Below is a map of some of Philly’s most well-known neighborhoods. It’s not to scale, and the boundaries can, and probably will, be disputed by the purists among us. However, it’s a good general guide to where our neighborhoods are in relation to each other. If you hover or tap on a neighborhood, you can find out more information about it. PLEASE NOTE: We have not yet completed the maps and written information for all neighborhoods, so keep checking back for updates.
If you’d like a more portable version of this map, use the form to request one–we’ll mail you a pocket-sized printed version for free! The paper is tear-proof and water-resistant, so carry it on your person at all times, and don’t be afraid to get a little messy when you’re shopping for your new favorite ‘hood.
Speaking of neighborhood shopping, we invented the best way to find where you want to live–it’s called a House Crawl™, and you’re going to love it.
There’s a different map in each tab. Mouse over and click any highlighted area to learn more about that neighborhood.
There’s a different map in each tab. Tap on an area to learn more about that neighborhood.
(Maps and descriptions will be continually added/updated, so keep checking back for new stuff, or get our newsletter and we’ll take the guesswork out of it for you.)
Interested in exploring these neighborhoods in person? We do that, too–it’s called a House Crawl™
- Fishtown originated as a fishing village centered around the shad fishing industry along the Delaware River.
- For most of its history, it has been a working class Irish-Catholic neighborhood.
- The last few years have shown an insurgence of you professionals, which has brought the usual tensions associated with the clash of old and new, but overall, the neighborhood has adapted fairly well to the influx of new residents and businesses.
- “Fishtown’s roads are canted toward the river, as opposed to aligning with the Center City grid system. Despite strong connections to the rest of the region through good public transit, difficult neighborhood street traffic patterns still act to insulate the neighborhood.” – Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia
When: A rich history of private survey maps, starting in 1808, gives us a picture of the land as it evolved over time.
- 1808: Entire area listed as Kensington with a street grid oriented to the river
- 1858: Post-consolidation Fishtown is structurally much like the Fishtown today with the same street grid and names.
- 1895: The rivers edge is full of industry. Dry docks, paint shops, rolling mills, lumber yards.
- 1934: Appraisal map labeled the population as D- lower or working class, and E- decadent (not fancy-reflecting a state of moral or cultural decline).
- Like all of Philadelphia, the neighborhood boundaries are somewhat fluid, but according to Fishtown Neighbors Association, the boundaries are from the Delaware River to Laurel Street, Laurel Street to Front Street, Front Street to Norris Street, Norris Street to Trenton Avenue, Trenton Avenue to Frankford Avenue, Frankford Avenue to York Street, and York Street to the Delaware River.
- Because Lehigh Ave. is a large traffic corridor and forms a more natural break between Fishtown and Port Richmond, many people consider Lehigh a more appropriate northern boundary for the neighborhood in its current state.
- Fishtown offers a really mixed bag of housing options and types. The vacant land has been turned into large modern houses, and the resurgence of Frankford Ave. has created a strong condo market. A decent amount of the original smaller housing stock is still there, which offers an affordable option compared to the large new construction homes.
About Fairmount/Art Museum Area
- Being outside the original city limits, many wealthy early Philadelphians set up their country estates in this area in the pre-annexation period before 1854.
- The early 1900s brought many working-class white Europeans to the the neighborhood to work in the industries springing up near the Schuylkill River.
- Since the mid-1900s, gentrification has taken hold of the area and it is now predominantly home to middle- and upper-income families because of its proximity to both Fairmount Park and Center City.
- The area takes its names from its proximity to both Fairmount Park and The Philadelphia Museum of Art, which happens to sit on Fairmount Hill (or Faire Mount)–William Penn intended to build his personal estate on this hill.
- One notable landmark in the area is The Fairmount Waterworks, which was created to get the clean water of the Schuylkill River to the city’s residents (a concept that is somewhat laughable now); now defunct, it’s once-industrial purpose is hidden by a beautiful example of Greek Revival architecture.
- Other landmarks include Eastern State Penitentiary, which was America’s first prison built with the intention of moving inmates to penitence rather than merely housing them, and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, which connects City Hall to the art museum.
- Current housing is mostly a mix of large and small rowhomes which were built as lower and middle income workers moved to the area in the early 1900s to work in the industries created by the previously mentioned landmarks.
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 area above Race St. had a wider, less dense grid than today that extended west to the edge of the Schuylkill River, while above Spring Garden St. was farmland crisscrossed by active streams. There was a public ferry where the Spring Garden St. Bridge is, and a public boat landing where the Philadelphia Museum of Art is today.
- 1843: Extension of the modern street grid with active train lines running through the neighborhood. Eastern State is situated at Coates St. at North Schuylkill 2nd St., which is now Fairmount Ave. and 20th St. The Waterworks has claimed the space along the Schuylkill River.
- 1862: The Fairmount Basin or Reservoir takes up the entire footprint of the current art museum.
- 1903: Fairmount Park is now visible. It was created and expanded over the late 1800s on the land along the eastern edge of the Schuylkill River between the reservoir and the train lines running along Pennsylvania Ave.
- 1934: Appraisal map labeled the population as C- (middle class residential) and D (lower or working class). There was also a swath of the northern edge was labeled as “colored.” These labels were used to institute the shameful practice of redlining. The art museum and the parkway are now present as well.
- 1942: The trains were removed and replaced by Pennsylvania Ave.
- 1982: There’s that damned, er…beloved Rocky statue.
- Check out these amazing historic photos of the neighborhood, too.
- The general Fairmount/Art Museum Area extends from Broad Street to the Schuylkill River, and from Girard Avenue in the north to Spring Garden Street in the south.
- Faimount Avenue is considered the divider between Fairmount and the Art Museum Area (AKA Spring Garden), and the area is sometimes sub-divided into smaller pocket neighborhoods like Francisville.
- Fairmount Park and the Philadelphia Museum of Art both sit on western boundary of this neighborhood.
- As mentioned before, one of the biggest draws about Fairmount is its walkability to both Fairmount Park and Center City. It doesn’t hurt that it is absolutely lovely, with tree-lined streets, small-scale retail, and many restaurants and bars.
- As with any good location, it comes with a premium to live there, but there are also some very large condo buildings that offer more affordability than the houses. There are 54 condo units on the market ranging from a 530 sq. ft. studio for $129,500 to a 3 bed/ 2 bath townhome with parking for $950,000. Currently, there are 22 houses for sale that range from a 1,088 sq. ft., 2 bed / 1 bath rowhouse in need of renovation for $289,000 to a 6,100 sq.ft. restored carriage house with two-car parking and an elevator for $1,295,000 (as of Fall, 2017).
- German brewers were attracted to the plentiful water supply of the Schuylkill River, the railroad connections for export, and the opportunity to tunnel out beer caves (hollowed out sections along the river where beer and ice from the river could be kept for long periods of time).
- Storing beer in a cool cellar was known as “lagering,” and was especially necessary during the humid Philadelphia summers. The area had over 700 breweries at one point.
- Brewerytown is currently repopulating, but it was debilitated by two major events, one a specific blow to this area, and the other a shameful part of Philadelphia’s past that affected much of the city:
- Prohibition shut down almost all of the operating breweries, and the industry has only just begun to return to the area.
- Redlining, or a practice in which appraisers created maps for the mortgage and insurance industries in the 1930s outlining the racial composition of different areas and assigned market potential grades based on said composition. J.M. Brewer’s 1934 map of Philadelphia lists Brewerytown as a D-grade investment due to “lower class” residents, predominantly “Jewish and Coloreds.” These classifications were used to scare white homeowners into selling to their homes to speculators who would then turn the properties into rentals to profit from the steady stream of renters migrating up from the South, where Jim Crow Laws kept African Americans from getting mortgages in these areas (just one of the many ways the Jim Crow South made life miserable for black Americans).
