263 Ira Upin


My wife and I moved to Northern Liberties in 1977 and bought a building built as a bakery in 1917

on American St. It was just around the corner from Shur Brothers Hardware at 700 N 2nd St. The business, wholesale hardware, was still run by Harry Shur and his sister Lena. In the 1940’s they were the largest distributor of nails on the east coast. Lena kept the books but had a tendency to scream profanities from their 2nd floor window. Harry dealt with the customers who ranged from small hardware store owners to neighborhood people. Harry and Lena were very generous to the young newcomers like my wife and I. They would run a tab for months while giving us all sorts of supplies for rehabbing our buildings. As babies were born they would always send a gift. They lived through the downturn of the Philadelphia urban center and suffered many robberies and assaults as the area deteriorated, but they persevered throughout.

In 1998, with Lena gone and Harry moved to a geriatric center, all their properties were sold at auction. A friend of mine and I bought the building at 702 N 2nd St. that had been the original store and home of Harry and Lena. We needed eight 40-yard dumpsters to empty the building of debris and the hoarded contents that Harry and Lena had accumulated over the many years they had lived and worked there. While much of what we cleared was junk there were many odd treasures that we saved. This item is made up of two pieces of history from Shur Brothers that we found. I thought the background of the stock page from The Philadelphia Inquirer dated August 21, 1929 (a little over two months before the economic crash of 1929) in conjunction with the mini-wrench was an apt metaphor for the lives of Harry and Lena Shur and the legacy they established in Northern Liberties.