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200–1000 blocks of Radcliffe Avenue

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Mid-19th century and later

After half a century of industrial decline and the replacement of most of its eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century buildings, Bristol's most interesting architecture is found along Radcliffe Avenue where impressive properties back up to the river. Between many of the properties are cross streets that originally provided access to wharves and still reach the river—not unlike New Castle in Delaware. But where New Castle retains its eighteenthand early-nineteenth-century houses, Bristol was largely rebuilt in the canal and railroad booms. The canal boom is represented in the commercial district by a sadly defaced Classical Revival mansion with massive wood Ionic columns forming a temple front facing the street and a front with columns in antis facing the river. It now is incorporated into an undistinguished bank building, but a view from the river—accessible by steps along the side of the building down to a town landing—gives a sense of the original pleasures of the riverfront.

Bristol's second economic boom coincided with steam-powered manufacturing, resulting in an imposing group of Civil War–era and later Victorian houses, including the Frederick Bell House (1885) at 824 Radcliffe Street; Bell somehow managed to live here while serving as the city treasurer of Philadelphia. Farther north at 610 Radcliffe is the 1880s Grundy Mansion, former home of Senator Joseph Grundy, whose family owned the Arts and Crafts–styled Grundy Mills (1909, 1914, Heacock and Hokanson). Its Italianate-detailed volume accented by north Italian towers is the principal landmark of Bristol from Amtrak's route between Philadelphia and Trenton. Now restored and furnished as a museum, the Grundy mansion provides views of the Delaware River from its grounds. Vertically massed buildings of brick with local brownstone and terra-cotta trim that date mainly from the 1870s have a distinctly urban cast that links them to the residences of the Philadelphia industrial community and marks the economic peak of the town.

Writing Credits

George E. Thomas

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