Philly Block Project

In David Livewell’s Stetson Hatbox, a Time Capsule of South Kensington

David Livewell is one of South Kensington’s famous sons; frequently inspired by the neighborhood where he grew up, his poetry has even earned the prestigious T.S. Eliot Prize. In March 2016,  sat down with him not as fans, but as neighbors, to share stories and photographs from growing up on Master Street.

The room grew quiet with anticipation when he walked to his closet and pulled down his grandfather’s Stetson hatbox. The container alone said so much about the neighborhood’s history, as the Stetson Factory was one of the neighborhood’s most prolific employers.

What was inside, was even more exciting. First, he pulled out a vintage Stetston hat. You don’t see many of those in Philadelphia anymore. But to our delight, the box contained hundreds of family photos stemming all the way back to the 1920’s.

You can see the delight on Alysson Biermaier’s face in this photo. As the Philly Block Project’s Archive Researcher, she volunteers 20 hours a week to contextualize the history of South Kensington. After countless hours learning about the Stetson Factory’s storied history here, you can see how much David’s incredible find meant to her.

As our Project Coordinator Lori has said, we are all “the keepers of our family archive.” Thanks to friends like David and Alysson, our South Kensington Archive grows a little bigger every day, and we can’t wait to see what else we uncover.

Photo Credit: Lori Waselchuk.