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Philadelphia’s Reyburn Plaza Filled with Postwar Automobiles

Today’s image, taken in the early-1950s from City Hall shows Reyburn Plaza in Philadelphia being pressed into service as a temporary parking lot and a street scene on Filbert Street. Partially visible at the rear of the plaza is a music shell.

The great majority of the automobiles parked in the plaza other than a couple of Packards and a few more high-end cars are fairly average everyday vehicles. Perhaps the most interesting car in the scene is a sleek two-tone Lincoln Zephyr coupe out on the street.

Tell us what you find of interest in this image courtesy of PhillyHistory.

26 responses to “Philadelphia’s Reyburn Plaza Filled with Postwar Automobiles

  1. What amazes me is the lack of older cars in these type of photos. The oldest cars are 39-40 or so. Only about 12-13 years old? I do see the back half of a mid-30s sedan on the far right of the photo but that is it! I suppose there were more older cars in rural places. My 2nd grade teacher in 1965 still drove her Model A to school in Lake Elmo, Minnesota!

    • Maybe they were already salting the roads there. In the ’60s cars rusted out real quick up north. Your teacher’s Model A likely wouldn’t have lasted two years on salted roads.

      • But the roads were salted heavily here. I remember my parents’ cars rusting real badly – holes in floors, spare tire on wagons falling out of the quarter panels, etc. Miss Monahan’s Model A probably only was driven a few miles a day. We were in a small town 10 miles from St. Paul.

    • Not an expert, but my dad, in those years, used to try making money on used cars. The years you refer to (earlier) survived the war years in two general categories either they were run mercilessly, being overhauled ( a term less than rebuilt ) and patched up. Then because of drastic styling changes they were ignored. In many cases, they were given to the kids to run around with. There was a litany of unsavory terms to refer to these embarrassing heaps. More than you can imagine they were abandoned roadside, where they quit. Oil bath air cleaners, by-pass oil filters, depression mentalities to maintenance, all contributed to a car that was not dependable often smoked and lacked power.
      The second survivor category was cherished, well cared for, garaged and hardly driven. These often remained under cover until the owner passed years later. They helped to fuel a growing trend known as nostalgia. Nostalgia certainly did not exist at the time of the photo.

      Model A Ford was different however. They experienced updates and a following before the war. The war effort kept them viable and many due to parts availability and interchange ability, survived intact. A trend of growth of ‘Model A s Forever’ clubs supported their existence. In the early sixties a Peterson publication, I read, claimed that forty percent of all Model A s produced were still registered and licensed!!

      • Tom, you’re about right on the Model A’s. I own three A’s and we have a great Model A family that’s going strong nationwide as well as international chapters.

  2. In the parking lot, front row, 3rd car from the right, is either a 1941 or ’42 PACKARD Clipper.

    There’s an early 1950s PACKARD, 12 automobiles to the left of the above mentioned car.

    In the parking lot, 2nd row, just to the left of the early ’50s PACKARD in the 1st row, is a 1951 KAISER.

    • In the parking lot, 2nd row from the back, on the far left, is a 1952 PACKARD Deluxe and in the same row, 5 cars to the right is a 1948 or ’49 PACKARD.

      • Also , there’s a senior Packard sedan same vintage as the ’52, upper left between a Dodge and a Mercury, He’s in the 1st row light or white, 3 to the right of the parking lot entrance Next to the Packard upper left on the end is a “bathtub” Nash., and at the far right behind a normal mopar sedan, vintage ’42-’49 is a huge LWB mopar sedan w/ a very long hood… maybe a Chrysler Saratoga eight? Great fun foto, David.

        • Graham,

          Thanks for spotting the other PACKARD. Also there is a 1952+ HENRY J, seven cars to the right of the “bathtub” NASH.


    • right you are, Ken. Further down at the other end on the angle where the sidewalk breaks(?) 1st row coming at you is a “51 maybe w/ a an earlier “Champion”, ’46 to ’49.

      • The bulletnose Stude on the left is a ’50, and looks like it could be a convertible. The light-colored Stude Champion is a ’47.

        • Just realized the ’50 Stude can’t be a convertible—it has a 2-piece windshield. A convertible would have a 1-piece curved windshield.

  3. Probably the earlier cars had mostly reached their limit after the stringent war years. Plus, there was the appeal of something a bit more modern after the auto industry could switch back from war production and bring out more than slightly modified pre-war models. IMHO

  4. David, on rereading the comments , I post… the errors – either syntax or grammar. Boy, do I need an editor. Apologies to all.

  5. I think I see Henry J’s. white one behind left most lightpost between Buicks and dark one in front of music stand between Fords

    • Park… for me, equally surprising only one distinguishable convertible, and would you believe of all makes a ’51-2 DeSoto out on the road in the left foreground ahead of the Plymouth taxi. Now that’s really rare strange and different.

  6. I’m trying to figure out what those cars in the foreground are doing, reminds me of an old time stock car race. Cars pointed in various directions, wouldn’t want to be out there with them.

  7. I too was thinking the thing as Gordon, It almost looked staged , the cars on the street seemed to be driving aimlessly . It looks like an accident looking for a place to happen.

    • That location has an odd street arrangement, Broad and Market cross at that point and City Hall is at the center of the cross, forming a “traffic square”, then you have a couple of smaller streets intersecting the square at right angles.

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