16 December 2015

Previous Owners: Frederick & Bertha Brandes (1920-1922)

This is one part of an ongoing series which examines the biographies of previous owners of either the house or land plot at 502 Central Ave, Glenside. If you are examining your own house's history, you will do well to take some time to focus specifically on each person-- you will learn more about them once you give them individual attention. But before that, you need to gather your land's ownership history by completing your chain of title (see how here). See posts on the chain of title research at my house for the broader context: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Frederick A. Brandes et ux, Bertha C. Brandes (June 4, 1920 to May 31, 1922)

Context:  Frederick Brandes and his wife, Bertha, were the first owners of this specific land plot after its creation as part of a larger land subdivision by Reginald Ferguson in 1919, taking ownership on June 4, 1920. They held title to the property for nearly two years until May 31, 1922 when they conveyed title to Jayson Stover and his wife. Their transactions on both the grantee and grantor ends of their ownership were for a consideration of $1 "and other good and valuable consideration." It is believed that no house existed on the property during this time period.

Frederick Brandes: Early Years

Frederick Adolph Brandes was born in Philadelphia, PA on November 6, 1892 as the youngest of at least three children to German-born naturalized U.S. citizens Adolph and Minnie Brandes (Note: Minnie reported in both the 1900 and 1910 censuses having 4 living children, I've only accounted for 3 to date). The family rented a unit in a multi-family apartment building at 916 North 3rd St in the Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia. Most of their neighbors were first-generation German, Austrian, or Hungarian immigrants, as many from this region of Eastern Europe took up a new life here in the years leading up to World War I.

916 N. 3rd St in Northern Liberties, today as part of a dog park called Orianna Hill Park. Image via Google Street View.
The Brandes men gravitated towards the skilled trades-- patriarch Adolph was a cabinet maker, while his older sons William and John became a goldsmith and a blacksmith, respectively. Frederick, much younger, had just celebrated his 11th birthday when his father died after complications from a stroke in late November 1903. By 1910, his mother Minnie had taken in a boarder and had taken on some work as a washwoman in the Northern Liberties apartment. Frederick remained with her there and worked as a brass shiner, perhaps having earned an apprenticeship in the metal trade with one of his father's or brother's associates.

Minnie Brandes passed away in 1914 from stomach cancer, and by 1917 Frederick had moved further north to the Hunting Park section of North Philadelphia, living at 3620 North 5th St. According to his WWI draft registration, he was employed by German-immigrant Henry Hauptfuhrer, a milk dealer at the corner of Lawrence St & Cambria St in the nearby Fairhill section. He did not serve in the Great War, likely due to "fallen arches" and a "fractured ankle" reported at the time of his registration.

Bertha "Carrie" Winkler: Early Years

Bertha Caroline Winkler was born in Philadelphia on December 31, 1888. She was the oldest of four surviving children of Emil and Elizabeth Winkler, The parents were, like the Brandes family, naturalized German immigrants and lived at 2522 North Howard Street at the border between Kensington and West Kensington, not all that far from where Frederick Brandes grew up. With the neighborhood being strongly anchored by the textile industry, father Emil Winkler was a button maker as of the 1900 census. He passed away sometime between that and the 1910 census, leaving his wife and four children at the Howard Street home they owned.

2522 North Howard St today as part of a group of vacant lots. At least there's a tree and picnic bench where the apartment building once stood... Image via Google Street View. 
Bertha during this time appears to have gone by her middle name Caroline, or "Carrie", as evidenced by census records, and in 1910 she also joined the textile industry as a "pairer" at a hosiery mill-- I imagine this job involved sorting and pairing socks and stockings after production. Her sister, Mamie, likewise worked at a hosiery factory (presumably the same one, although not certain) as a looper.

Frederick and Bertha Marry, Buy Property in North Glenside

Although the circumstances of Frederick and Bertha's meeting are unknown, Frederick's place of employment in 1917 was only a bit over 1/2 mile from Bertha's home, and they married in that year in Philadelphia. By 1920, Frederick Brandes had moved into the longtime Winkler household on Howard Street with Bertha and her mother and two sisters. 27-year-old Frederick had developed enough skill as a metalworker to develop a career in that trade, while Bertha tended to the couple's 1-year-old son, Emil, named after Bertha's father.

