Putting the spotlight on yet another lesser-known history of Philadelphia, Hidden City features Bradley Peniston’s insight into the man who gave his name to Clark Park in University City.
A Rhode Island native, Clarence Howard Clark moved to Philadelphia in 1837 when he was just four years old. Following a period of financial troubles, his father, Enoch W. Clark, went onto become a millionaire (he even had a hand in financing the Mexican-American War). Clark eventually joined his father’s firm and became partner at just 25 in 1858.
The 1860s saw Clark leading the way in what would become a general exodus out of the city and into its outskirts by the Philadelphia upper-class. He started by buying, developing, and selling land in West Philadelphia, ultimately moving into the area himself. What would soon become Clark Park had been under his ownership for years, but it wasn’t until later that he proposed actually doing something with the land that had since become an unofficial public dump:
[Clark] faced a municipal tax assessment against the $16,925.35 (about $500,000 today) cost of paving the adjacent streets. In 1894, he proposed a novel arrangement for payment: swap land for taxes.
This “land for taxes” proposal was not a bad one: the growing West Philadelphia population had quadrupled, and parkland was a much needed feature in the area. On June 11th, City Council granted Clark permission “to place on the public plan for park purposes a plot of ground in the Twenty-seventh Ward to be known as Clarence H. Clark park.”
Peniston provides a list of Clark’s achievements, some of the more notable being:
• Business partner of civil war financier Jay Cooke
• Co-founder of the Union League
• President of the Fidelity Trust Company
• Founding supporter of the Penn Museum, University of the Arts, and Philadelphia Museum of Art
• And perhaps most pertinently, developer who helped turn farmland into West Philly rowhouses
Meanwhile, in other news…
Philly’s good luck charm moving to new skyscraper [the Associated Press]
Acme to close two area stores [Philadelphia Business Journal]
The Arden Group Acquires Four Falls for $44.3M [CoStar Group]
Moving van arrives at Atlantic Club [the Associated Press]