East Falls Historical Society to honor Kelly family with state marker

A grant has been given to the East Falls Historical Society (EFHS) for a state marker to honor the Kelly Family of East Falls.

The family’s most notable members include Princess Grace of Monaco who is also known as Grace Kelly, an Academy Award winning actress, her father, John B. Kelly, Sr., three time Olympic gold medal winner for rowing and John B. Kelly, Jr., winner of the 1947 Henley Regatta and Olympic bronze medal winner for rowing.

The grant was approved by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, an agency responsible for the collection, conservation, and interpretation of Pennsylvania’s historic heritage. Only 15 applicants were accepted out of 59 submissions from across the state.

The state marker program began in 1946 to recognize people, places, and events that have affected the lives of Pennsylvanians over the centuries. The application for the Kelly family was filed by Patricia Cheek, who has lived in the East Falls community for more than 25 years.

“The Kelly family was a huge part of East Falls,” said Cheek. “They were rowers, and rowing is really at the heart of the East Falls identity.”

She says applying for the grant was important to bring more recognition to the community.

“A lot of people don’t even know that Grace Kelly’s house is here,” said Cheek.

Cheek spent weeks preparing the application, which requested a list of facts that show why the marker would be relevant and give proof of those facts through citations. With the help of Ellen Sheehan, president of EFHS, Cheek was able to find books and articles related to the Kelly family.

The grant has been passed through the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia, a group that oversees history in the Philadelphia region, for EFHS to use for the cost of the marker. The grant will also cover the cost of a Victorian trolley tour on the day of the dedication to visit places that relate to the Kelly family including Penn Charter, Ravenhill Mansion, Old Academy Players, St. Bridget Church and the Vesper Boat Club. In addition, the event will include a showing of one of Grace Kelly’s movies.

Cheek says the “details are still in the works” and the state marker will be dedicated at the site of the original Kelly home, located at Henry Avenue and Coulter Street, on Saturday, October 27. 

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