- Like everything else in the area, the housing stock was tied tightly to the brewing industry, with huge brownstones along Girard Ave. and 29th St. for the brewery owners and managers, and smaller, denser housing on the small side streets that were developed to help stabilize the brewery workforce. Most of these smaller streets, by the way, were named after breweries (e.g., Baltz, Uber, Newkirk, Sharswood, Moss, etc.). Many of the houses mirrored the breweries and the predominant German architecture, featuring red brick facades and elaborate trim.
- Some new breweries have set up shop in Brewerytown recently, but most of the few remaining original brewery buildings are being developed into loft-style condos and apartments. And, because of several decades of decline, there is a fair amount of vacant land being developed into modern, new-construction homes.
- Like many evolving neighborhoods in Philadelphia, the boundaries of Brewerytown are disputed. Many of the historical maps have the area bounded by Poplar St. to the south, Montgomery St. to the north,the Schuylkill River to west and Broad St. to the east.
- Community groups define the area as 33rd St. to Ridge Ave. and Girard Ave. to Cecil B. Moore Ave.
- Poplar St. has seemingly lost its hold as the southern border because Girard Ave., being a major transportation and commercial corridor, feels like a more natural boundary between Brewerytown and its neighbor to the south, Fairmount.
When: A rich history of private survey maps, starting in 1808, gives us a picture of the land as it evolved over time.
- 1808: City grid extends to Vine St. and the rest is farmland
- 1843: Major jump in urbanism with grid expanded to Brown St., state penitentiary and Girard College are built
- 1855: Extension of numbered streets to the north-south streets and east-west streets named as they are today
- 1862: Beer vaults appear along river between 35th & Master to 41st & Montgomery
- 1895: Swath along eastern edge of Schuylkill River to 33rd St. is consumed by Fairmount Park, dense residential grid east of 30th St. with the majority of the housing being built by the breweries as worker housing
- 1934: Post-prohibition appraisal map labeling the area as a poor investment with a predominately German-Jewish and African American population
Why: Brewerytown is attractive to home buyers today for a several reasons:
- For some, it’s a more affordable alternative to the Art Museum/Fairmount area, as it shares a similar proximity to Fairmount Park, public transit, and I-76.
- It’s a diverse neighborhood with more varied housing stock because of the adaptive reuse of industrial buildings and the rapid growth in new construction.
- The burgeoning commercial development along Girard Ave., including breweries, restaurants and various shops, is also a major draw.
About Eraser 'hood
If you hadn’t heard, David Lynch’s first film, Eraserhead, was significantly influenced by his time living in the area of Philadelphia around 13th and Wood (between Vine and Callowhill). At the time of his residence, the neighborhood was completely blown out, but like the rest of Center City, it has experienced an upswing recently. You may hear the area referred to as Callowhill or the newly coined “Loft District,” but in true Philly fashion, there’s a push to keep the affectionate nickname “Eraserhood” as a reminder of how far the area has come since the release of the now-classic film. I mean, really…that wordplay is just too good to let go.
- Callowhill, for the nomenclature purists, was named for William Penn’s second wife, Hannah Callowhill Penn.
- Callowhill was initially almost exclusively farmland, but in the mid-1800s it became heavily industrialized–this brought an influx of laborers who lived in the boarding houses and residential properties that filled in the gaps between large factory buildings because, hey, everyone likes a short commute.
- Residents of Callowhill, along with many other residents in and around Center City, began to leave the area in the mid-1900s to re-settle in the suburbs or elsewhere in Philadelphia.
- Lynch moved into the area around this time and witnessed the urban decay, the racial tensions and the polarizing tactics of a certain Mr. Rizzo, and his experiences there shaped much of his future work.
- As mentioned above, Callowhill was originally farmland, but once the city began to industrialize, it became one of the major hubs for manufacturing.
- The face of the neighborhood was changed dramatically with the construction of the Reading Railroad line and the Reading Viaduct in the early 1900s. This improved access to transportation for residents and manufacturers alike.
- After the loss of industry, Callowhill has been slower to recover than other parts of Philadelphia, due in part to the construction of the Vine Street Expressway in the 1980s, which cut it off from the rest of Center City; that is all about to change however, thanks to the aforementioned viaduct (see below).
- 1808: The Eraserhood/ Callowhill area was farmland cut through with active streams and part of a vast area all labeled Northern Liberties.
- 1843: Extension of the modern street grid into the neighborhood: Broad, Ridge, and Spring Garden Streets emerge, and fully active train lines run from river to river through the neighborhood.
- 1858: Spring Garden Street is a market.
- 1875: The area has become a major industrial manufacturing hub with stove companies, flour mills, bolt & nut works, and coal yards 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 was also a swath of the eastern edge of the neighborhood that was labeled as primarily Jewish, and the northern edge was labeled as colored. These labels were used to institute the shameful practice of redlining.
- Check out these amazing historic photos of the neighborhood, too.
- Like all of Philadelphia, the neighborhood boundaries are somewhat fluid, but Callowhill is roughly Vine Street to Spring Garden Street and Broad Street to 7th Street, and if you don’t consider Eraser’hood to be synonymous with Callowhill, then it would be the smaller area around 13th and Wood. Feel free to debate this—everyone else is.
- Ultimately, all neighborhood boundaries are irrelevant–all that matters is your address, because that’s how the Pizza Fairy finds you.
- Due to its industrial beginnings and the many commercial buildings still left from that time, Callowhill provided the perfect opportunity for developers to create loft-style condominiums in the recent revitalization effort. There are also several new construction properties because of the vacant land that was left behind.
- The housing in this area is generally affordable relative to other neighborhoods surrounding Center City, though prices are increasing as more restaurants and businesses move into the area.
- Oh, and then there’s that viaduct we mentioned. A section of those elevated tracks still remains in Callowhill, and it’s morphing into Philly’s version of the Highline in New York. It sounds like it’s going to be awesome, and you can expect property values to reflect that.
About Northern Liberties
- Philaplace.org has an excellent timeline of the neighborhood and its residents, so we’ll keep ours brief.
- The area was home to the Lenni Lenape Indians for thousands of years, and you’ll see their influence to this day in many place names.
- Due to its combination of manufacturing jobs and its status as a stop on the Underground Railroad, the has hosted a diverse assortment of ethnicities and nationalities, including African Americans and Latinx people, as well people from all over Europe and Western Asia.
- Presently, the descendants of many of those groups still live around the neighborhood, and in the last decade there’s been an influx of young professionals, many of whom relocated to Philly for undergraduate or advanced degrees and then stayed here after graduation.
- Northern Liberties began as part of the “free lots” north of Vine St. (the original northern boundary of Philadelphia). Building infrastructure there proved more challenging than William Penn had initially thought, and so he created Philly’s first BOGO sale, in which buying a plot in the city limits would also get you a plot in the liberty lands.
- Current day Northern Liberties existed as a township from 1771 until 1854, when all of Philadelphia County was consolidated into the city of Philadelphia.
- Because of its terrain and proximity to the Delaware River, the neighborhood was a hub of manufacturing and industrial activity for the city, and it stayed that way until late in the 20th century, when American manufacturing in general died out.
- 1808: The boundaries of Northern Liberties were a bit different than today: Vine St. to the south, the Cohocksink Creek to the north, the Delaware River to the east and 6th St. to the west. Frankford Ave. and Callowhill St. are two major roadways through a still a primarily rural area with most of the industry along the river.
- 1843: The name “Northern Liberties” first appears on the maps.
- 1858: Post-consolidation, the boundaries of Northern Liberties resembles what we know today: Spring Garden St. to Girard Ave. and the Delaware River to 6th St. The area is dotted with lumber yards, coal yards, and the dense urban grid appears. Cohocksink Creek has been filled in to create a sewer and continuations of East Allen St., Canal St., and Bodine St. have been created where the creek was.
