Though many Philadelphians lump Francisville in with Fairmount or Spring Garden, any resident will tell you the neighborhood’s history sets it apart.
In the late 1600s Francisville was home to “Springettsbury Manor,” an estate historians believe was home to William Penn’s personal vineyards.
After the turn of the century, a portion of the land came into the possession of Tench Francis, an agent of the Penn family and a cashier at the Bank of North America. In about 1805, Francis’ heirs began constructing roads perpendicular to Ridge Road – present-day Ridge Avenue – an ancient Native American trail.
The earliest record of a neighborhood called Francisville was not until 1839, leading historians to believe the original settlement was simply named “Vineyard.”
Francisville’s vineyard reputation continued for many years. In fact many long-term residents remember vines full of grapes. Penelope Giles, who grew up in Francisville, claims her childhood was full of grapes.
“There were so many grapes around the neighborhood that my mother used to make her own wine and I used to pick some grapes on my way home from school if I got hungry,” said Giles.
Unfortunately in the past few years electricians pulled the grapes down to put in phone wires. However, Giles and few other members of the Francisville Neighborhood Development Corp. planted grapes over the past year and hope to see them soon.