In writing the history of some of the old residences on Bloomingdale avenue, Wayne’s first real residential street, a number of deeds to those properties have come into the temporary possession of the writer of this column. These documents, commonly called “indentures” in the late 1800’s when these houses were being bought and sold, were impressive appearing records of the transfer of real estate. Although the word “indenture” as a synonym for “deed” is almost obsolete now, it is interesting to note that, according to the current Century Dictionary, it was defined as “a deed or agreement executed in two or more copies with edges correspondingly indented as a means of identification.” Thus from “indented” came “indenture.”
The first few lines of an indenture executed on August 25, 1881, is reproduced at the head of this column. It is a particularly interesting one because of the names still so clearly legible in it. “George W. Childs, of the city of Philadelphia, Publisher,” was the owner of the old “Public Ledger,” the man who in the 1870’s and 1880’s bough much Wayne property, on which he and Anthony J. Drexel built many of the sturdy and substantial homes still standing in this section.
Harry E. Corrie, whose name also appears on the indenture, was one of the first to purchase a home on Bloomingdale avenue. In May, 1881, he bought the house on the northwest corner of Lenoir and Bloomingdale avenues, recently described and illustrated in this column as the home of the late Dr. Henry G. Fisher and Mrs. Fisher [2016 note: written as “Fischer” in previous column].
A close perusal of this indenture indicates that it is a second deed to the property, made on August 25, 1881, about three months after the original deed was signed. It would seem that only the name of Anthony J. Drexel appeared on the first deed, whereas the ground on which the house had been built was held jointly by George W. Childs and Mr. Drexel. “Therefore doubt has arisen” according to a statement in the indenture “whether the said Anthony J. Drexel could grant and convey said tract of land… without the joinder of the said George W. Childs and Emma Bouvier, his wife.” So in order to “make the title of said premises sure and perfect,” Mr. Corrie presented Mr. and Mrs. Childs with “the sum of one dollar.” And in order that the Notary Public might in all good conscience affix his seal and signature to this second indenture, the latter states that “the said Emma Bouvier being of full age, by the previously examined separate and apart from her husband and the contents of said indenture being first fully made known to her, therefore declared that she did voluntarily and of her own free will and accord sign and seal and as her act and deed did deliver the said indenture without any coercion or compulsion on the part of her said husband.” (The language of lawyers is no less complicated today!)
But after a close perusal of our pages of legal sized paper on which the foregoing statements – and much more – had been written in a beautifully shaded and regular hand, this writer failed to discern the original price of the Corrie property! Presumably, it was approximately the same as that of the Eldridge [Note: spelt “Eldredge” previously] property, just across Lenoir avenue, which the original deed shows to be $6,000.
The indenture of June, 1881, conveying the property on the south-west corner of Bloomingdale and Lenoir avenues to Miss Emma Eldridge, from Mr. and Mrs. Anthony J. Drexel and from Mr. and Mrs. George W. Childs describes that property (which is now owned by Mr. and Mrs. Harry Black) as “all that certain lot or piece of ground with the brick messuage or tenement thereon erected…together with the free and common use, right, liberty and privilege of the said Bloomingdale avenue and the said 40 feet wide avenue with or without horses, cattle, carts and carriages at all times hereafter forever, but exclusive of the right and privilege of any roads or avenues not at present opened…” This “said 40 feet wide avenue” which is now Lenoir avenue, was evidently unnamed in 1881.
But if there were “privileges” unnamed in this indenture there were restrictions listed and described in no uncertain terms. Neither Miss Eldridge or her heirs were ever “to erect or build, or cause or permit to be erected or built upon the hereby granted lot of ground… any hotel, tavern, drinking saloon, blacksmith, carpenter or wheelwright shop, steam mill, tannery, slaughter house, skin dressing establishment, livery stable, glue, soap, candle or starch manufactories or other buildings for offensive purposes or occupations, nor shall any building thereon erected be converted into a hotel, tavern, drinking saloon,” etc. What is more, the Drexel and Childs interests reserved the right in case of any violations of these restrictions to “tear down, remove and abate all such buildings or manufactories as may be erected… or used contrary to the true intent and meaning of those present…” And in addition all the demolition would be “at the cost of the said party of the third part, her heirs or assignees,” etc.
Although the boundaries of their restrictions are a little vague, they seem to apply to all “said lots known and designated as Wayne” and sold by Drexel and Childs, which may well be news to their present day owners!