Monthly Archives: January 2015

Stone, Furness, and the Wingohocking Train Station

I’ve admired Frank Furness’s work for years, and while writing The Fascination of Nature I restrained myself mightily and only mentioned him twice. Furness designed the Wingohocking train station – one of several train station commissions he completed in his career. Stone used it for his daily trips to the Academy, and in three consecutive years he found Blue Jays nesting along the entrance path to the station. A visiting New York ornithologist, James Chapin, found the name of the little depot quite charming. “Wingohocking” was the Indian name of a creek in the area that has long since been forced underground, buried in a Philadelphia sewer line. The train station is also long gone, demolished in the early 1930s – one of the many Furness buildings sadly lost to indifference or outright hostile architectural snobbery in the mid-1900s. The location of the old station was equidistant between the Germantown and Wister stations on today’s SEPTA Chestnut Hill East Regional Rail line. Stone and Furness now repose not far from each other in Philadelphia’s Laurel Hill Cemetery.

Lou Brownholtz published an excellent article on the Belfield Avenue area in the Germantown Historical Society’s Germantown Crier in 2006, and it’s the source of some of the info presented here. The only vestige of the station is the presence of a former entrance path (possibly the one the Blue Jays nested along), overgrown and easily overlooked, running between two cast iron fence lines at Baynton and Coulter streets:

Wingo Path

Here are a couple of old photos of the station:


WingStationInterior_600_x_432_JPEGSource: Lou Brownholtz


What’s in a Name?

One of my favorite stories about producing The Fascination of Nature begins with my being honored to have Dr. Richard C. Banks review the “I Am Asking for More!” chapter for me. Dr. Banks’s service on the AOU Committee on Classification and Nomenclature of North American Birds is remarkably similar — in tenure, positions, and accomplishments — to Stone’s. He is retired from a long and very distinguished career as an ornithologist with the USGS. I knew that Dr. Banks was way too young to have known Stone, but I suspected that some of the older men from early in his career probably knew Stone and his colleagues, and that Dr. Banks might have some insights into those times that few others today would have. He proved me right in splendid fashion.

I had a quote from the Canadian ornithologist P.A. Taverner that I wanted to use in the book. I preferred a full first name instead of the simple initials that Taverner always went by, so I poked around on Google and found that his name was Paul A. Taverner. In went the “Paul A. Taverner” quote. After Dr. Banks reviewed the chapter, he wrote to me, “I do not think Taverner’s name was Paul. Where did you get that? He always went just by P.A. The story I have heard is that T. S. Palmer, when Secretary of the AOU, tried to get Taverner’s full name [doubtless for Palmer’s infamous annual members list] and Taverner refused. Palmer then threatened to list it as Percival Algernon. Taverner replied, ‘Guilty as charged.’ I have never seen ‘Paul.’” I went back to the Internet, and there it was, plain as day: Percy Algernon Taverner. Where in the world did I get “Paul”? And where in the world could you find anyone else who not only knows P.A. Taverner’s full name, but even has a great story related to it? Dr. Banks hit a grand slam.


Percy (L) and Theodore

I did some more checking, and found that during Palmer’s tenure as secretary, Taverner does in fact show up in the annual AOU members lists as “Percy A. Taverner.” Now, wouldn’t you think that someone with the name “Theodore Sherman,” who hid behind the initials “T.S.” throughout his life, would have a little sympathy for a “Percival Algernon” and just leave him on the rolls as “P.A.” — as Taverner doubtless preferred?