Basement Rathskeller

Glen Foerd

Basement Rathskeller

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, United States

Created By: Glen Foerd on the Delaware


In the basement of the mansion you’ll find a room that best reflects the second owner’s German heritage, the Rathskeller, which translates to “council’s chamber”. Rathkellers were historically bar and restaurant establishments found in the basements of city halls throughout Germany. The Foerderer family used this room for playing billiards and card games. You’ll notice some sparkle in the green walls and ceilings, which was achieved by grinding mica into the paint. You’ll also find several trophies displaying the prominence of Glen Foerd Farms, which produced award-winning Scottish Ayrshire cattle and milk.

As demonstrated by the custom Rathskellar design and Glen Foerd’s commemorative Scottish name, it’s clear that the owners of the estate felt connected to their heritage as first and second generation Americans. The businesses that financed this estate also depended on immigrant labor. The Foerderer’s leather company, Vici Kid, as well as Glen Foerd Farms, both employed new Americans from around the world.

Throughout the late 1800s, industrialization fueled the need for more labor, while more shipping lines, faster ships and lower travel costs made transoceanic travel easier than ever before. As cities like Detroit and Pittsburgh attracted large masses of immigrants and others to work for a small number of large dominant firms, Philadelphia was defined by its generally diverse, small-scale enterprises and workshops that often required employees with special skills. The city’s reserve of specialized labor drew many entrepreneurs, like Robert Foerderer, to start American plants here, where he had access to interindustry connections that could improve his leather products. Chemists Rohm and Haas, another local, German entrepreneurial team, developed a special chemical product for leather tanning that Foerderer harnessed into a revolutionary production process. At the time that Vici Kid was in business, Philadelphia held the nation's largest concentration of leather works. Leather was one industry that did demand unskilled labor for production, unlike textiles and other dominant workshop industries in Philadelphia. This meant that factories like Vici Kid drew in many employees who could not find work elsewhere. Many of Foerderer’s 1000 local employees were Polish immigrants, who settled near the Vici Kid factory in the Philadelphia neighborhoods of Bridesburg and Port Richmond.

This point of interest is part of the tour: Glen Foerd


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