From the start of our research into the house at 3617 Indian Queen Lane, we’ve heard that one or more members of the famous Dobson family either built the house or lived in it. So far, we’ve been unable to track down a Dobson connection to the property on any census reports, city directories, land records, deeds, bank notes, etc.
Granted, we haven’t searched under every rock — and with a house this old, tracing owners and occupants is hardly a clear, simple task. And the Dobsons were very influential in the area, and owned a lot of property. Seems logical that there *should* be a connection… but then, that’s how rumors get started, right?
We turned to Ellen Sheehan, local fixture and founder of the East Falls Historical Society to see if she knew of any documentation to support a Dobson-Hohenadel House link. Here’s the gist of what she told us:
A woman named Grace Lenahan (author of the “Land and Buildings” section of the book East Falls 300 Years of History) who lived across the street from the Indian Queen Lane house told Ellen that she remembered a Dobson daughter/granddaughter/niece/female relative living in the house. Ellen distinctly recalls this woman telling her “Mrs. Dobson” kept a piano and a harp in the side room.
Strangely, Ms. Lenahan’s section of the East Falls history book doesn’t mention a Hohenadel/Dobson connection. The only reference to the house involves Charles F. Abbott, the “original builder of the old Hohenadel house on Indian Queen Lane.” Of course this isn’t definitive proof — there is evidence that Abbott built the house as a rental property, so it’s still possible a Dobson lived there despite no deeds showing ownership.
So how would we find the Dobson connection based on Lenahan’s story? City directories and Federal records after 1921 (when Lenahan was born) turned up two names: the Shackis and Levin families, both renters.
The 1950 Philadelphia City Directory doesn’t list either family name, so that seemed to be that, until…
A Facebook comment at the end of August hinted at a connection:
My mom grew up in the Smith mansion, I remember a lot of family living in sections of this old house, Mr. Dobson offered to sell the hill with homes to my grandparents for $4,000.00, but my grandfather did not want the responsibility of caring for the buildings. The two houses on the end of Haywood street were built by my Great Grandfather Edward Gotwols, he also built a house on Indian queen lane, it’s the closest one to the sidewalk. When Sam Riddle died his wife Bessie Dobson Riddle gave my grandfather all his suits, my grandmother said he looked like a senator all dressed up.
– Ruth Ann Noll Tavani
Bessie Dobson Riddle? Hot dog!
Back to the files — there’s a Lizzie Dobson, which seems to be the right person since she’s married to Sam Riddle (and Bessie, like Lizzie, is a nickname for Elizabeth). Here’s a summary of the 1900 U.S. Census entry:
The only problem is, they were living at Bella Vista with John Dobson and the rest of his family. Another miss!
What next? Maybe Ruth Ann has more info, but for now real evidence confirming a Dobson at 3617 Indian Queen Lane has yet to materialize.
Thoughts? Suggestions? Lay ’em on us! No reason to put this Dobson connection to bed until every last lead is explored…