Workshop of the World

stories of industry in & around Philadelphia

—compiled by Torben Jenk with contributions from Denis Cooke, Ken Milano, Rich Remer, Hal Schirmer, Dr. Robert Selig & others.

Press coverage of the search to find British Redoubt No. 1 (online)

Revolutionary find at SugarHouse site?, Kellie Patrick Gates, PlanPhilly, Dec. 18, 2007.
SugarHouse to begin preliminary construction, Kellie Patrick Gates, PlanPhilly, Jan. 5, 2008.
Found! Ancient relic of an occupied Phila., Dan Rubin, Philadelphia Inquirer, Jan 10, 2008.
Can a Revolutionary War Fort Stop a Casino?, Dan Rubin, Philadelphia Inquirer blinq, Jan 10, 2008.
History Slows a Casino, Dan Rubin, Philadelphia Inquirer, Jan. 11, 1008.
Casino: Won't dig until Pa. approves, Jeff Shields, Philadelphia Inquirer, Jan 11, 2008.
Sizing up history of the SugarHouse site, Kellie Patrick Gates, Jan 16, 2008, includes a video of Torben Jenk describing the evidence on the SugarHouse site.

[Other articles in print include "They Need to Powwow" Tony West, Philadelphia Public Record, Jan. 24, 2008; "Don't underestimate significance of old British Fort" Ken Milano, North Star, Jan. 24, 2008; )

The spectacular 230 year old "Plan of the English Lines Near Philadelphia 1777" by Lewis Nicola revealed at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Surveyed just one month after the British Army left in June 1778, Nicola's Plan provides the most spectacular visual evidence of not just one redoubt but all ten, plus two advanced redoubts, abatis, stockades, and cremaillered work—the entire fortification between the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers. Nicola obviously wanted to learn from the British Engineers, as we can today. Here are some snapshot views with preliminary captions.

Pasted Graphic
—"Plan of the English Lines Near Philadelphia 1777" by Lewis Nicola. Collection: Historical Society of Pennsylvania, call # Of 932* 1778 p.3 (from Am. 602).

Scale for Principal Plan 100 fathoms [600 feet] per inch.
Scale for Detach'd Plans 40 feet to an inch.
Scale for Detach'd Profils 20 feet to an inch.


The importance of preservation and the examination original documents. [opinion written by Torben Jenk, Jan 11, 2008]

When the Nicola Plan was published in "The Narrative & Critical History of America" (1888), editor Justin Winsor cut out half the image. Amateur scanning in recent years chopped off even more and was virtually illegible but crucially, shared a fragment of evidence online. The webmaster graciously provided the original source so the illegible and truncated note could be read, "This plan of the British works between the Delaware and Schuylkill is sketched from the main portion of a drawing preserved in the Penna. Hist. Society..."

—Scan of Plan of the English Lines Philadelphia 1777 . Original source "Narrative and Critical History of America," Justin Winsor (Editor), (Houghton, Mifflin & Co., Boston, 1887), Vol VI, p. 440. [Note, this eight volume work was expanded to a sixteen volume work by 1889 and it has been reprinted subsequently.] The caption reads: 

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania has never suffered a catastrophic fire or flood so what enters tends to remain. If Nicola's Plan survived 110 years through 1888, it was sure to survive 230 years until 2008—it does. Let's learn from it.

Redoubt No. 1 and its relationship to the Delaware River. 
[opinion written by Torben Jenk, Jan 11, 2008]

Pasted Graphic 1
—Detail showing Redoubt No. 1 from "Plan of the English Lines Near Philadelphia 1777" by Lewis Nicola.

Scale for Detach'd Plans 40 feet to an inch.
Scale for Detach'd Profils 20 feet to an inch.

Note the "High Water" and "Low Water" marks and even the slope of the underwater bank. The dotted line seems to represent the grade line of the original soil, about ten feet above low tide. Philadelphia has about a 6 foot tidal range. By careful measuring it seems that the moat / trench around the redoubt would likely flood near high tide, providing an extra layer of defense—mud or ice—below those 12' long sharpened "pallisades" or "fraise." I counted 153 of them.

