Friday, September 24, 2010

Hub Day: The Baldwin Room

Our Cira Centre location is adjacent to Philadelphia's 30th Street Station. You get to it by strolling up a ramp and taking a small escalator.

It's a gorgeous space, all light and glass and with a clear view of the trainyards, so we knew we needed to pay homage to one of the men who built modern locomotion as we know it today: Matthias Baldwin.
Now, Baldwin may look like your run-of-the-mill 19th-century bloke, but he was anything but. In fact, although his name is now synonymous with steam engines, he got his start as a jeweler and a silversmith, and it was only because of his partnership with a machinist that he became interested in building stationary engines (engines that don't move, but which power objects--we think of them as modern-day generators).
A stationary engine like this one would help Baldwin in his later endeavors to produce steam locomotives.

Eventually, he built a miniature locomotive, just for kicks, and it that year that the Philadelphia Museum commissioned him to build a working 4-passenger train for exhibition. Baldwin was asked that same year by the Camden and Amboy Railroad to build a short-line locomotive.

His locomotive, assembled entirely by hand (most modern machinery and tools didn't exist in the early 1800s), was called "Old Ironsides."
Baldwin's fate was sealed. He went on to found the Baldwin Locomotive Company, which would assemble over 1500 locomotive engines before his death in 1866.

Although we think the fact that Baldwin's lifework with trains is a great reason for us to name one of our rooms after him, probably the thing we like most about him is the fact that he was an inveterate philanthropist. (He was a founder of the Franklin Institute for the Betterment of Labour, demonstrating a remarkably early concern for the welfare of workers.) And his charitable donations and insistence on racial equality were a key reason for a major boycott of Baldwin engines in the south as the Civil War became a reality.

For all of these reasons, we're proud that this room, a cornerstone of our Cira Centre location, bears Matthias Baldwin's name.
You can see this statue of Matthias Baldwin in front of Philadelphia's City Hall, and you can learn more about Matthias Baldwin here.


  1. Before the SCA Americas Headquarters relocated into the Cira Centre in January 2006, they were based in Baldwin Tower in Eddystone, Chester County. That building was formerly the Headquarters of the Baldwin Locomotive Company up until 1972.

  2. Kirsty! How did we miss this? Sorry for the delay, but thanks for the post! We love the fact that we have TWO things in common with the Society for Creative Anachronism--the Cira Centre and Baldwin!