Archives: neighborhood profiles

Neighborhood Profile: FAIRMOUNT

Posted on: April 15, 2013

History:   The name “Fairmount” itself derives from the prominent hill on which the Philadelphia Museum of Art now sits, and where William Penn originally intended to build his own manor house. Later, the name was applied to the street originally called Hickory Lane that runs from the foot of Fairmount hill through the heart of the neighborhood. The area is sometimes referred to as the “Art Museum Area,” for its proximity to and association with the Art Museum.

The nearby Fairmount Park rivals New York’s Central Park in size and beauty. The neighborhood’s north and east sections are occupied by Spring Gardens, a former drug market converted by neighbors into a community garden, and the historic Eastern State Penitentiary, which holds only tourists these days.

The neighborhood’s Fairmount Avenue contains many diverse restaurants, bars and shops. Fairmount Avenue is the dividing line between Fairmount and the Spring Garden neighborhoods. Spring Garden has many large houses built for the managers of the Baldwin Locomotive Works, other professionals, and brewery owners which date back to the 1840s. Green Street is particularly impressive and recalls the area’s past and proud industrial legacy.

Fairmount’s homes were generally smaller row or town houses and the residents were generally working class. Here row houses were interspersed with lumber yards, coal yards, lime yards, iron foundries, bakeries, dry goods stores, as well as several wagon works and stables. Many of these were built in the second half of the 19th century to support small factories and later the large breweries that located there in the late 19th century and reached their zenith in the early 20th century. One of these breweries with its many ancillary buildings has been painstakingly preserved and turned into fashionable condominiums. Of architectural note is Aspen Street’s “Centennial Block”.

Today Fairmount is one of Philadelphia’s most eclectic neighborhoods, combining tourist attractions, row homes, restaurants and of course, the public art and green spaces of Fairmount Park.

(From Wikipedia,,

Boundaries: The neighborhood is bordered by Vine Street to the south, Girard Avenue to the north, the Schuylkill River to the west, and Broad Street to the east.

Zip Code:  19130

What To See / Do: Fairmount Water Works, Boat House Row, The Philadelphia Museum of ArtEastern State Penitentiary, Fairmount Park, Fairmount Art Center.

More Information: NFT: Fairmount

Schools: Bache-Martin School, Laura Wheeler Waring SchoolBenjamin Franklin High School, Philadelphia Mennonite High School, Girard College.

Public Transportation:  SEPTA Bus Routes 7, 32, 43 and 48, SEPTA Route 15 trolley.


Neighborhood Profile: SOCIETY HILL

Posted on: April 1, 2013

History:   The district is named after the 18th century Free Society of Traders, which had its offices at Front Street on the hill above Dock Creek. Located close to both the Delaware River and Philadelphia’s civic buildings, including Independence Hall, the neighborhood soon became one of the city’s most populous areas.

Several market halls, taverns and churches were built alongside brick houses of Philadelphia’s affluent citizens.

In the 19th century, the city expanded westward and the area lost its appeal. Houses deteriorated until the 1950s, when the city, state and federal governments started one of the first urban renewal programs aimed at the preservation of historic buildings. While most commercial 19th-century buildings were demolished, historically-significant houses were restored by occupants or taken over by the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority and sold to individuals who agreed to restore the exteriors. Replicas of 18th-century street lights and brick sidewalks were added to enhance the colonial atmosphere. Empty lots and demolished buildings were replaced with parks, walkways, and modern townhouses.

Today Society Hill contains more Georgian structures than any neighborhood in the country. The area is now known for a rich cultural and ethnic diversity and remains a mostly residential neighborhood.

(From Wikipedia)

Boundaries: The neighborhood is bordered by Walnut Street to the North, Lombard Street to the South, Front Street to the East and 8th Street to the West.

Zip Code:  19106

What To See / Do: Society Hill Synagogue, St. Peter’s Church, Merchant’s Exchange Building,  Hill-Physick-Keith HousePowel House, Society Hill Playhouse.