- 1862: Girard Ave. is a major rail route from the Schuylkill River to the Delaware River.
- 1895: The rivers edge is fully of industry. Dry docks, paint shops, rolling mills, lumber yards.
- 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 was also a swath of the western edge of the neighborhood that was labelled as primarily Jewish. These labels were used to institute the shameful practice of redlining.
- Like all of Philadelphia, the neighborhood boundaries are somewhat fluid, but according to Northern Liberties Neighbor Association, “the western border of the Northern Liberties is N. 6th St. starting at Callowhill St. and ending at Girard Ave. The Northern border starts at 6th St. and Girard Ave. and extends down Girard to Front St. where the border turns south down Front St. to Laurel St. and then east the length of Laurel St. to the Delaware River. The eastern border runs down the Delaware River from Laurel St. to Callowhill St. The southern border starts at the Delaware River and follows Callowhill St. to 6th St.”
- However, it is generally accepted that at least part of Old City extends to Spring Garden St., so that leaves a good bit of overlap between the two neighborhoods. No one ever wins a debate like this, but in it’s current state, we think Spring Garden St. makes a more natural southern border for the neighborhood, and we would extend the northeast corner all the way to Frankford Ave.
- Ultimately, all neighborhood boundaries are irrelevant–all that matters is your address, because that’s how the Pizza Fairy finds you.
- Due to the combination of its industrial beginnings and the decline caused by the redlining of the area, Northern Liberties has a lot of newer housing stock, so if you prefer modern over historic, this is a good place for you.
- The area also offers a really mixed bag of housing types. It wasn’t originally gridded out for houses with consistent lot lines; instead, it was colonized by industry to fit whatever space each use needed, which created some larger buildings and lot lines that have now become condos and large new-construction homes.
- As of Summer, 2017, there were 73 properties for sale that range from a 350 sq. ft. condo at $169,000 to a 4,600 sq. ft. townhouse with a two-car garage listed at $1,1495,000. The rest of the houses on the market were distributed fairly evenly across the pricing spectrum.
- There’s also no shortage of restaurants and shopping, including what is probably the strongest contender for “America’s first gastropub,” Standard Tap (their case is especially good considering they opened in 1999 and the other two who make the claim opened in 2000 and 2004).
About Old City
- Old City has been continuously occupied since it was settled–in fact, Elfreth’s Alley is the oldest continuously occupied residential street in the country.
- William Penn and the Quakers settled in the area, and it grew to become the thriving city that would give birth to a new country called America.
- In the 19th century, as residents began to move out of the neighborhood, wholesalers and manufacturers quickly moved in and built warehouses and factories on any vacant land. They were followed by banks and other commercial entities, who tended to built in the Greek Revival style.
- In the 1970s, there was a push to make the neighborhood more residential again, and the art community transformed the industrial spaces into lofts and galleries. The art scene in the area continues to thrive, and a bevy of shops and restaurants followed, bringing more residents with them.
- Known as America’s most historic square mile, the Old City neighborhood is just that–the oldest part of the city.
- “The importance of the river in those days is still evident today from Old Cityâ€™s tiny side streets, which started as paths to move goods to and from the waterfront. Thus, the neighborhood developed quickly into a dense maze of alleys, passageways and courts lined with row houses on sub-divided lots. Incredibly, much of this character remains today â€“ including the ancient practice of combining a ground-floor business with a residence above.” – OldCityDistrict.org
- 1808: Philadelphia city limits stopped at Vine St. to the north and Cedar St. (now Lombard) to the south, and the street grid that was created with the founding of the city is evident.
- 1843: Many of the streets are continuous parcels of land. The original plan for Philadelphia called for each block to stay intact, and to function as small manors with gardens and livestock. The goal was to separate residential life from industry and protect families from disease.
- 1855: Independence Square appears in the street grid (later expanded to modern day Independence Mall).
- 1858: Post-consolidation Old City is structurally much like it is today with the same street grid and names; the area from Chestnut St. to Vine St. and 7th St. to the Delaware River is now considered to be the 6th Ward.
- 1862: The waterfront is mainly steamboat ports with routes north to New York and Trenton, south to Delaware and Baltimore, and east to New Jersey.
- 1895: Delaware Avenue is a major railroad route transporting goods to and from the docks on the river. The city grid has become more and more chopped up into smaller plots of land to be sold creating a network of small side streets within the larger grid.
- 1910: First recreation pier at Chestnut St.
- 1934 Appraisal Map: Introduction of Delaware Memorial Bridge (later renamed Ben Franklin Bridge).
- Historically, Old City has been defined as Chestnut St. to the south, Vine St. to the north, 7th St. to the west and the Delaware River to the east.
- As industrial expansion pushed northward and with addition of 676/Vine St. Expressway, it made more sense to expand the boundary to the southern edge of Northern Liberties, which has a clear break at Spring Garden St.
- Aesthetically, Old City is difficult to distinguish from its southern neighbor, Society Hill; that makes the southern boundary of Chestnut St. somewhat vestigial. There is a natural traffic barrier formed by Market St., however, and this serves as a reasonable southern boundary for the neighborhood in its current state (though, as always, most neighborhood boundaries in Philadelphia are somewhat fluid and subject to interpretation).
- Because Philadelphia was a port city and developed from the river out, the first neighborhood, Old City, offers an interesting mix of truly historic houses and converted industrial loft spaces. Larger buildings make up the majority of the housing, so it is a great area for condos.
- With that history you also get a really robust social and dining scene, from large clubs and bars to small, high-end restaurants and cafes. The area has great transit options, such as the Market-Frankford Line, and easy access to I-95. This is a great area for anyone that wants to walk to center city or commute via a 4-minute El ride to NJ or the east side of the city.
- With Christ Church, Ben Franklin’s and Besty Ross’s houses, and the Liberty Bell only a few blocks apart from each other, roving packs of wobbly tourists on Segways are sure to follow. It is interesting to regularly be reminded that Philadelphia is not just a national, but also an international destination.
About Port Richmond
- Like all of the River Wards, the area was home to the Lenni Lenape Indians for thousands of years; many of their artifacts were unearthed in the pre-construction excavation leading up to the recent improvements to I-95.
- In colonial times, most of the area served as country estates for people like Anthony Palmer (who founded Kensington), but it was the introduction of steam engines to ships in the 1800s that transformed this land of pastoral mansions, one of which was called Richmond, into bustling Port Richmond.
- The coal, shipping, and railroad industries brought workers from all over Europe throughout the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, but immigrants from Poland found the area especially appealing and began to concentrate there, earning it the nickname, “Little Poland.”
- Many of the descendants of these European immigrants still live in the neighborhood today, and the Polish influence is still very strong. However, it has become more ethnically diverse in recent decades.
- Being a port, the industry here naturally centered around coal, ship-building, shipping, and the Reading Railroad. This became especially valuable during wartime, and the port served a role in every major American war from the Revolution through World War II.
- The influx of immigrant workers came long before cars were a consideration, so many of the streets are still small and the earliest worker houses were tiny 12-ft wide row homes. Over time, larger row homes were built, as well, and most of the housing stock still reflects this.
- Only a small amount of maritime activity remains, but some of the old industrial areas have been converted to suburban-like strip malls with fast food conveniences and big box stores (so if you’re longing for a drive-thru Panda Express, this is where you want to go).
- 1808: Boundaries are less defined; primarily rural area with most of the industry along the river.
- 1843: Transit routes to service industry start to manifest: Point-no-Point Road is a direct route from the port of the Delaware River to the Schuylkill River to transport coal and manufactured goods. There is a small 6 block section of grid forming near the river which will be the structure for the development of the rest of the neighborhood.