Also by 1920, Fred and Bertha had gotten their hands on a piece of land at the northern edge of the burgeoning suburb of Glenside. The land was an individual home lot, recently subdivided by North Philadelphia jeweler Reginald Ferguson, measuring roughly 56 feet wide and 175 feet deep. Although the subdivision established the street pattern serving the individual lots, most of these streets would not be paved for years, and no water service existed yet at the lot.

What brought them to Glenside? Did they have an eye on settling their young family outside of the city? The land is 11 miles from the Winkler home in West Kensington, but would have been reasonably accessible by rail stations which ran through (and still do) North Philadelphia to the northern suburbs. The spread of automobile use perhaps played a role as well, as Americans began to "spread out" a bit. How they came to own this particular building lot, I can only speculate, but I do have some leads where seemingly there might be none. First, Reginald Ferguson, who conveyed the land to them, was a 50-year-old jeweler who lived in North Philadelphia in area of the Fairhill and Hunting Park neighborhoods. Fred Brandes' older brother William was also a jeweler and goldsmith, was 43 years old in 1920, and also lived in the same area of North Philly. Fred, of course, lived in the same area until moving in with Bertha. Also, Bertha's younger 19-year-old sister Ida was listed in the 1920 census as a bookkeeper in a jewelry store (although this strikes me as the chicken after the egg). No matter how you slice it, there appears to have been enough of an affiliation through his brother to Ferguson. The land was conveyed for a consideration of $1 "and other good and valuable consideration." There are no mortgages associated with this transaction on record, so as of yet, I do not know what the deal was. Hopefully, researching further all of Ferguson's North Glenside transactions will give me a more holistic picture to analyze.

Two years later, in 1922, Fred appears to have swapped this land with carpenter Jayson Stover in exchange for a property 1/2 mile away on Locust Road, a block from the Ardsley train station. This plot appears to have been a portion of one which Stover acquired a few months after receiving the Central Ave land from Brandes, perhaps repaying the debt with this land on Locust Road. Perhaps this lot was more appealing to the Brandes' than the one on Central Ave, being very close to the train station and on a street with some utilities already in place. I've yet to learn the full extent of this arrangement between Brandes and Stover, or whether the Brandes' actually built a home there or not, but there must be more to the story to come.

Frederick as a Widower

As of the 1930 census, Fred and Bertha Brandes had finally settled into a home they owned in Warminster, PA-- another 7 miles further from Philadelphia beyond Glenside. Fred was employed at a stove foundry, and the couple now had two sons, Emil (11) and Robert (4). Unfortunately, Fred Brandes would soon become a 38-year-old widower. Bertha Caroline Brandes passed away in Warminster on October 26, 1931 at the age of 42 due to a form of heart failure (chronic myocarditis).

By 1940, Fred had remarried to a woman named Margaret and had apparently moved back to Philadelphia as of 1935, bringing his sons with him. Older son Emil married and moved to Northern Liberties. Now renting an apartment at 735 West Russell Street, Frederick had returned to his old stomping grounds at the nexus of the Fairhill and Hunting Park neighborhoods and still worked manufacturing stoves at a factory. By the time of his WWII registration in 1942, he worked at a Sears Roebuck warehouse at the corner of W. Allegheny Ave and Fox Street-- perhaps this is where he worked with stoves all those year, or perhaps this was a different employer entirely.

The former Sears warehouse today, at 3201 W. Fox Street; Photo courtesy of LoopNet.
1942 ad from the Philadelphia Inquirer for Sears boilers and furnaces, listing the Fox St warehouse address. Fred Brandes may have worked manufacturing these exact products.

Frederick Adolph Brandes moved one more time back out to Bucks County, this time perhaps without his new bride. He passed away at his home on Excelsior Avenue in Croydon, PA on June 24, 1952. He is buried at North Cedar Hills Cemetery in the Frankford neighborhood of Philadelphia.

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