This week, the House Crawl™ heads to Manayunk, and that means we get to have the mouth-watering peanut butter bacon cheeseburger at Lucky’s Last Chance. We know what you’re thinking, but trust us, it’s awesome, and we fully intend to order one and completely ruin that cheeseburger’s day. That alone is enough reason to come crawling, but you know your bracket is a hot mess and you’re going to kill someone if you don’t get out in the sunshine soon, so you really have no excuse not to join us.
In case you missed it, we have a whole new website and a new system for signing up–check out the new House Crawl™ page for details. But first, read on for some cool history and info about Manayunk…
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- The Lenape Indians called the area around Philadelphia home long before William Penn showed up, and that’s why you see so many landmarks reflecting their language; a prime example is Manayunk, from the word “manaiung,” meaning “a place to drink” (AKA the Schuylkill River).
- William Penn sold the land around Manayunk to the Levering family in the early 1700s, and it remained a small village until the dam and canal were constructed in 1818–this brought a massive influx of Polish, Irish and Italian immigrants who would work in the mills and factories that sprung up to take advantage of the newly created power source.
- Manayunk remained a working class neighborhood until the Philly’s manufacturing died off in the 1980s. A push to revitalize the area began in the 1990s, and now many young professionals live there.
- Manayunk played a key role in the industrialization of Philadelphia and the U.S. at large, and it was 100% due to the construction of the dam and canal that created a source of hydroelectric power.
- A mix of large and small rowhomes were built to accommodate the surge of working class immigrants flooding to the neighborhood in the 1800s. However, unlike most of the rowhomes around Center City, many of these have fairly sizable backyards, too.
- Those rowhomes still make up the majority of the current housing stock, but recently there has been an uptick in large new construction homes, as well. Also, many of the old factories have been turned into condos.
When: A rich history of private survey maps, starting in 1808, gives us a picture of the land as it evolved over time.
- 1808: The entire area is considered Roxborough Township, and was farmland cut through with active streams running between the Schuylkill River and the Wissahickon River.
- 1843: Manayunk Township has been carved out along the eastern banks of the Schuylkill River and a thriving industrial economy takes shape; paper mills, cotton mills, wool mills, sawmills, and numerous churches and hotels appear. The modern street grid is beginning to be established as the workers push north for housing.
- 1855: The street grid pushes up to Ridge Avenue. The Norristown Railroad runs along Main street connecting Manayunk to Center City.
- 1895: The street grid is completely built out with a dense mix of industry and housing. The area has become a major industrial manufacturing hub mixed in with small-scale housing.
- 1934: Appraisal map labeled the population as D (lower or working class) and E (decadent–not as in fancy, as in reflecting a state of moral or cultural decline). There were pockets of the neighborhood labeled as primarily “Italian” and “Colored.” These labels were used to institute the shameful practice of redlining.
- 1962: The decline in industry is apparent on the land use map with the presence of large vacant buildings.
- Manayunk sits right along the Schuylkill River, with Manayunk Avenue and Ridge Avenue forming its eastern and southern borders, respectively.
- The northern border is a little murky, but it’s roughly Leverington to Smick to Fountain Streets (see map).
- Manayunk had a reputation as being a bit of a college town for awhile, but just like you, it’s all grown up now. Main Street is the hub of activity, with numerous shops, restaurants, and brewpubs. Venture a little off Main Street, and you can get some kick-ass tomato pie (if it’s good enough for Sinatra, it’s good enough for you).
- Are you an exercise/nature enthusiast? Well, that’s where the Schuylkill Trailcomes in–it runs through Manayunk right along the river and you can use it for a workout or even a commute back to Center City. And speaking of commutes, if you need to use I-76, you couldn’t ask for better access.
- The housing in this area is extremely affordable relative to other neighborhoods that offer the same amenities (transit, restaurants, shopping), and there’s a good chance you can find something with off-street parking and a good-sized yard, too. You get A LOT for your money in Manayunk.