- 1895: Post-consolidation, the area is dotted with lumber yards, coal yards, and the dense urban grid has appeared. Aramingo Canal has been filled in and is now Aramingo Avenue. Girard Avenue is a major rail route from the Schuylkill River to the Delaware River.
- 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 was also a section of the western edge of the neighborhood that was labelled as primarily Italian. These labels were used to institute the shameful practice of redlining.
- Like all of Philadelphia, the neighborhood boundaries are somewhat fluid, but the Delaware River and Frankford Creek form undisputed boundaries to the southeast and northeast.
- Old heads insist Trenton Ave. is the northwest boundary (and that’s their right), but Frankford Ave. has become a much larger and busier traffic corridor, to us it forms a more natural break and only extends the boundary by a couple of blocks.
- Because the railroad tracks just north of Lehigh Ave. form a hard break between Olde Richmond and Port Richmond, we consider it more appropriate to put Olde Richmond with Fishtown and consider Lehigh the southwest boundary for the neighborhood in its current state.
- Port Richmond was populated as a working-class neighborhood, and it has remained in that steady state to this day. It has been relatively well-maintained over the years and didn’t experience the urban decay that other parts of the city did; this means that today there is still a lot of original housing stock and not much new building has occurred. This could be a plus or a minus, depending on what you’re looking for.
- Housing here is much more affordable than neighboring Fishtown, and because of that, development is starting to push this direction. The location is also an absolute dream if you need to use I-95 to commute.
- The newer amenities in the neighborhood are fairly suburban in nature, like fast food joints and big box stores, but Port Richmond still has some pretty cool old school trendy spots and oddities that don’t remain in a lot of other parts of the city. Tacconelli’s is famous for its tomato pie, but you won’t have to wait two months for a reservation, nor will you at New Wave Cafe or Czerw’s Keilbasy. Graffiti Pier, that weird and wonderful adult urban playground, is becoming a public park. And if you’re really adventurous, you can still see the unclaimed gravestones from Monument Cemetery that were rather unceremoniously dumped under the Betsy Ross Bridge.
- Like all of the River Wards, the area was home to the Lenni Lenape Indians for thousands of years; many of their artifacts were unearthed in the pre-construction excavation leading up to the recent improvements to I-95.
- Kensington was founded in the 1730s by English merchant Anthony Palmer, who named it for an area in London.
- The rise of industry brought an influx working class Irish immigrants, as well as a large number of English.
- Over time, other groups such as Hispanic Americans, African Americans, and Polish Americans have moved into the neighborhood as well.
- The Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia has an excellent write-up of the area’s history, so we’ll keep ours brief.
- During the Industrial Revolution, Kensington transformed from rich farmland into the epicenter of industrial activity. Many industries sprouted up here, but by the 1850s, textiles had become dominant.
- One hundred years later saw the close of the factories as post-WWII America began its trek to the suburbs. With the people went the businesses, and by the ’70s and ’80s, crime and economic hardship had taken hold.
- Currently, parts of Kensington are experiencing an upswing in development thanks to groups like the New Kensington Community Development Corp.
- However, other parts have been some of the hardest hit areas in the country in the opioid epidemic; we encourage you to view the work of Jeffrey Stockbridge, who documents the problem with care and compassion, and to donate time or money to organizations confronting the problem, such as Prevention Point.
- 1808: Boundaries are less defined; primarily rural farmland.
- 1843: The Kensington area was known as Northern Liberties and vice versa. There was the beginning of the modern street grid forming up to Norris St.
- 1855: The full modern street grid is present.
- 1895: Post-consolidation, the area is primarily textile production with dye houses, carpet houses, and hosiery mills and the dense urban grid has appeared.
- 1934: Appraisal map labeled the population as C-middle class residential, and D- lower or working class. These labels were used to institute the shameful practice of redlining.
- The boundaries between Kensington, Fishtown, and Port Richmond get really murky by anyone’s standards, and for that reason, the whole area is sometimes cheekily referred to as “Port Fishington.”
- For our purposes, we’ve consolidated the smaller neighborhoods of Olde Kensington, East Kensington, West Kensington, and Norris Square under the name “Kensington.”
- The large resulting area is bound by Girard Avenue, N. 7th Street, Lehigh Avenue, and Frankford Avenue. We freely admit these are rough boundaries that are mostly useful to link several smaller but historically similar sub-neighborhoods.
- Right now, most development activity is centered in the southeast section of the neighborhood around the areas of Olde Kensington, Norris Square, and East Kensington.
- For the same reasons people have flocked to Northern Liberties and Fishtown in the last 10-15 years, they are now looking at Kensington. They can take advantage of the bars, restaurants, and shops nearby, but in homes that are more affordable than Fishtown and Northern Liberties.
- The location is also convenient if you need to commute via I-95.
About Mount Airy
- Mt. Airy is a racially and socially diverse neighborhood bordered by Cresheim Valley Creek and Trail, and it is home to some of Philadelphia’s most historic houses.
- The roots of social justice go all the way back to the Johnson House, Philadelphia’s only accessible stop on the underground railroad, and the West Mt. Airy’s Neighbors (WMAN), who created a unified resistance to redlining and panic selling during the 1950s and ’60s.
- The majority of the housing stock is a mix of very large (3,000+ sq. ft) freestanding homes that were originally country estates (like the original Mt. Airy Mansion) and more traditional twin homes in a standard neighborhood setting.
- There are also more dense housing sections, especially to the west of Germantown Avenue.
- Like most Philadelphia neighborhoods, the boundaries are a bit fluid.
- “There is no official boundary between Mount Airy and Germantown. The most common consensus is that Johnson Street is the de facto boundary; however, the West Mount Airy Neighbors and East Mount Airy Neighbors organizations consider Washington Lane to be Mount Airy’s southern edge. The question is moot, however, as the two neighborhoods blend together very gradually.”
- The area was originally settled by William Allen in 1750 as a summer estate and mansion named Mt. Airy along Germantown Avenue at Allen’s Lane; over time, the whole area became known by the name.
- Much of modern Mount Airy was developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, spreading out from Germantown Avenue and two railroad lines. Large three-story, gray-stone Victorian, colonial revival, and Norman and Cotswold-style houses and mansions, with stained glass windows and slate roofs, are situated on many of the area’s tree-lined streets. They dominated districts like West Mount Airy’s Pelham section.
- People are drawn to Mt. Airy for the diversity, the access to the hiking and biking trails, and the spacious feel of the area while still being only a few train stops from the center of Philadelphia.
- 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.
- 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 Trail comes 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.
About Point Breeze
- Originally populated by German Jewish immigrants, who were later followed by Irish, Italians, and then African Americans as part of the Great Migration north to escape the Jim Crow laws of the South.
- Currently, the neighborhood is being re-populated after several decades of decline because the loss of manufacturing, redlining, and white flight.
- There’s currently a mix of original housing stock and a thriving new-construction market filling in the high number of vacant lots and empty houses which were the result of 60 years of population decline.
- Most houses are 15-16 feet wide. Original houses are generally two stories and 1,100-1,500 square feet, and feature plaster walls with brick facades; most new construction homes are three stories and 2,000+ square feet.
- Between Broad St. and 25th St. from east to west, and Washington Ave. and Snyder Ave. from north to south.
- This is a very large swath of land that doesn’t necessarily operate as a cohesive neighborhood; some residents in the southeast section have tried to secede, so to speak, by re-branding with names like Newbold and East Point Breeze.
When: Point Breeze was primarily orchards and farm land dotted with larger houses until the mid 1800’s. A rich history of private survey maps, starting in 1808, gives us a history of the land, while census data tells us about the people.
- 1808-1843: Primarily Rural
- 1843: Two major diagonal roads cut across the farmland.
- Long Lane stretched from the Schuylkill River to 17th & Rodman Sts., which was the south edge of Philadelphia at the time–this later became Point Breeze Ave. and now terminates at 20th & Federal Sts.
