Workshop of the World

stories of industry in & around Philadelphia

Phillips Knitting Mill, c.1877
4951 Wakefield Street, Philadelphia PA 19144

Harold E. Spaulding, Workshop of the World (Oliver Evans Press, 1990).

Boas Phillips' two-story brick knitting mill was constructed in the rear of the lot that also contained his residence. According to an 1880 description by Blodget, the building was powered by a 10 h.p. steam engine, driving ten powered glove knitters, and six powered broad frames (a flat, as opposed to a circular, knitting machine). Blodget's description also indicated that Phillips produced 600 dozen pairs of gloves and 50 dozen jackets per week.

Originally, Phillips' address was Wakefield and Mehl Streets, even though Mehl was about 660 feet north of his home. He was the third mill and dwelling builder below Wister Street, preceded by Fergus Perry in 1871 and Isaac Springthorpe in 1876. Phillips was listed in City Directories as living at Hockins Street near Armat Street in 1872 and 1873. As Wakefield Street developed, other streets appeared that intersected it and by the 1890s, enough housing appeared to make numbering necessary. Phillips received 4951.

Phillips died in 1902. His eldest son, Boas, Jr. carried on until c.1916. In 1917, Boas, Sr's. wife, Elizabeth died, aged 80. About 1923, the house and land it stood upon were sold to small masonry contractor, whose two daughters occupied the house as of 1989. An easement and the property to the rear (including the small plant), were sold to C. Walker Jones, an electrical contractor, who had also purchased the adjacent small plant and dwelling—the Perseverance Mill of Thomas W. Greaves. By 1955, North Peen Roofing and Heating Company owned this combined property.

Of the four small mills that operated on Wakefield Street south of Wister in the late nineteenth century, three—Springthorpe's, Phillips', and Greaves, remain; they now serve as warehouses and an electrical contractor's shop. North of Wister, along Wakefield, Bringhurst, and Ashmead Streets, as many as thirteen small mills were once in operation at the same time. All have vanished.

Update May 2007 (by Linny Schenk & Michael Parrington):
The two-story brick building is derelict.