The stockade into the river might have prevented the enemy from floating downstream to the exposed side of the Gun Battery and/or the entrance to the redoubt. Note that there is no raised wooden platform on the southeast corner (to the right of the entrance). Anyone floating downstream could be fired upon by the northeast corner ("Thro. 3 - 4"), especially if they hit the stockade. Those floating upstream would be fired upon by the Gun Battery ("Through 1 - 2").

The dotted line seems to dispute the early 19th century statements that the fort was on a mound, including "Artillery Hill" and "Battery Hill." Maybe those early travelers were too lazy to get out an examine the mound and thereby discover it was an earthen doughnut. That raises the issue that the earth from the redoubt was probably not used to fill the riverbank, adjacent low spots or the Cohocksink Creek. It went back into the trench / moat.

Can proper archeology reveal, confirm or challenge these seemingly unique details? Do we know if and how Nicola's survey was used to teach the Continental Army? Should Redoubt #1 be considered a British or early American engineering landmark? 

First attempt to transpose the measurements from Nicola's Plan (1778) on to a Bromley Atlas (1895) and to today (2008).
[opinion written by Torben Jenk, Jan 11, 2008]

Nicola shows the center of Redoubt No. 1 to be in a line with the ancient causeway and bridge [Laurel Street] and about 100 fathoms [600 feet] from the bridge over the Cohocksink [basically Laurel and Canal Streets] and about 210 fathoms [1,260 feet] from Front & Laurel Streets.

In 1830, John F. Watson wrote: "The British redoubts remained til lately—one on the Delaware bank in a line with the stone-bridge street—then no houses were near it; now it is all built up, and streets are run where none were seen." 

Scaled at 200' to an inch, 100 fathoms (600 feet) would be three inches on the Bromley, so the fort should be somewhere near the eastern edge of the rail yards of the Shackamaxon Freight Station. Foundations aren't needed for rail tracks yet archeologists, unaware of the potential, might confuse rotting 19th century railroad sleepers or other pier pilings with something much more ancient, like the wooden structure which contained the earthen walls of Redoubt No. 1, or the 12' long sharpened "pallisades" or "fraise." Few would have survived intact even in 1800, as locals probably recycled them into other structures or burned them.

If not exactly at that spot, Nicola's map shows Redoubt No. 1 definitely on the 22.6 acre SugarHouse site. Here is some photographic evidence. My goal remains to help the archeologists find Redoubt No. 1. Using factual evidence like this, surely we can define a mere 1/2 acre on the 22.6 acre site, for close examination.

—Detail showing Redoubts No. 1 - 6 from "Plan of the English Lines Near Philadelphia 1777" by Lewis Nicola. Collection: Historical Society of Pennsylvania. 

Scale for Principal Plan 100 fathoms [600 feet] per inch.

Redoubt No. 1 is near bottom right. Redoubts 1 & 2 were then divided by the Cohocksink Creek which was traversed by a causeway and bridge [now Laurel Street]. Front Street is the first street west (left) of the Cohocksink and it splits left up the Germantown Road or right over Laurel Street.

—Detail, 1895 Bromley Atlas, Plate 13 (200 feet / inch)

In a line with Laurel Street
0" = Canal & Laurel Streets
3" = 100 fathoms = 600 feet = likely location of Redoubt No. 1 (at the edge of the railroad tracks near "AVE").

—Detail, 1895 Bromley Atlas, Plate 13 (200 feet / inch):

In a line with Laurel Street
0" = Front & Laurel Streets
3-1/2" = 116 fathoms = 700' = Laurel & Canal
6-3/8" = 210 fathoms = 1,260 feet = likely location of Redoubt No. 1 (at the edge of the railroad tracks near "AVE").

—Detail 1895 Bromley, Plate 13.