Dining, Shopping and Bars: Not For Tourists

Schools: General George A. McCall School, Furness High School.

Public Transportation:  SEPTA bus transportation is available in the neighborhood. Nearby are the Old City and 5th and 8th and Market Stops on The Market-Frankford Line.


Neighborhood Profile: ERDENHEIM and FLOURTOWN

Posted on: March 25, 2013


Erdenheim is a community in Springfield Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. The primary commercial areas are located along the Bethlehem Pike. Erdenheim was laid out in 1892. It used to be known as “Heydricksdale” and simply “Wheelpump” after a local inn, but was changed to “Erdenheim” which is German for “earthly home”.

Flourtown is also in  Springfield Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. An ample flow of water found in Wissahickon Creek and its tributaries supported at least three local mills. It was from this industry that Flourtown took its name.  (From Wikipedia)

Boundaries: Erdenheim is bordered by Whitemarsh, Flourtown, Wyndmoor and Philadelphia. Flourtown is adjacent to the neighborhoods of Erdenheim, Oreland, Whitemarsh and Chestnut Hill.

Zip Code:  19038 and 19031

What To See / Do: The Black Horse InnThe Springfield Mill, Yeakle and Miller Houses.

Schools:  Mount Saint Joseph Academy, St. Genevieve School, Erdenheim Elementary School, Carson Valley School.

Public Transportation:  SEPTA bus transportation is available in the neighborhood. 


Neighborhood Profile: GRADUATE HOSPITAL

Posted on: March 18, 2013

History:  Prior to Act of Consolidation, 1854, this neighborhood was part of Moyamensing Township. Moyamensing was originally chartered by the Dutch governor Alexander d’Hinoyossa, and in 1684, William Penn confirmed the title.

The neighborhood began taking shape after the Civil War. In 1870, it was predominantly an Irish American community; however, the neighborhood was in a transitional period, and by 1920, a majority of its residents were African Americans. It continued to experience significant in-migration from the south prior to, during, and immediately after World War II. It remained a solid working-class neighborhood for most of the first half of the twentieth century.

In the 1960s a crosstown expressway running along South Street was planned. Those plans would have created a barrier between center city and the neighborhoods to the south. The result was widespread abandonment of properties in SWCC and the decay of the South Street business corridor. The loss of jobs and residents caused the neighborhood to decline as buildings were abandoned and left to deteriorate.

In recent years the area has experienced growth and gentrification. Hundreds of single family homes and condominium units have been built or refurbished. As a result of the neighborhood’s proximity to Center City and increasing desirability, a variety of new businesses catering to the increasingly gentrified population have opened.

Graduate Hospital goes by many names (Center City South, South of South, G-Ho), which is fitting for a neighborhood that draws its personality from the people inside it: young transplants, born-and-raised neighbors, hip urban professionals, craft beer crowds and more. In recent years, the area stretching from Lombard Street to Washington Avenue and from Broad Street to Gray’s Ferry Avenue has accumulated a healthy dose of restaurants, bars, cafes, shops and markets that reflect the area’s residential and cool vibe. (From Wikipedia / Visit Philly)

Boundaries: The neighborhood is bordered on the north by South Street, on the south by Washington Avenue, on the west by the Schuylkill River, and by Broad Street on the east.

Zip Code:  19146

What To See / Do: The Marian Anderson HouseFranklin Hose Company No. 28William S. Peirce SchoolPhiladelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad Freight Shed, Royal Theater and Tindley Temple United Methodist Church.

Dining, Shopping and Events: SOSNA.

Schools:  Public: Chester A. Arthur Elementary School, Edwin Stanton Elementary School, Philadelphia High School CAPA.

Charter: Universal Institute Charter School.

Public Transportation:  SEPTA bus transportation is available in the neighborhood. There are two metro stops along the Broad Street Line.


