Mystery Waterfront

Docked Ship

Unknown ship at an unknown dock

Unknown Waterfront Area

Unknown Waterfront Area

Among the items I inherited from my Great Aunt Alma were two old albums that had belonged to my Great Grandmother, Bertha ‘Becky’ Treffeisen. One of these, apparently from about 1912 to 1914, contained several photos that had been taken near what appeared to be a waterfront or a wharf. I had no idea of the specific location, but because Becky had lived in Philadelphia, I suspected they had been taken somewhere in that city.

In one photo there’s a ship docked next to a building with a gabled roof in a very industrial-looking area. In another, there appears to be three buildings next to a bridge with a very unusual rounded profile.

Atlantic Tugboat

The tugboat Atlantic hosts a large group

In another photo, what appears to be a tugboat named Atlantic is crowded with people and flying flags and banners. I noticed the same unusual bridge that was in the other photo, along with those three buildings on the side of the waterfront – one slightly taller, one slightly shorter, and one with a gabled roof. I now knew that these photos were taken near the same location, but I still didn’t know where.

One of the banners on the tugboat photo said “Atlantic” and another said “Atlantic Refining”. In 1917, when Becky’s husband Clarence Massey had provided information for his draft registration, he had stated that he was an “optometrist hospital assistant”, working for Atlantic Refining Co. at Point Breeze, Philadelphia. If this was an Atlantic Refining event, perhaps it was taken at that location.

Atlantic Refining Company

Atlantic Refining Company plant, 3314 Passyunk Avenue, Point Breeze, Philadelphia.

A Google search turned up a set of photos of the Atlantic Refining Company plant, dating from 1926 in the Digital Collections of The Library Company of Philadelphia. Included in these photos was one that was exactly what I needed. This photo shows the same bridge with the unique profile, along with the same three buildings – one slightly taller, one slightly shorter, and one with a gabled roof. I had found the location!

Current View of Passyunk Avenue Bridge from Google Maps

So what does the site look like today? I looked up the address of the plant in Google Maps and zoomed in, eventually locating the exact spot. Although the original bridge has been replaced, you can still see the same three buildings.

Based upon this research, I now know that these waterfront photos were taken at or near the Atlantic Refining Company Plant, along the Schuylkill River, just south of the Passyunk Avenue Bridge, in Philadelphia. Becky was probably there for corporate sponsored events at the invitation of her future husband, Clarence Massey, an employee at the plant.

Note that Atlantic Refining Company later merged with Richfield Oil Corp. to become Atlantic Richfield, now known as ARCO.

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This entry was posted in family history, family photos, family tree, genealogy, photo identification, photo preservation and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Mystery Waterfront

  1. northstorm says:

    That unusual bridge, was the old passyunk avenue drawbridge, built in 1911 and went under rehabilitation, and the new passyunk avenue bridge was completed in 1983, the highway drawbridge.

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