Besides the "Shackamaxon Freight Sta." west of the rail tracks, also note the various industries along the piers:
#53 "Kindling Wood"
#51 "Saw Mill"
#50 "Cedar Ware"
#49 "Boat Houses & Coal Yard"
between piers "C & A R.R. Ferry" [line of Shackmaxon Street and northeastern boundary of SugarHouse Casino site]
#48 "Lumber"
#46 "Penna. Sugar Refining Co."
#45 "Foundry Supplies"
#44 "Watson & Malone & Sons, Lumber"
#43 "P&RRR Co. Lumber Yard"
#42 "Wm. S. Taylor, Lumber Yard"

Pasted Graphic 2
—Street signs where Canal & Laurel meet in 2008.

Pasted Graphic 3

Looking east from the intersection of Canal & Laurel Streets along the line of Laurel Street (2008). The traffic light signifies the intersection of the ancient "Road to Frankford" (heading left / north) and Delaware Avenue (following the northeasterly bend of the river). The green construction trailer sits on the SugarHouse site. The northeast corner of the SugarHouse site, along the Delaware River, is near the tall trees in the distant center. Nicola's Plan says the Redoubt No. 1 stood approximately 600 feet from the intersection of Canal & Laurel Streets. The tall trees are about 800 - 1,000 feet from Canal & Laurel (access to the SugarHouse site is restricted by fences and guards).

—Map created on Google Map.

Despite being turned into a canal and then a sewer, the lower parts of the Cohocksink are clearly evident under parts of the streets we know today as Canal, Allen, Hancock, Laurel, Bodine, Cambridge and Orkney; and in the oddly-shaped buildings which straddle the creek. Point A is near Pier 35, Point B is where the creek crosses under Girard Avenue. The Governor's Mill stood northeast of the ninety degree bend from Cambridge to Bodine Street. The area below the Frankford Road but east of the Cohocksink Creek to the Delaware River was known in Colonial times as "Point Pleasant."

Douglas McLearen, PHMC, calls for "no ground disturbing activities" (Jan 7, 2008)

On January 7, 2008, Douglas McLearen of the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission wrote to Terrence McKenna of The Keating Group (contractors at SugarHouse) and James Boyer of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stating: "It is the opinion of the State Historic Preservation Office that there should be no ground-disturbing activities on the [SugarHouse] site other than those related to archaeology until the 106 process is over. We are still in consultation."

As one of the advocates for proper archeology at the 22.6 acre SugarHouse site, Torben Jenk wrote to Mr. McLearen on January 10:

Thank you for recommending "no ground-disturbing activities on the [SugarHouse] site other than those related to archeology until the 106 process is over."

On December 12 I notified A. D. Marble of the possibility of finding British Redoubt #1 on the SugarHouse site. For weeks, the "professionals" under contract or supervising this process have ignored my emails and the evidence which I and others have researched and loaded to the webpage at . Every item was cited and referenced in a scholarly fashion. I even highlighted where to look for the best evidence.

I was appalled when a "site grading permit" was issued last week. Site grading could have removed all evidence of this British Redoubt #1 before the meeting on Jan 18 about the 106 process. As I have stated repeatedly to others, including James Boyer, "How can A.D. Marble find Native American artifacts on the SugarHouse site but find nothing from British Redoubt No. 1? Because they aren't looking for it."

Others have shown more interest, including Dan Rubin who wrote an article in today's Inquirer
"Found! Ancient relic of an occupied Phila."

As I have stated since mid December, finding Reboubt No. 1 would reveal 18th century British military engineering, so admired by Major General Charles Lee of the Continental Army in America, who had bitterly complained of the incompetence of American engineers, remarking that "we had not an officer who knew the difference between a chevaux-de-frise and a cabbage garden."

The "officers" and engineers of today seem no better. This survey of British Redoubt No. 1, done just one month after the British left in June 1778, shows 153 Chevaux de Frises. Redoubt No. 1 was surveyed so expertly by Lewis Nicola for one reason, he wanted to learn from the British Engineers. Nicola's original survey survives in spectacular condition and reveals the exact locations and construction details of this entire line of defenses. Our voluntary corps of researchers, led by Dr. Robert Selig and myself, has already assembled over 250 factual historical items about British Redoubt No. 1 including maps, surveys, images and narratives. From these and our on-going research, we can learn from and celebrate this oft-forgotten 10 months of American history.

Thank you for stopping the site-grading. We look forward to collaborating with you to reveal this buried treasure.