10 Secrets & Stories from A Guy Who Grew Up in the House

Following up on our conversation with Lawrence Ponzek (our real live “Hohenadeler”), here’s a list of cool stuff that didn’t make it into the first installment, including:  blue velvet, Grace Kelly, and a scary passage to… somewhere. 

Randomness from our Conversation with Lawrence Ponzek

1. Lawrence has no memory of the Dutch murals in the basement. He doesn’t think they were there when he lived here. 7-16 UPDATE: He didn’t know what we meant by “murals” but when he saw the pics we posted he realized we meant the “little paintings” as he knew them. He’d asked a neighbor about them once, an older guy who had known John Hohenadel and seemed to think that’s who originally painted them.

2. The Ponzeks had their TV in what he referred to as “the Greek room” (which we are calling the ballroom).

3. The window seat in the conservatory used to have a blue velvet cushion on top (it was there when they moved in).

unsanded -- ballroom into conservatory arrow at bench

4. The carriage house on the property doesn’t look like the carriage house he remembers, which Lawrence said was smaller and used to have worn old leather tack still hanging off a hook here & there.

5. He heard a rumor that John Hohenadel lost his house to the previous owner in a card game.

6.  When he and his brother were little, his mother, Blanche, took them to one of the summer festivals at Women’s Medical College that Grace Kelly attended. The boys wore their Davy Crockett-style coon-skin caps that day, and must’ve looked exceptionally cute because wouldn’t you know it? Grace Kelly came right over to say hello, and ever after, if they caught sight of each other around the neighborhood, she’d smile to recognize them.


Grace Kelly WMC


7. As a teenager, Lawrence and his friends played in a rock band. They practiced in the front room opposite the living room — where the old doctor’s offices used to be. He said the room was perfect because it was already insulated.

(P.S. He was tickled when we told him that Hohenadel House is planning to turn the third floor into a music room/studio).

8. Their Christmas tree went in the living room, in the front right corner in front of the windows.

9. The night the vacant apartment building across the street caught fire, it was freezing out — temps were down in the 20’s. Blanche remembers staying up all night, keeping the firemen and policemen at the scene warm with hot tea and coffee.

10. SECRET CAVES?!  Lawrence says:  At the bottom of the back staircase, there should be a skinny door or entryway. To the left, there used to be some narrow shelves on a wooden panel. Lawrence swears this panel slides or pushes open, revealing a long underground passage that opens up on a side street near Midvale Avenue. Pretty sure he means the area behind Arnold Street, which perhaps not coincidentally used to be named “Hohenadel Street.”

We’re familiar with the location. Awhile back we’d spoken with local bottle collector Aaron Bechtel, who’s been talking to locals about the caves since he moved here 8 years ago.  He sketched out his observations, and then we sought out the crude, crumbling stone walls he spoke of, that he suspected to be old brewery storage caves:


Dutch Hollow Collage

If Arnold Street indeed is where Hohenadel House’s tunnel winds up, then the exit looks to be blocked by earth.  Boo.

Lawrence says it was kinda spooky & gross back then — he’d never tried going through himself. His brothers did, though. Lotsa guys did.

The story he told was that they’d been used in the Underground Railroad:  Not a long shot, really. There’s that Baptist Church adjoining the property back then, and the Baptists were huge Abolitionists, especially in this area (East Falls/Germantown‘s proximity to rail and rivers and highways was key in moving slaves from the South). PLUS that weird giant crawl space between the second and third stories…??

Probably not a long shot, either, to say John Hohenadel might’ve enjoyed this handy shortcut from home to work in the years after slavery was abolished. Perhaps it hid moonshine or other contraband during Prohibition?

Who knows what-all’s gone on underground in Dutch Hollow? A  system of caves had been in the area since the colonial times, then early brewers used them for “lagering” their beer. And Hessians probably used them as latrines or for storage or stealth or something in Revolutionary times.

So now the obvious questions are:

How Soon Can We Look For This?

and (if there really IS a passage way)

How Far Can We Get?


What might we find?

As always, stay tuned…


Secrets of the Cavese



3 thoughts on “10 Secrets & Stories from A Guy Who Grew Up in the House

  1. We used to go into those caves on our way to school as children. I never new what they were for.
    Someone once told me they were brick kilns. Don’t now if that is true or not.

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