- Buck Road stretched from the county prison at 11th & Wharton Sts. west to the U.S. Arsenal on the Schuylkill River near what was then a railroad line and is now Washington Ave.
- 1855: Beginning of the dense street grid that we know today.
- 1862: Start of industrial development and factory building.
- 1888: Thriving commercial sector, primarily along Point Breeze Avenue.
- Point Breeze has remained one of the most active markets in Philadelphia, and according to Zillow, in the U.S., as well. The ingredients for the recipe are simple–close proximity to Center City, good transit options, a high rate of vacant land and abandoned houses, and a large percentage of rental properties that have been rehabbed for sale have all come together to transform the market over the past 8+ years.
- The housing in this area is extremely affordable relative to other neighborhoods that offer the same amenities (walking distance to Center City, transit, etc.). You can still get a good bit for your money in Point Breeze. Everyone is buzzing about the gi-normous city-mansions with multi-decks and full parking lots for a gazillion dollars–and they do exist and will cost you as much as $780,000–but the majority of houses available today are still in the $200s-$400s.
- As of March, 2018, there were 158 properties for sale; five were below $99,000, 30 were in the $100,000’s, 50 were in the $200,000’s (and six of those had tax abatements), 30 were in the $300,000’s (100% of which were abated), 17 were in the $400,000’s (15 abated), nine were in the $500,000’s (eight abated), two were in the $600,000’s (both abated), and two were in the $700,000’s (both abated). Nine of the houses had parking. The largest cohort of properties were the 50 houses priced between $200,000 and $299,000. Of those, 34 had been updated enough to have central air.
About Washington Square West
- Much like the rest of Center City, Washington Square West has an up-and-down history, and was in decline for a good deal of the 20th century. Before the decline, the area had been home to a diverse population.
- While Society Hill and Old City benefited from the city’s urban renewal push in the 1970s, the money ran dry before Wash. West could partake; this left the neighborhood a bit snaggletoothed, with only vacant lots left where blighted buildings had been razed. This created a blank canvas for developers when Ed Rendell made a push for revitalization in the 1990s.
- In the meantime, the area became a haven for the city’s LGBTQ community during the ’70s and ’80s, spawning the nickname “the gayborhood” for the area around Chestnut, Juniper, Pine and 11th Streets. Queer-friendly businesses, restaurants and bars thrived, as did the gay bathhouses.
- “The name ‘Washington Square West’ came into official use in the late 1950s and early 1960s as part of Edmund Bacon‘s comprehensive plan for Center City.” – Wikipedia (and yes, that is Kevin Bacon’s dad, but he accomplished so much that this little factoid is only about the 50th most interesting thing about him)
- The snaggletoothed landscape created a really interesting opportunity for developers to work with large tracts of vacant land peppered into a dense historic residential neighborhood, which created the current mix of styles–historic and modernist, ornate details and stripped down brick and glass facades.
- 1808: Grid ended at Cedar St. (current day Lombard St.).
- 1858: Washington Square and Penn Hospital show up on the maps. Penn Square was a series of 4 parks that would become City Hall.
- 1862: A mix of churches, hotels, and a circus at 8th & Walnut.
- 1875: Walnut Street Theater appears at 8th & Walnut.
- 1934: Appraisal map labeled the population as mostly African American and Jewish, and assigned ratings of C (middle class), D (lower or working class), and E (decadent; not as in “fancy,” as in reflecting a state of moral or cultural decline). These ratings were part of Philadelphia’s shameful history of redlining.
- The Washington Square West Civic Association identifies the area as the square bounded by Chestnut, 7th, South and Broad Streets.
- However, extending the northern boundary one block to Market St. makes a more natural division between Wash. West and Chinatown (though, as always, most neighborhood boundaries in Philadelphia are somewhat fluid and subject to interpretation).
- The Current market is about 75% condos because of the high number of huge historic brownstones (buildings that were big enough to be split up) mixed in with the multi-unit developments from the ’90s.
- The LGBTQ-friendly culture remains intact in many of the local businesses and bars, and a thriving restaurant scene has blossomed largely due to the work of Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran (though we just can’t bring ourselves to call the area by its attempted re-brand name, “Midtown Village”).
- The transit options are some of the best in the city, whether you’re walking to Thomas Jefferson University or Center City or catching the Broad or Market Street subway lines to the rest of the city; it pretty much could not get any easier.
About Queen Village
- Queen Village has had many shifts in populations over the ages. This is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Philadelphia, and was originally inhabited by Lenni Lenapi who called the area Wiccaco, meaning “pleasant place.”
- From 1638-1655, it was a colony called New Sweden, created through Sweden’s colonization efforts in the Americas. “In 1664, the family of Sven Gunnarson obtained a patent from the Dutch governor to establish a farm at Wicaco, covering all of Southwark, Passyunk and Moymensing. In 1683, his sons sold 300 acres north of Wicaco to William Penn for the new city of Philadelphia. Old Swedes Church located at Christian Street and Columbus Boulevard was completed in 1700 and is a National Historic Site still in use today as an Episcopal church.”
- The next shift was towards the river with the thriving business along the port. This created a huge demand for housing, most of which were built from wood–this practice was outlawed in 1796 after a series of massive fires, but a few remain today.
What: As a port city that has grown east to west, Wiccaco/Southwark/Queen Village was always a dense residential area close to the river, and several different groups of immigrants and migrants settled in the area. Like much of the rest of Philadelphia, the area started to decline in the 1960s.
- 1820s: there was huge influx of free blacks drawn to the Free Black churches and affordable housing; this was mostly contained to a thin strip known as the Cedar St. Corridor (Lombard to South Sts., 5th to 7th Sts.).
- 1830s: 20,000 craft people and military were working on the docks, the military base, and at Sparks Shot Tower.
- 1890s: Eastern European Jewish population increases and begins the textile industry in the area, centered on 4th St. from Bainbridge to Washington (now commonly referred to as Fabric Row).
- 1910s: Large influx of Italian immigrants.
- 1930s: Redlining, a practice in which appraisers created maps for the mortgage and insurance industries in the 1930s outlining the racial composition of different areas and assigning market potential grades based on said composition, achieved its nefarious aim of driving property values down. J.M. Brewer’s 1934 map of Philadelphia lists Queen Village as C-, D- and E-grade investments due to “lower class” residents. These classifications were used all over Philadelphia to scare white, Protestant homeowners into selling to their homes to speculators, who would then turn the properties into rentals to profit from the steady stream of renters migrating up from the South, where Jim Crow Laws kept African Americans from getting mortgages there (just one of the many ways the Jim Crow South made life miserable for black Americans). Redlining is a stain on the history of Philadelphia, and American in general, and its reverberations are still felt today.
- 1960s: Huge decline because of diminishing manufacturing economy and destructive planning practices that cut the neighborhood off from the river with the creation of the I-95 corridor. The area was also part of the speculative sell off that was created by the city’s proposed cross town expressway that was supposed to run along South St., which would have cut off the neighborhood on the Northern border.
- 1970s: Queen Village named after Queen Christina of Sweden.
- South Street to Washington Avenue and 6th Street to the Delaware River.
- 1808: Southark area extends south to McKean St. and west to Passyunk Road.
- 1843: Creation of South St.
- 1855: Post-consolidation Philadelphia engulfed Southwark, which already had the modern street grid we know today.
- 1858: Swanson St., the main street to the east between the city and the river, first appears; it was later demolished to create 1-95 in the 1970’s. Many current streets had different names:
- Shippen St. = Bainbridge St.
- Annapolis St. = S. Hancock St.
- Almond St. = Kenilworth St.
- Senate St. = Monroe St.
- Congress St. = Pemberton St.
- Mead St. = Fitzwater St.
