Sunday, April 19, 2015

Historic Bristol Day to open shipbuilders' homes

Nearly a century ago, the Harriman District was buzzing with the building of ships -- and homes for the workers and supervisors. On Saturday, four of the private homes will be open for tours, as part of the annual celebration of the Bristol's history.

Historic Bristol Day to open shipbuilders' homes

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One of four Harriman houses open for Saturday's tour. This house at 263 West Circle, built in 1917, is an example of a single-family dwelling provided for superintendents, foremen and executives of the Merchant Shipbuilding Corp. (Bristol Cultural & Historical Foundation)

The Harriman District of Bristol Borough, site of the Merchant Shipyard Corp. nearly a century ago, will be the focus of the 36th Historic Bristol Day on Saturday.

The 90th anniversary of the annexation of the historic district will be celebrated with four open houses,  narrated trolley tours, an antique car show, a sailboat regatta on the Delaware River, a Children’s Corner, exhibits, entertainment, vendors, and a food court.  

The four private houses on the tour were among those built in the town of Harriman from 1917 to 1921 for employees of the shipbuilding company. They are:

274 East Circle:  Built in 1917. An example of one of the small boarding houses or dormitories that housed 20 shipyard workers.  The center portion of the structure was used for dining.

311 Hayes Street: Built in 1917.  Two families lived in the ground-floor apartment; two on the floor above. The building plan provided a one-floor dwelling without stairs to minimize housework and other physical exertion.  Each apartment had a separate entrance, giving the families privacy. A porch on the left side has been removed, creating the appearance of a one-family home.

345 Monroe Street: Built in 1918. Part of a four-family dwelling, each having two levels and a porch.  A room has replaced the outside front porch.

263 West Circle: Built in 1917. An example of a single-family dwelling provided for superintendents, foremen and executives of the Merchant Shipbuilding Corp.

Tickets for the house and trolley tours and a tea cost $10 for adults and $5 for ages 6-12 when bought in advance and $12 and $6 on Saturday.

Other buildings open for free are:   

Harriman United Methodist Church, 1700 Wilson Ave.: Exhibit titled,  Harriman and the Merchant Shipbuilding Corp.: The Rise of a Community. A 19-minute video, Discover Us!, showcasing Bristol Borough. In the afternoon, meet W.Averell Harriman, founder of the Merchant Shipbuilding Corp., portrayed by John Roche. Light lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Margaret R. Grundy Memorial Museum, 610 Radcliffe St.: The former home of Margaret R. Grundy and her brother, Joseph R. Grundy, industrialist, U.S. Senator, and nationally known politician.  The museum is considered an excellent example of the décor and furnishings of a fineVictorian residence. Tours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  On the museum porch from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., John Roche will portray W. Averell Harriman, founder of the Merchant Shipbuilding Corp.

Margaret R. Grundy Memorial Library, 680 Radcliffe St.: The library will host an exhibit, Harriman and the Merchant Shipbuilding Corporation: The Rise of a Community.

Bristol Riverside Theatre, 120 Radcliffe St.: Take a behind-the-scenes tour from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. as the cast prepares for its second production of the season, What A Glorious Feeling.

National Penn Bank, 200 Radcliffe St.: See an art exhibit of Joseph Sagolla, and a display of Byers’ Choice carolers.

Wells Fargo Bank, 244 Radcliffe St.: Exhibit on the Bracken Cavaliers Junior Drum & Bugle Corps of the Robert W. Bracken American Legion Post No. 382 of Bristol, organized in 1924, and the first junior corps in the country.

Bristol First United Methodist Church, 201 Mulberry St.: Founded in 1788.  The building was erected in 1895.

St. James Episcopal Church, 225 Walnut St.: The church dates from 1712, although the present structure was not completed until 1858. See the graves of prominent Bristol residents and 39 Civil War veterans in the cemetery.

The Antique Car Show and exhibit will focus on the 19 makes of cars sold at 24 dealerships in Harriman from 1926 through 1967. The show, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., will be at Trenton Avenue between Garfield and Harrison streets.

The tea will be served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Riverfront Yard, 922 Radcliffe St., overlooking the Delaware River.

Advance tickets are available at Great IDs by Anne, 257 Radcliffe St.; Mignoni Jewelry Store, 200 Mill St.; the Mill Street Pharmacy, 416 Mill St.; and the Borough Tax Office, 250 Pond St.  On Saturday,  tickets will be sold at the Bristol Wharf and Bristol High School in Harriman.

For more information about Historic Bristol Day, go to or call 215-781-9895.

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About this blog
Chris Palmer covers Bucks County for the Philadelphia Inquirer. His previous work has appeared in the New York Times and on several Times blogs, including City Room, the Local East Village and SchoolBook (which has since been taken over by WNYC). Contact him at, 610 313 8212 or on Twitter, @cs_palmer.

Ben Finley covers Bucks County for The Philadelphia Inquirer. He previously worked for The Associated Press, and the Bucks County Courier Times, where he won more than a dozen journalism awards from organizations including the Education Writers Association, the Society for Features Journalism and the Pennsylvania Bar Association. He grew up in Columbus, Ohio and graduated with honors from The Ohio State University with a degree in journalism. Contact him at, 610-313-8118 or on Twitter, @Ben_Finley.

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