Neighborhood Profile: ROXBOROUGH

Posted on: March 4, 2013

History:  Most of modern day Roxborough was once part of Roxborough Township which was incorporated into the City of Philadelphia following the passage of the Act of Consolidation, 1854. At this time Roxborough was the home of the areas wealthiest; the owners of the Manayunk mills. These mills didn’t just produce anything from textiles to plastic containers, they also produced exuberant fortunes for the mill owners, much of which was funneled back into the community. This money went into building build schools, parks, and even a large Victorian manor built for the area’s elderly women, The Roxborough Home for Women.

The commercial spine of the neighborhood is Ridge Avenue, which, as its name suggests, runs along the ridge between the Wissahickon Creek and the Schuylkill River. Most businesses are located on Ridge Avenue and most residents are within walking distance to it. Several coffee shops, like “Crossroads” a cafe built in an old shoe store, and restaurants, like local favorites Bob’s Diner and Roma’s Bakery, have opened recently, along with boutiques and yoga studios. (From Wikipedia)

Boundaries: Roxborough is bordered to the southwest, along the Schuylkill River, by Manayunk, to the northeast by the Wissahickon Creek section of Fairmount Park, and to the southeast by East Falls.

Zip Code:  19128

What To See / Do: Delaware Valley Opera CompanyManayunk-Roxborough Art Center, Wissahickon Valley

Dining, Shopping and Events: Explore Roxborough

Schools:  Public:  Roxborough High School, WB Saul High School, Cook Wissahickon, and Shawmont Elementary.

Private:  Roman Catholic High School and J.W. Hallahan High School

Public Transportation:  SEPTA’s Manayunk/Norristown Regional Rail line stops in the Wissahickon section of Roxborough, continues through Manayunk, and stops again at the Ivy Ridge station in Roxborough.

The neighborhood is also served by the SEPTA 35 Bus Route.


The Story of The Neck: Philadelphia's Vanished Marshlands

Posted on: February 28, 2013

We came across this interesting little article in Hidden City Philadelphia and it made us think of how far we have come as a city in so little time. Our now cosmopolitan city of high rise condos and world-renowned restaurants was once, not too long ago, a mere pitstop between much more exciting cities on the Northeast corridor.  As the following story illustrates, only 60 or 70 years ago there were pig farms and shanty towns within city limits! Where Citizen’s Bank Park now sits, there was marshlands and livestock. Enjoy this story, written by Philadelphian John Vidumsky about a battle for land and the dissolution of an area of Philadelphia once called “The Neck”. CONTINUE READING

Neighborhood Profile: MT. AIRY

Posted on: February 25, 2013

History:  William Allen, a prominent Philadelphia merchant and Chief Justice of the Province of Pennsylvania, created his summer estate and mansion on Germantown Avenue at Allens Lane in 1750, and the area eventually took the building’s name, Mount Airy, as its own. Before this, the area which makes up the modern neighborhood of Mount Airy was part of two sections of the original Germantown Township (which covered all of Germantown, Mount Airy, and Chestnut Hill), Cresheim and Beggarstown.

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, East Mount Airy’s Gowen Avenue, Sedgwick Farms, and Stenton areas.

If you drive through Mt. Airy, what you see might perplex you, catch you off guard, strike you as unusual. More than one local bumper sticker claims “Unity In Diversity”, and indeed, difference is the heartbeat of the place. In Mt. Airy, like almost nowhere else in the country, you can’t generalize about the inhabitants’ ethnicities, incomes, religions, sexual orientations, preferences in music, or even likelihood of shoveling when it snows…

This poster child of a diverse neighborhood is a refuge for the unorthodox and the ostracized, people who’ve broken from family, community of origin, or previous self. It is also a place for the aesthetically betwixt and between, those who want both a yard and an easy commute to the center of town. Welcome to a neighborhood where people of just about every race, religion, class, belief system, and sexual orientation come together and play very nicely.

