A Manayunk home distantly connected to the pop star Taylor Swift has been added to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places, but its addition has nothing to do with the “Bad Blood” singer.
So, haters, feel free to shake it off.
Rather, the Philadelphia Historical Commission on Friday voted to add 319 Green Lane to the city’s list of historic places due to a former owner, Charles Carmine Antonio Baldi — a prominent Philadelphia businessman and civic leader from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He’s also Swift’s great-great-grandfather on her father’s side.
The commission voted to add the home, currently a multi-use residence, on the ground that it is “associated with the life of a person significant in the past,” one of 10 possible specifications for the designation. Previously, Baldi was honored with the naming of the C.C.A. Baldi Middle School in Northeast Philadelphia in 1976.
“No history of Philadelphia in the early 20th century is without mention of Charles C.A. Baldi,” Baldi’s nomination, written by Philadelphia author and historian Celeste Morello, reads.
Born in 1862, Baldi was an Italian immigrant who came to Philadelphia around 1877. Initially, he worked as an interpreter for Italian railroad employees at the Schuylkill Valley Navigation & Railroad Co. before being promoted to paymaster at the company.
By 1886, Baldi had opened his own coal yard on Washington Avenue in South Philadelphia, which he operated until his death in 1930. Swift’s great-great-grandfather reportedly supplied the yard with coal from his own mine in Schuylkill County, and eventually made a fortune in the industry.
Baldi would go on to use his success in coal to start a number of other businesses in South Philadelphia, including a funeral home near Eighth Street and Washington, a bank at Eighth and Montrose Street, and an Italian-language daily newspaper, L’Opinione, which would be purchased by the Italian-language newspaper mogul Generoso Pope in the 1930s.
According to the authors of one 1915 study cited in the nomination, due to his success Baldi was considered the “only person of Italian ancestry categorized as a ‘big property owner'” in Philadelphia. The study states that he owned 24 properties and “45 buildings valued at $149,150,” at the time, with the buildings including a “‘hotel, factory, five stores, office building and a warehouse’ with additional income-producing properties.”
His success in business allowed Baldi to become a civic leader, particularly for what the nomination calls “Italian causes,” such as reducing literacy requirements for naturalization and lobbying for the establishment of Columbus Day as a national holiday. Baldi also became a prominent fund-raiser for the Republican Party, and participated in raising money for the presidential candidacies of William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, and William Howard Taft.
After marrying his wife, Louise, Baldi had several sons who themselves became notable Philadelphians in their own rights: Frederick Baldi (1886-1977), a physician and superintendent of Philadelphia County Prisons; State Rep. Charles Baldi Jr. (1890-1962); and State Rep. Joseph Baldi (1893-1970).
Additionally, Baldi’s great-grandson Charles G. Douglas III would go on to become a U.S. representative from New Hampshire and an associate justice on that state’s Supreme Court. Douglas is currently a trial lawyer in New Hampshire.
Baldi’s most famous descendant, however, is undoubtedly Swift, the Reading-native singer-songwriter. Swift earned $170 million in 2016 thanks to her musical pursuits, according to Forbes. Her most recent album, 1989, was released in 2014.
It’s not clear whether Baldi would have been a fan.