The road to Frankford Avenue’s past

The King’s Highway—better known today as Frankford Avenue—is the oldest continuously used road in the United States.

“It was a series of roads that started out as Indian paths,” said Anthony Waskie, who teaches German in the French, German, Italian and Slavic languages department. “It was originally used to connect the colonies.”

Jason Sherman, a filmmaker and resident of Holmesburg, launched a Kickstarter last month to help fund “The King’s Highway,” a documentary about the road and Northeast Philadelphia’s historical relevance.

The paths were transformed into the first super-highway when William Penn settled in Pennsylvania. It was named The King’s Highway, after King Charles II, but the road was used extensively in the Revolutionary War against Britain.

“Without this established road network, it would have been much harder for the American armies to march up and down the East Coast,” Waskie said.

Waskie, also a Civil War historian at the Grand Army of the Republic Civil War Museum in Frankford, has been interested the Northeast’s cultural importance for a long time.

“The oldest bridge in America is the Pennypack Bridge on Frankford Avenue, and it dates all the way back to 1690,” Waskie said. “Not many people are aware of that.”

The documentary aims to educate people on the little-known history of Northeast Philadelphia in an entertaining way.

“The entire history of Philadelphia seems to be so rooted in Center City,” said alumna Jennifer Laumeister, the film’s producer. “And there is so much more outside of those well-known places.”

“The Pope just spoke here, presidents have spoken here, and it’s about time that the importance of this area was shown,” Sherman said.

The documentary comes at a time when demolition of historical sites in the area is starting to upset residents and people who have been working their entire lives to preserve the Northeast, Sherman said.

One of these demolished sites was the Jolly Post, a tavern dating back to the 1600s, which was torn down in 1912.

“Name a member of the Continental Congress, and they had passed through that building,” Sherman said.

All that remains now is a plaque.

Though the need to share the importance of the area has always been pressing, only now is there a way to share it. Affordable technology, Sherman said, has enabled history to be told in a way that can reach most people.

“The technology makes it much more accessible for younger viewers,” Laumeister said.

The idea for the film came July 22, a date Sherman still remembers.

“I was in front of my house, and I saw a story in the newspaper about Roland Williams, a local historian,” Sherman said.

After making a few calls, Sherman began to learn more information about the historical significance of the place he called home. Shortly after, he began work on the film.

“Jason has always been a self-starter, he takes a lot of initiative,” Laumeister said.

While the Kickstarter campaign has surpassed its $10,000 goal—with $12,197 currently pledged—the film needed more financial backing to show at film festivals and have DVDs produced. The Kickstarter ended Nov. 16.

“Something important like this should have gotten more support on Kickstarter,” Sherman said.

But the documentary is just the first step in a process that Sherman hopes will bring much needed tourist support and attention to the area. Ultimately, he would like to have a bus tour that shows off Frankford and the King’s Highway to visitors, he said.

He hopes that the film will shed some light on a forgotten, but vital, part of American history.

“I would say it’s the single most important documentary about this area,” Sherman said. “I’m honored to be a part of it.”

Sami Rahman can be reached at sami.rahman@temple.edu.

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