Jingle Bells on East Drive

East Falls Local.Wissahickon Sleighing3.1826

They loved their one-horse open sleighs (and luxury models too) on “East Drive” (known as Kelly Drive today) in the 1800s. A few excerpts from the Philadelphia Times (January 2, 1881) about the “sleighing season”:

“Although there are 32 miles of driving road within the limits of Fairmount Park, the ‘East Drive’ was the most frequented, and from noon until late last night that thoroughfare was crowded with sleighs. The travel on this road has been so great that the snow is packed until the surface is smooth as glass and the runners glide over it delightfully. Some little sleighing is done on the other side of the river, but as the roadbed of the ‘West Park Drive’ is not in very good condition it was almost deserted.

East Falls Local.sleigh ride on Forbidden drive 1900s4

“Such well-known hostelries as ‘Strawberry Mansion,’ Smith’s ‘Falls Hotel,’ ‘Tissot’s,’ ‘Riverside Mansion,’ and Sands’ ‘Indian Rock Hotel’ were crowded with visitors all day…There was but little drunkenness and, although several overloaded sleighs gave way and deposited their occupants on the ground, no one was seriously injured. The unusually small number of accidents seems all the more remarkable when it is known that between 2,500 and 3,000 sleighs entered the Park between mid-day and evening…

East Falls Local.Falls hotel catfish waffles

“The sleighs were of every conceivable make, shape and value, but riders in wagon-beds on runners were to all appearances as happy and enjoyed the sport as keenly as those who sat in a $2,000 ‘Brewster’ and were whisked along by a proportionately expensive fast team.

East-Falls-Local.Brewster-Sleigh5

“The most comfortably rigged-up sleigh I ever saw came along last evening…That old man all covered in wolf skins is Mr. Keyser of Rising Sun. He has a collection of carriages and other vehicles that for age and oddity cannot be equaled in the state. Just notice his sleigh…It’s a good deal higher and more stoutly built than the ordinary machine of that kind. I’ll bet you never saw a sleigh before that had a bowsprit sticking out from the dashboard over the horse’s tail and, if you ever did, I’m satisfied you never saw one with a little figure of a Saint Bernard dog on it, with such an awfully bushy, buffalo-robe tail, saving a boy from a storm. No Sir; that sleigh can’t be beat.”

 

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