- Concord St. = Fulton St.
- 1934: Appraisal map labeled the area as primarily Jewish and Italian, with African Americans at the northwest edge; house stock was labeled C,D, and E-grade.
- 1942: Rail line along Delaware River appears on the map.
- People are drawn to Queen Village today because of the smaller historic streets and houses and access to the east side of Center City.
- The housing market in Queen Village is highly varied. It ranges from condos in the low $200’s all the way up to $1+ million massive homes built on combined lots (as of April 2017).
About Graduate Hospital/Devil's Pocket
- Graduate Hospital and the Devil’s Pocket both began as predominately Irish Catholic neighborhoods that formed after the civil war.
- While Graduate Hospital would transition to mostly African American by 1920, the Devil’s Pocket remained largely Irish American until recently.
- The makeup of both neighborhoods has been diluted somewhat by Philadelphia’s influx of new residents over the last couple of decades.
- Devil’s Pocket has been a stable neighborhood for the bulk of its existence.
- Graduate Hospital is currently a very stable neighborhood with a strong market, but it barely survived two debilitating forces; one was a supremely bad idea that never came to fruition, and the other was a shameful part of Philadelphia’s past that affected much of the city:
- In the 1960’s, a proposed cross-town expressway that would connect I-76 and I-95 along modern-day South St. caused large-scale abandonment of the neighborhood.
- Redlining, a practice in which appraisers created maps for the mortgage and insurance industries in the 1930s outlining the racial composition of different areas and assigning market potential grades based on said composition, achieved its nefarious aim of driving property values down. J.M. Brewer’s 1934 map of Philadelphia lists Graduate Hospital as a D-grade investment due to “lower class” residents, predominantly “coloreds.” These classifications were used to scare white homeowners into selling to their homes to speculators, who would then turn the properties into rentals to profit from the steady stream of renters migrating up from the South, where Jim Crow Laws kept African Americans from getting mortgages there (just one of the many ways the Jim Crow South made life miserable for black Americans). Redlining is a stain on the history of Philadelphia, and American in general, and its reverberations are still felt today.
- Sometimes abbreviated to G-Ho (for better or for worse), the Graduate Hospital neighborhood is named for an actual hospital located on Lombard St. between 18th and 19th Sts. It originally started as the Philadelphia Polyclinic in 1889 and expanded and changed hands many times over the years, but the hospital and the neighborhood became synonymous in the 1940’s when the University of Pennsylvania used the hospital as a teaching school dubbed, you guessed it, “Graduate Hospital.” The hospital is gone, but the name lives on.
- It is unclear exactly how the area known as the Devil’s Pocket got it’s name, but it seems to stem, in one way or another, from the fact that this secluded area attracted a good deal of “sinning” in its early days. There were supposedly several speakeasies there during Prohibition, and it was generally known as a rough and tumble Irish-American neighborhood for most of its existence.
- The housing in these neighborhoods tends to reflect the working class nature of the original population, with small, dense row homes surrounded by larger buildings that were lumber yards and cotton and wool mills; there is also a high concentration of churches.
- Graduate Hospital is currently considered to be the area from South St. to Washington Ave., and Broad St. to Grays Ferry Ave. Originally, the neighborhood extended to the Scottish Rite House at 16th St. and Fitzwater St., but it has since expanded east to Broad St. and south to Washington Ave.
- The Devil’s Pocket is is a tidy little diamond shape demarcated by Grays Ferry Ave., Schuylkill Ave. and the northern boundary of Naval Square, which is situated on the former grounds of the U.S. Naval Home and Asylum.
- 1808: City boundary and grid extends to South St. and the rest is farmland
- 1843: The area is still predominately farmland.
- What is today Washington Avenue was then a main line for the Southwark Railroad.
- Streets were numbered from west to east between Schuylkill River and Broad St.
- The East side of Broad St. had the current street number system.
- The City of Philadelphia ended at South St.; The bounds of the city were expanded to encompass the surrounding townships in 1854 with the Consolidation Act. Before that, much of Graduate Hospital was split between Passyunk Township and Moyamensing Township.
- 1855: Modern street grid that we know today emerges.
- 1895: Dense housing stock, and a fully fleshed out neighborhood with churches and a commercial corridor along Washington Ave.
- 1934: Appraisal map labeled area as primarily African American and D- and E-grade housing stock.
- Graduate Hospital and the Devil’s Pocket are attractive to home buyers today for several reasons. They are convenient to Center City and easily accessible via the South Street Bridge to University City (home to U. Penn., Drexel and their various research and medical facilities).
- Further, they will make an awfully attractive commute for anyone working at the Children’s Hospital expansion, which is already operational as we speak between the Schuylkill River and Schuylkill Ave.
- Currently, houses range from one-bedroom condos in the $160s to large, new-construction townhomes with parking in the $880s. You can occasionally find a fixer-upper here, but fully rehabbed properties are more common (as of Spring, 2017).
- Until the early 19th century, the area around Rittenhouse Square was primarily industrial and home to several brickyards.
- As the population of Philadelphia pushed west toward the Schuylkill River through the early 1800s, a forward-thinking former congressman named James Harper bought up most of the land along the northern edge of the square and built himself a stately home at 1811 Walnut Street. Harper then broke the rest of the land into plots and sold them to other wealthy Philadelphians at a profit. Well into the 20th century, the area around the square hosted many of the city’s most prominent families.
- With the population boom that followed WWII, most of the mansions were replaced with high-rise apartments, condominiums and office buildings, and the neighborhood continues to reflect that today. It is popular with younger people who are studying or working in the city, as well as empty nesters who are ready to get back to the city once the kids have moved out.
- Rittenhouse Square is one of the five original public squares in William Penn’s initial plan for the layout of the city, although it was first known as Southwest Square.
- In 1825, the square was renamed for renowned philosopher, astronomer and first director of the U.S. Mint, David Rittenhouse–he was an autodidact and his contributions to science and beyond are too numerous to list, but he’s definitely worth some further reading.
- When the area surrounding the square became more residential in the mid-20th century, the neighborhood adopted the name as well, and today you’ll hear it referred to as “Rittenhouse” and “Rittenhouse Square” interchangeably. You can read more about the square’s history here.
- 1808: The Philadelphia grid plan that was first laid out in 1682 is still largely intact and there are very few individual lots.
- 1848: Rittenhouse Square, Washington Square, Logan Square, and Franklin Square parks are all fully functioning parks with the beginnings of dense residential fabric forming around each park.
- 1855: Philadelphia is still primarily a port city with most industry and commerce happening along the rivers; consequently, the northern border of Rittenhouse that would later be formed by Market Street is still a rail line at this time.
- 1910: The first larger buildings begin to appear around Rittenhouse Square. Many of these buildings were apartments.
- 1934: Appraisal map ranked the area’s real estate as A (highest class resident) and B (upper middle class). These ratings were part of Philadelphia’s shameful history ofredlining, and while many other neighborhoods were greatly depreciated by the practice, it was quite beneficial for the property owners around Rittenhouse.
- 1942: Many of the current day institutions begin to claim space in Rittenhouse square, including the Curtis Institute of Music, Barclay Apartments, the Art Alliance, and the Boyd, Aldine, and Stanley Theaters. Lots that once held large single-family homes begin to be consolidated and large apartment and office buildings are built.
- The square itself is bounded by Walnut Street and 18th Street to the north and east, while the southern and western boundaries are formed by smaller streets dubbed Rittenhouse Square and West Rittenhouse Square, respectively.
- The neighborhood boundaries are fairly easy to define due to some natural traffic barriers that have arisen in modern times. We generally consider them to be Broad Street to the east, Market Street to the north, South Street to the south, and 21st Street to the west.
