Title: Real estate investor
Birthdate: November 13, 1866
Death Date: January 24, 1926
Plot Location: Section 141, Lot 113

Screenshot (1995)

The Connell family did well with the buying and selling of land, starting with Joseph’s grandfather, George C. Connell. He began purchasing tracts of land in the 1840s on which he built hundreds of homes. His most noteworthy purchase was the land on which he developed Mount Moriah Cemetery.

After George died in 1871, some tracts of land adjoining the cemetery were in the name of his wife and his son, Horatio P. Connell, who was Joseph’s father. This 1872 property map shows Elizabeth Connell’s name at the top and Horatio’s along the bottom. Joseph, known as Joe, did very well in real estate, although he arrived at that career in a somewhat bumpy fashion.

Census reports show Joe was a toddler when the family lived in Darby in 1870. Ten years later they lived on Elmwood Avenue, probably not far from their church. Like each of his seven siblings, Joe was baptized at St. James Kingsessing, an Episcopal congregation on Elmwood Ave. between 68th and 69th Streets.

A few years later the family moved in with Elizabeth on her estate at 60th and Kingsessing Ave. Joe’s first job was as a clerk which was most likely at the cemetery office down the street. He met a girl named Katie Garrety and they were married in 1888 at Walnut Street Presbyterian Church. 

In the 1890s the couple lived at 4717 Chester Ave. Joe became a marble and granite salesman, which, of course, had to do with monuments and gravestones. But his marriage was rocky; the 1900 census shows Joe’s address was back with his parents, his status was married, 12 years, but his wife wasn’t listed. Katie was living with her brother and sisters, listing her status as single.

It was probably in the 1890s that Joe was elected to a seat on the Board of Managers of the Mount Moriah Cemetery Association. By 1905 he made his last and best career move when he decided to sell land instead of marble. One of his first moves as a real estate broker was helping his parents find a new place after his grandmother died in 1899. 

Horatio and Ann moved to this large duplex at 4600 Kingsessing Ave. along with Joe and his three younger siblings. Moving into the other side of the duplex a few years later was his brother Charles and his family. He was Horatio’s oldest child, one of the city’s real estate assessors, and a member of the city’s Common Council in the early 1900s.

The map above shows a parcel owned by T.S. Ellis between Elizabeth’s estate and the cemetery. That lot was purchased and combined with part of Elizabeth’s land to create the cemetery’s sections E and F. A builder bought the remaining 11 acres of Elizabeth’s land and converted it into 290 row homes.

Joe found his second attempt at marriage to be a charm in 1908. He married Harriet “Hattie” Virginia Gorman in New York City four days after Valentine’s Day. It was her second marriage as well, but three of her four children died in infancy. Her son Stanleigh was 22 by then and on his own. Neither of Joe’s marriages produced any offspring.

Their first couple of years were spent in Joe’s parents’ house, but Hattie had previously lived in Lower Merion Township in Montgomery County and that caught Joe’s eye. It was a high-class area just ripe for development. They moved to Haverford Township, just across the “Main Line” in Delaware County.

Joe must have also had his eye on acquiring land at the Jersey shore. With his partner/brother George, a large piece of prime Atlantic City boardwalk frontage was sold in 1914, as reported here.

Next, he and George formed the Hillcrest Lawns Company in 1914 to develop a new neighborhood for middle-income homeowners. Two streets in an area south of Merion Golf Club on today’s map are Harriet Ave. and Virginia Ave. The plan may have been to simply sell the entire project to another developer. There was a sale of 80 acres north of the Golf Club that went through in 1915, this time without mention of George, but that may have been a different property.

Joe also found a 60-acre site for sale in 1915 by an insurance company acting as executors of an estate. He bought it, then placed this ad for it in the Philadelphia Inquirer on May 14, 1916. Later that year he was the broker on the sale of 79 acres on Cobbs Creek in Darby Township. 

Death came suddenly while Joe was in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The reason for his visit and cause of death are unknown. His obituary called him “a widely known horseman and real estate operator.” City councilmen, party leaders, and members of the Board of Real Estate Assessors attended the funeral. (Brother George was not only his business partner but a council member, while another brother, Charles, was a real estate assessor and former city councilmember.)

Hattie moved to Long Branch, New Jersey but joined him on the Yeadon side of Mount Moriah in 1934.

Japanese maple tree in front of a monument at Mount Moriah Cemetery

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