The Fourth of July is the midpoint of summer to me, even if technically the season only got going about three weeks ago. With it being on Monday this year, it was nice to have a three-day weekend. My husband and I decided to mark today by taking a walk along the Schuylkill River trail, incidentally collecting a symbol for our Montco trail challenge, though we don’t need one, we’ve met the goal of five.
No, mostly the idea appealed to me as a chance to revisit a place that was very important to me when I first settled in Philadelphia, the town of Conshohocken. Though I don’t live very far away, I don’t come here often, and usually I’m passing through on the way to somewhere else.
This municipality is situated in a bend of the Schuylkill, about 14 miles from downtown Philadelphia. My history with the town begins in 1980. I was working for Philadelphia National Bank, aspiring to become a commercial lender, and was assigned to work as a trainee in the regional office here. The division handled small business loans; my enjoyment of the work I did here in this office determined the direction of my banking career. I went on to specialize in small business commercial loans for a large part of the next fifteen years or so.
I haven’t spent much time here in the past few years and so I thought we’d enjoy a walk through the borough. As a note, my husband also worked for the bank, although in a different group; that’s how we met, and this territory was familiar to him as well. Not to mention that he grew up only a few miles from here! We really have a history with this area.
All right. We picked up the trail at the Spring Mill train station.
This section of town was entirely industrial during my tenure here. Factories of all types, large and small, were arrayed along the river bank. I was familiar with this kind of structure from visiting customers here.
But the town has changed and changed a lot since my time here. There are a few relics of the industrial past along here:
but the majority of the river area is now pricy apartments and high-rise office buildings.
We walked along the trail up to the Fayette Street bridge, Fayette being the main street through town. The office buildings surround this area now but when I was working here, it was a mixture of warehouses and factories. I crossed this bridge on my way to work every day, and I have some memories of trying to get up the icy hill in winter in my rear-wheel-drive 1976 Monte Carlo that still give me the shivers.
Here is a view looking into West Conshohocken – the old and the new.
Office towers and the older buildings, across the river in West Conshohocken.
A closer look at what Conshohocken looked more like in the 1980’s – notice that the newer townhouses at the top of the hill are constructed to fit in. That’s nice.
We left the trail and walked up Fayette. Many things have changed on the main street as well. But the bank building in which I worked is still there, now used by a successor of PNB, Wells-Fargo. I took a picture of the front of the building and then of the side entrance- I shared the office with the windows to the right with two other people.
I have many fond memories of my time here. In those days, before internet banking and all the other changes in how money moves, the branch was very busy all the time. An office full of tellers, customer service people, and commercial lenders served the needs of the businesses, their employees, and the local residents. It was usual for me to arrive at work, before the bank opened, and have to make my way through a crowd of people waiting to go in. The large staff was mostly female and almost all lived within walking distance of the office. They took me, a young out-of-towner, under their collective wing, advising me on where to shop, to get my car fixed, best delis, and so on. If it snowed, I would get phone calls before work telling me to be careful driving. I can’t say enough good about my time in this office.
So. My husband and I walked on through town. Here up on the hill, the traditional Conshohocken landscape still exists – a mix of rows and twins, light industrial, garages, and modest singles. The town was built for the Italian, Irish, and Polish blue-collar workers of yesterday, but prices are high now – it’s a popular location to live. There are also plenty of new builds. I took pictures of what was familiar to me about the place.
We ended up back at the car – Conshohocken is not geographically very large, but it’s huge in my memory. I am glad to have taken the time to look around again, and at a pace that gave me time to remember details.