- If there was a word cloud for Philadelphia real estate listings, there would be a big, fat “Rittenhouse” front and center. Long before anyone ever heard of a walk score, Philadelphians prized this square for its beauty and location, and to this day, you’d be hard-pressed to find a listing between Spring Garden Street, Oregon Avenue and the rivers that doesn’t describe its location relative to Rittenhouse Square.
- While the area is often thought of one as of the more posh neighborhoods in the city, due to the high volume of apartments and condominiums there, it can actually be a fairly affordable place to live. Of the 183 properties currently for sale, a third of them are below $400,000, and are 5 below $199,900. All of those are condos with average monthly fees of $400. Houses (fee-simple ownership without homeowner associations or condo associations), range from $429,000 to $14,000,000+ (as of Spring, 2017).
- If you want to be near the shopping, dining and nightlife of Center City and also have a quick commute to downtown or University City, this is the location for you.
- If you value parking, several of the high-rises have dedicated spaces, something you are unlikely to find in other neighborhoods that are predominantly comprised of rowhomes.
About Fitler Square
- When coal and textiles were dominating the industries along the Schuylkill River in the early 1800s, the Fitler Square neighborhood filled up with working class laborers, many of them Irish.
- As industry relocated from the area (see below), so, too, did the residents who had worked there–this left an opportunity for wealthy Philadelphians to move in and build their dream homes in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
- The neighborhood took a nose dive in the 1940s when the city proposed the Crosstown Expressway, which caused property values to plummet because it would have razed all of the existing homes. However, many residents rode out the decline and eventually got an improvement initiative going that led to the well-maintained neighborhood we know today.
- The LGBT+ community also has a soft spot for the area, as the Schuylkill River Park was also colloquially known as Judy Garland Park because it was a popular gay cruising spot in the ’80s and ’90s.
- The Fitler Square neighborhood is named for Fitler Square, and the square itselfwas named after former mayor Edwin Fitler in 1896; however, the land and street grid in this area have been a part of the city since its founding in 1682, and the tree streets have had their names since 1684.
- The Schuylkill River had always been used as a shipping alternative to the Delaware, but in the early 1800s it went into heavy use for transporting coal from upriver to the city–it boomed with coal and textile industries until the 1870s, when ships got too large to use the shallow Schuylkill River. As outlined above, the neighborhood has been residential ever since.
- 1808: The city boundary and grid extends river to river as it was originally laid out.
- 1855: The western section along the Schuylkill River is filled with heavy industry, including cotton mills, oil mills, and coal and ice wharves.
- 1875: Cedar St. now appears as South St.
- 1895: Freight lines appear along Schuylkill River.
- 1910: Fitler Square appears on the atlas map.
- 1934: Appraisal map labeled the population as a mix of people ranging from A (high class) to 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 “Colored.” These labels were used to institute the shameful practice of redlining.
- 1962: The western edge of the neighborhood still shows signs of industry with active salvage yards and coal dealers.
- Fitler Square runs from 21st Street to the Schuylkill River, and from South Street to Market Street if you’re being generous (for representational purposes, we are).
- As far as properties go, there is a somewhat more natural break between residential and commercial at Walnut Street, leaving the area between 21st and the river and Walnut to Market looking like a sort of hybrid between Fitler, Rittenhouse and Center City.
- Because of their proximity to each other, you might sometimes hear Rittenhouse/Fitler referred to as Rit-Fit or Fittenhouse; fun.
- If you like historic homes, Fitler Square has them in spades–there’s almost no new construction, even if you count the ’80s as “new.”
- Are you an exercise/nature enthusiast? Well, that’s where the Schuylkill Trail comes in–it runs right behind Fitler Square and you can use it for a workout or even a commute because it provides access to the South Street, Walnut Street, and Market Street bridges.
- Like dogs? One of the best dog parks in the city is also in this neighborhood.
- Most of the housing in the area dates from the mid- to late-1800s and early 1900s. Some large homes have been broken up into apartments/condos, while others have been maintained or restored as mini mansions. It is difficult to find a property in the area with a price tag less than $400,000.
The good folks at Billy Penn recently did a thorough write-up of East Passyunk/Passyunk Square, so we’ll keep ours short and sweet. Definitely check out theirs for great stories about everything from Frank Sinatra to America’s first serial killer.
- Originally a Lenape Indian village (that’s where the word “passyunk” came from), the area was later settled by Swedes.
- Over time, the neighborhood was settled by African Americans and immigrants from Ireland and Italy due it’s proximity to laborer jobs near the Delaware River.
- In the 1990s, an influx of Southeast Asian immigrants began to arrive, partially led by families who came with children who had earned full scholarships to the highly competitive Curtis Institute of Music.
- Passyunk existed as a township until it was incorporated into the city as part of the Act of Consolidation of 1854.
- Through most of the 20th century, Passyunk Avenue supplied the neighborhood with an array of mom and pop shops to meet the demands of nearby residents. However, when those folks started retiring, very few family members took the torch, and by the ’80s and ’90s, most of the businesses were shuttered by 5 pm.
- In the early 2000s, Vince Fumo brought it all back by using (and misusing) funds from a lawsuit settlement with PECO to get new businesses catering to younger shoppers onto the avenue–read this fascinating account of how it all went down and how Fumo got himself landed in federal prison.
- 1808: Passyunk Road ran from the Schuylkill River northeast through Moyamensing and Passyunk Townships to the edge of Philadelphia (Cedar St., which is current day Lombard St.).
- 1848: Moyamensing County Prison is constructed at Passyunk Ave. and Reed St. (currently the Acme grocery store)
- 1895: Very dense residential street grid. Washington Ave. is a railway with the street lined with coal yards and industrial businesses. Lafayette Cemetery is where Capitolo Playground now resides.
- 1934: Appraisal map labeled the population as mostly Italian and assigned ratings of D (lower or working class) and E (decadent; not as in “fancy,” as in reflecting a state of moral or cultural decline). These ratings were part of Philadelphia’s shameful history of redlining.
- Technically, we’re actually referring to a mash-up of East Passyunk and Passyunk Square, the neighborhoods on either side of Passyunk Avenue.
- Passyunk is generally understood to be the area between Washington Ave. and Snyder Ave., and Broad St. and 6th St. (though for easier viewing, we only drew it to 7th St. on our map).
- This is still an affordable neighborhood for a lot of buyers. The 69 properties currently on the market range from a $70,000 shell to a $2.1 million full-block gated compound, but the majority are in the $200s and $300s (27 and 18, respectively, as of Summer, 2017).
- The has not been a lot of revitalization of the housing stock because it never went through the boom and bust cycles like other areas; there wasn’t vacant land to allow for new designs to come in, so most of the houses are 2- and 3-story standard row homes, many still with the awnings just the way grandma left them.
- The area is home to some of the best restaurants in the city, and in fact, the country–just ask Food and Wine Magazine.
- The transit options are great, too, particularly for catching the Broad Street subway line, which is why the neighborhood is sometimes jokingly referred to as “Temple’s bedroom.”
- In the 17th century, the area was predominantly Swedish, but people from all over Europe filled in the area as it grew in importance as a major port. These Europeans brought with them the traditions that would become mummery (though Philadelphia’s version of mummery also borrows from African-American traditions).
- Like the rest of South Philly, Irish, Italian, and African-American residents came to the area over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, and many of their descendants still live there today.
- Current-day Pennsport spans an area that was originally part of the Dutch-owned Moyamensing Township and English-owned Southwark, prior to the consolidation of 1854.
- The name Pennsport literally refers to the port area at Federal Street and the Delaware River, which was home to the first United States Naval Yard.
- The activity along the river inspired one of Philadelphia’s favorite sons, Stephen Girard, to bequeath $500,000 to the city for the creation of Delaware Avenue–check out the excellent historical account of it at The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia.
- 1808: The area is part of Moyamensing and Southwark Counties
- 1849: Southwark is mainly comprised of the Navy Yard and public warf. Moyamensing is undeveloped.