(From Wikipedia / O Magazine)

Boundaries: Mount Airy is bounded on the northwest by the Cresheim Valley, which is part of Fairmount Park. On the west side is the Wissahickon Gorge, which is also part of Fairmount Park.  Germantown borders the southeast of Mount Airy, and Stenton Avenue marks the northeast border.

Zip Code:  19119

What To See / Do: Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion, Awbury Arboretum, Cliveden, Wissahickon Park, More Info

Dining, Shopping and Events: Go Mt Airy

Schools:  Public: Charles W. Henry School, Henry H. Houston School, Anna L. Lingelbach School  (K-8), Germantown High School.

Charter: West Oak Lane Charter School and Wissahickon Charter School (K-8).

Private: Green Tree School (ages 6–21), Blair Christian Academy (PreK-12), Revival Hill Christian School (9-12), Islamic Day School of Philadelphia (PreK-5), Waldorf School of Philadelphia (PreK-8), Project Learn School (K-8), Classroom on Carpenter Lane (K-2), and Holy Cross School (K-8).

Public Transportation:  Two SEPTA Regional Rail lines connect the neighborhood to Center City. The Chestnut Hill West Line runs through West Mount Airy with stops at Allen Lane, Carpenter and Upsal stations, and the Chestnut Hill East Line through East Mount Airy with stops at Mount Airy, Sedgwick and Stenton stations—Washington Lane station is in Germantown across the street from Mount Airy.

The neighborhood is also served by SEPTA bus routes 18, 23 (formerly a trolley line), 53 (formerly a trolley line), H, and L.


Neighborhood Profile: RITTENHOUSE SQUARE

Posted on: February 18, 2013

History:  Rittenhouse Square is one of the five original open-space parks planned by William Penn and his surveyor Thomas Holme during the 17th centuryBy the late 1700s the square was surrounded by brickyards as the area’s clay terrain was better suited for kilns than crops. In 1825 the square was renamed in honor of Philadelphian David Rittenhouse, the brilliant astronomer, instrument maker and patriotic leader of the Revolutionary era.

A building boom began by the 1850s, and in the second half of the 19th century the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood became the most fashionable residential section of the city, the home of Philadelphia’s “Victorian aristocracy.” Some mansions from that period still survive on the streets facing the square, although most of the grand homes gave way to apartment buildings after 1913.

In 1816, local residents loaned funds to the city to buy a fence to enclose Rittenhouse Square. In the decade before the Civil War, the Square boasted not only trees and walkways, but also fountains donated by local benefactors – prematurely, it turned out, for the fountains created so much mud that City Council ordered them removed. The square’s present layout dates from 1913, when the newly formed Rittenhouse Square Improvement Association helped fund a redesign by Paul Philippe Cret, a French-born architect who contributed to the design of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and the Rodin Museum. Although some changes have been made since then, the square still reflects Cret’s original plan. (From Wikipedia /Visit Philly)

Boundaries: Rittenhouse Square neighborhood boundaries for real estate purposes are 22nd street to the West, Broad Street to the East, Market Street to the North and South Street to the South.

Zip Code:  19103

What To See / Do: Rosenbach Museum and Gallery , Rittenhouse Square , Mutter Museum , Curtis Institute of Music

Dining, Shopping and Events: Rittenhouse Row

Schools: Albert M. Greenfield School , South Philadelphia High School

Public Transportation:  All SEPTA Regional Rail lines stop at Suburban Station, about six blocks north and east of the Square.

The PATCO Speedline, a rapid transit system connecting Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey stops at 16th St. & Locust St., 2 blocks east of the Square.

The SEPTA 9, 12, 21, and 42 buses westbound run along Walnut Street. The 17 runs northbound along 20th Street and southbound along 19th Street and Rittenhouse Square West and the 2 runs northbound along 16th Street and southbound along 17th Street.

The SEPTA Subway-Surface Trolley Lines have a station at 19th and Market streets, two blocks north of the Square. The Walnut-Locust station on the Broad Street Subway is four blocks east.