law, pages 165-184. Daughters of the American Revolution magazine, Vol. 77 (1943). Maxwell Struthers Burt, Philadelphia, Holy Experiment (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Doran & Co., Inc., 1945), page 49. Hall v. Robert Hawthorne Co., Superior Court of Pennsylvania, 161 Pa.Super. 470, 55 A.2d 557 (1947). Arthur H. Lewis, The Worlds of Chippy Patterson (New York, NY: Harcourt Brace, 1960), pages 284294. Robin Hathaway, The Doctor Digs a Grave (A Dr. Andrew Fenimore Mystery) (St. Martin's Press, 1998), pages 6-7, 16-22, 258.

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