- 1855: Railroad runs along modern-day Washington Avenue. Everything below McKean is dense city.
- 1862: Jefferson Square is at 3rd and Washington next to Merrick Foundry–the area is now Sacks Playground.
- 1895: From Washington to Reed and Front to 3rd is industry-heavy; there is freight station, a sugar refinery, a freight yard, and the Delaware River Chemical Works between Front and the river.
- 1934: Appraisal map labeled the population as D (lower or working class). A swath of the eastern side was labeled as “colored” and the rest “Jewish.” These labels were used to institute the shameful practice of redlining.
- Everyone generally agrees that Washington Avenue, Snyder Avenue, and the waterfront form the northern, southern, and eastern boundaries, respectively, but the purists among us consider 4th Street a very firm western boundary. The City Planning Commission proposed these boundaries in their 1968 redevelopment plan, as well.
- We drew the boundary a little further west to encompass Dickinson Narrows. We did this because it reflects the boundary of the aforementioned Moyamensing Township, and also because we see Dickinson Narrows as more of a sub-division of Pennsport than its own stand-alone neighborhood. Feel free to disagree.
- Pennsport is walkable to the eastern side of Center City, but recently it is gaining more of its amenities, as well. There are new bars and restaurants opening, as the area is in a perfect position to capture overflow residents and businesses from East Passyunk.
- Houses here tend to be on the smaller side, but they are also generally more affordable than ones in many other neighborhoods this close to Center City.
About West Philly
This is a brief and shallow overview of the history of West Philly focusing primarily on the evolution of architecture and housing types, and in no way is the full picture of all the forces that have shaped the other side of the river. The West Philadelphia Community Center has one of the most complete archives and history of a neighborhood we have ever encountered. Go check it out!
- West Philadelphia was one of the first neighborhoods of choice–the elites of the city built grand estates for themselves to escape the heat, dirt, and disease of the city. Some of these people broke up parts of their large estates to create villages that would evolve into many of the neighborhoods found there today.
- These areas were planned and built with the homeowner in mind, unlike other neighborhoods, such as Brewerytown, where much of the housing stock was designed and built by factory owners to stabilize their workforce.
- West Philadelphia started as a collection of estates, and evolved into a series of neighborhoods. The lines between areas are not as sharp as they were 150 years ago, but the transitions can still be felt due to the shifting architectural styles.
- These styles range from enormous single and twin houses to massive apartment buildings, with a heavy dose of modest row-houses thrown in for good measure. One thing that sets West Philly apart from many other neighborhoods in the city is the amount of outdoor space available because, again, many of the neighborhoods were conceived with quality of life in mind.
- There were a several major factors that affected the history of West Philly:
- Revolutionary war – the need for access to wood and other supplies led to the creation of several bridges and ferry routes across the Schuylkill River.
- Large landowners began to create village-style developments geared toward homeowner satisfaction
- Development of transportation methods – bridges, trolleys, and street cars popped up in response to increased demand
- Residential lending to homeowners begins
- Opening of the Philadelphia Zoo (1874) & Centennial Exposition (1876)
- Redlining, a practice in which appraisers created maps for the mortgage and insurance industries in the 1930s outlining the racial composition of different areas and assigning market potential grades based on said composition, achieved its nefarious aim of driving property values down. Redlining is a stain on the history of Philadelphia, and American in general, and its reverberations are still felt today.
- West Philly is bordered on the east by the Schuylkill River, and by Montgomery County to the northwest and Delaware County to the southwest.
When: As mentioned above, West Philadelphia has an amazingly well-documented history at the West Philly Community History Center; it takes a deep dive into the historical and architectural past of the neighborhood more than we ever could here, so definitely check it out. Also, a rich history of private survey maps, starting in 1808, gives us a picture of the land as it evolved over time.
- 1808: Mostly farmland and a few estates, including Blockley and Kingsessing townships.
- 1843: The area is still predominately farmland, but Lancaster Pike and Market Street began to form the familiar Philadelphia grid, and small villages started to emerge, such as
- Woodlands Estate
- Modern street grid that we know today emerges
- a huge area from 43rd to 50th Sts. and Market to Haverford Ave is occupied by an asylum for the insane
- Woodands Estate is now Woodlands Cemetery
- Baltimore Pike appears
- 1875: Dense housing stock and a fully fleshed-out grid extends to Delaware and Montgomery Counties
- 1895: Increasing transportation infrastructure along the Schuylkill River.
- 1903: UPenn’s campus is now large enough to appear on the map
- 1910: Major expansion of UPenn campus, but Woodland Ave. still extends to Market St.
- 1934: Appraisal map labeled area as primarily African American and Jewish with C- and D-grade housing stock.
- 1962: Woodland Ave. stops at Spruce St. due to another UPenn expansion
- The same ideals that drove the earliest developers to West Philadelphia still bring people there today. People are attracted to the large public and green spaces, cultural amenities, and highly connective public transit to greater Philadelphia and the eastern seaboard.
- Currently, because of the vast size of the area, housing prices are all over the place. Small, traditional row homes can be as low as $45,000 in some areas, while vast mansions can be had for millions in other areas. West Philadelphia has a large variety of home sizes, and there are currently 336 houses on the market (as of April, 2017):
- 46 are less than 1000 sq. ft.
- 247 are between 1000 – 2000 sq.ft.
- 39 are over 2000 sq. ft.
- 6 are over 3000 sq. ft.
- Ardmore was originally part of the “Welsh tract” of land granted by William Penn to a group of Welsh settlers in 1681.
- The Welsh settlers came to work on the farms and in the mills. They were later followed by German and Irish settlers in the mid-1800s, and then by Italian-Albanians in the late 1800s.
- Today, Ardmore is an unincorporated community of about 12,000 residents. Like many of the suburbs of Philadelphia, it is popular with families–the 2010 censusfound about 24% of households include children under 18.
- The main village in Ardmore was originally called Athensville (see below) because of the fascination with Greek Revival architecture in the early 1800s.
- In the mid- to late-1800s, Ardmore developed a fondness for “Gingerbread” homes, and residents who couldn’t afford an architect could buy a book of building plans that were designed so any local builder with average skills could follow them. There are still a few examples left standing today.
- As the population became more dense through the 1900s, housing stock began to condense as well. This lead to the emergence of “twins,” in which one structure is divided into two homes that share a dividing wall. These are still extremely common in Ardmore, and with their generous front and back yards and three exposed sides, they can feel downright palatial compared to a rowhome.
- Today’s Ardmore has also seen a surge in modern-looking 3-story new construction homes recently, and there’s been an uptick in condos, as well.
- Ardmore was originally a township of several villages, the largest of which was Athensville.
- The area saw considerable growth after the construction of the Lancaster Turnpike in 1795 (America’s first engineered road!), which was needed to improve transportation between Lancaster and Philadelphia.
- As rail travel/transport became popular, the Pennsylvania Railroad built a line running parallel to the turnpike, and in 1873, the whole township was re-named “Ardmore” by the PRR to correspond with its train station there.
- Ardmore spans the boundary between Delaware and Montgomery Counties.
- The MontCo side is in Lower Merion Township, while the DelCo side is in Haverford Township.
- The rail station stop on the “main line” that heads west out of Philly is at the 8.5 mile mark.
- There are many reasons people move to Ardmore, but it stands out for retaining a little bit of a “city” feel. It has a thriving main street scene with shops and dining (and good beer!), and it’s possible to live in an area that would be considered “walkable” by most standards. Being on the main line, it also has easy access back to Philly by train.
- Prices have been creeping up over the last few years, but it’s still possible to find homes in the $400s, $300s, and even the $200s. Of course, if mini-mansions are more your thing, there are plenty of multi-million dollar estates, as well.