Category: Community

Philadelphia History Front Street Cafe

Philadelphia History: Privy Diggers & Front Street Cafe

The Privy Diggers
Producer: Michael O’Reilly   WHYY Philadelphia

Philadelphia History  Front Street Cafe
Old Bottles Philadelphia History Front Street Cafe

Front Street Cafe is honored to be spotlighted in the PBS Documentary about Philadelphia History and local Privy Diggers.

In 2014 during the Construction of the new kitchen for Front Street Cafe at the south end of the property. Lee Larkin discovered an old Privy Pit.  He and Adrian Montanez, with the oversight of local privy diggers Michael Frechette and John Freise, hand excavated the entire privy.  What they discovered was a window into Philadelphia history through the material culture of the former residents of homes long gone and forgotten.

Please see the WHYY TV Documentary here

In the 18th and 19th centuries in Philadelphia, people did their “business” in the outhouse located in the yard or alley adjacent to their dwelling. Since there was no regular trash collection, they also used this outhouse to discard broken plates, bottles and all manner of refuse. As soon as modern sewers were installed to service each house, the outhouses were torn down and the brick-lined “privy pits” (often 30 feet deep) underneath them were filled in. Within a decade, in most cases, the location of the outhouse and its attendant privy pit would all but be forgotten.

Enter THE PRIVY DIGGERS in 2016. These intrepid amateur archaeologists regularly are invited into peoples backyards to probe the soil, locate the underground structure of the privy itself, and begin digging. A single privy can hold broken and whole bottles and crockery, coins, pipes, toys and anything else that someone 100 to 200 years ago might have had in their pockets. Most interestingly, according to Michael Frechette, are the cast off’s from the things people did (other than their “business”) in these outhouses in private – things that are only rarely written about in Philadelphia history books.

Philadelphia History Front Street Cafe
Philadelphia History: Brewers

That is the draw for these diggers – getting to see the secrets of history that have lain buried there undisturbed for years. While the things they bring up may have a value on the open market, according to Tom Salvatore, if you divided how much they work by how much they make selling these artifacts, they wouldn’t be making more than minimum wage. And it’s not only see, but touch and smell. A vial of sassafras (an accepted 19th century remedy for arthritis) found 30 feet underground and held at arms length, after more than 100 years, still smells like, well, sassafras.


Fundraiser for Broad Street Ministry

Front Street Cafe fundraiser for Broad Street Ministry Please join us this Thursday at Front Street Cafe Philadelphia from 6pm-8pm for Networking for a Cause. We will be raising money for Broad Street Ministry while building our professional network! Tickets are $25 and includes hors d’oeuvres and 1 free drink. We will be auctioning off Philadelphia Flyers merchandise including Flyers vs. Red Wings game tickets, Flyer’s Wives Carnival tickets, 2 autographed game sticks (Claude Giroux and Steve Mason) and much more!
Tickets can be purchased with the link in the invite below or at the door. If you are unable to attend but would like to bid or donate you can do so on the Community Builder website in the invite. Hope to see you there!  More info about Broad Street Ministry hereBroad Street Ministry

Broad Street Ministry (“BSM”) is a broad-minded Christian community that cherishes creativity, fosters and nurtures artistic expression, extends inclusive hospitality and—works for a more just world through civic engagement. Learn more about our mission and core values. Also, read about our vision and purpose here.

Learn about the astonishing history and the exciting future of Broad Street Ministry in “Our Story.”

Find out about the dynamic individuals who are leading Broad Street Ministry into the future in Leadership.

Learn about Broad Street Ministry’s Financial Information here.

Common Questions and Answers about BSM and HC

To take a look at our Hospitality Board or Board of Trustees go here.

As Broad Street Ministry makes a difference for a community, many writers have taken interest and written about BSM. Read about Broad Street Ministry in the News here.

BSM also welcomes into its body not just those who are on the margins of faith but those who are on the margins of society. Here, a member of a prestigious private club worships alongside a person experiencing homelessness. The gay and lesbian activist passes the peace with the Pentecostal lay preacher. The possessor of a PhD. in theology prays alongside the summa cum laude graduate of the School of Hard Knocks. Churches should regularly feature this kind of diversity but in our experience—they seldom do. We believe that diversity of belief, skin tone and life circumstance strengthens our witness as a Christian community—and we work hard to extend it. We worship weekly at 4pm.