Defining “Historic Fishtown”

 

In the distance, the Philly skyline grows; on the left, Fishtown's grows with new construction on Girard Avenue. In the center, the dome of First Presbyterian Church stands unchanged since 1921, when it was added to the 1859 church | Photo: Bradley Maule

In the distance, the Philly skyline grows; on the left, Fishtown’s grows with new construction on Girard Avenue. In the center, the dome of First Presbyterian Church stands unchanged since 1921, when it was added to the 1859 church | Photo: Bradley Maule

UPDATE: The original version of this post had 1325 Beach Street, PECO Delaware Station, listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places. While the power station has been nominated for designation, its meeting is not until June. The actual listing is 1301 Beach Street, Penn Treaty Park. This post has been updated to reflect that. Regret the error. —RBM

When Johnny Brenda’s opened in Fishtown in 2003, it gave nonnatives a new way to think about a neighborhood whose reputation leaned toward the rough-and-tumble, leery of outsiders. No one could have predicted Technical Cashmere™ or Justin Bieber®.

Fishtown’s renaissance, like every popular gentrifying neighborhood in every American city, has been fueled by cheap rent in old buildings, a coalescent creative community to populate them, and a development drive that follows their lead with all things luxury. The familiar conflict has already played out in Graduate Hospital and Old City, Northern Liberties and “University City.” It continues today in Point Breeze, Brewerytown, Pennsport, and elsewhere.

But in Fishtown, the conflict seems more pronounced as developable space reaches its saturation point, putting older building stock—buildings like Pilgrim Congregational Church—at risk of demolition to make way for new housing that is almost exclusively larger than its predecessor. In its River Wards District Plan, the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, with the Philadelphia Historical Commission advising, credited the older buildings as an asset: “One of the River Wards District’s greatest assets is its historic housing stock. In fact, the district has the highest percentage of housing units built before 1939 of all districts in the city.” The older building stock is especially worth noting since, well, the city of Philadelphia and commonwealth of Pennsylvania trace their very origins to Fishtown*.

It all started here: PECO's Delaware Station stands over historic Penn Treaty Park on the Delaware Riverfront | Photo: Bradley Maule

It all started here: PECO’s Delaware Station stands over historic Penn Treaty Park on the Delaware Riverfront | Photo: Bradley Maule

Alexander Milne Calder was not happy that the face of his 37-foot statue of William Penn atop City Hall would forever be mostly in shadow, but his northeasterly gesture is a symbolic nod to the place of his treaty of peace with the Lenni-Lenape natives. At seven acres, Penn Treaty Park is Fishtown’s largest open space, an island of green in a densely populated neighborhood with a postindustrial riverfront.

At the park’s side looms PECO’s mothballed Delaware Station, designed by John T. Windrim—and owned by Bart Blatstein and Joe Volpe. The 99-year-old power station will be a costly bear to convert into anything, be it the event space Blatstein and Volpe envision, or a hotel, or Philly’s Tate Modern. But it may have options other than a wrecking ball, thanks to a nomination for historic designation, scheduled for the next meeting of the Philadelphia Historical Commission’s Committee on Historic Designation in June.

When the Historical Commission added Penn Treaty Park to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places in 2012, it was one of only 28 properties designated historic in all of Fishtown. And considering many of them are contiguous properties, i.e. rowhomes of contributing character like nine alone on the 1100 block of East Berks Street, the total is even lower. Officially, as of this writing, there are 37 properties—35 buildings, one park, and one cemetery—designated historic in Fishtown.

Philadelphia Historical Commission map, trained on Fishtown (roughly outlined in red). The purple polygons are designated historic properties | Map: Philadelphia Historical Commission

Philadelphia Historical Commission map, trained on Fishtown (roughly outlined in red). The purple polygons are designated historic properties | Map: Philadelphia Historical Commission

*On “Fishtown”: Most people know that Fishtown is itself a commonized nickname of Lower Kensington. Captain Anthony Palmer laid out Kensington on land he purchased in 1729 from a descendant of Thomas Fairman, Penn’s deputy surveyor on whose land the treaty occurred in 1683. An apocryphal story attributes the Fishtown nickname to Charles Dickens, but the more verifiable origin comes from Kensington’s shad fisheries on the Delaware and the working class they employed, folks who raised families in the small houses in a neighborhood defined by a triangle of the Delaware River, Frankford Avenue, and York Street. This definition varies; multigenerational Fishtowners put the northern boundary closer in at Norris Street, while realtors tend to expand it northward to Lehigh Avenue and west to Front Street and the Market-Frankford Line. For the purpose of this series, we’ll use the median boundary of York Street and the commonly accepted Delaware River and Frankford Avenue.

Contrast the 37 designated historic properties with the dozens of demolition permits filed and executed at Licenses & Inspections in just the past ten years, and one finds a neighborhood at the crossroads of real estate boom and historic preservation. This week, Hidden City will shine a light on Fishtown as a microcosm of the battle happening across the city, region, and country. Below is the first in a series of four, a profile of Fishtown properties on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places. Then on Saturday, we’ll present our first walking tour of Fishtown, a collaborative effort with Kensington/Olde Richmond Heritage (KORH) that will conclude at the 10th annual Trenton Avenue Arts Festival and Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby.

* * *

Palmer Cemetery, looking toward historic gatehouse; former Brownhill & Kramer Hosiery Mill stands at rear | Photo: Bradley Maule

Palmer Cemetery, looking toward historic gatehouse; former Brownhill & Kramer Hosiery Mill stands at rear | Photo: Bradley Maule

ADDRESS: 1499 East Palmer Street
NAME: Palmer Cemetery
OPENED: 1732
DESIGNATED: November 1960
ORIGINAL USE: Kensington Burial Ground
CURRENT USE: Palmer Cemetery
SIGNIFICANCE: Kensington Burial Ground was established in 1732, just three years after Anthony Palmer’s founding of Kensington. Captain John Hewson of the Pennsylvania Militia during the American Revolutionary War is buried there, as are veterans of every war since. Palmer Cemetery is unique in that it provides free burial plots to certified residents of the neighborhood—and as its five acres are finite, ground is so tightly packed that a long rod is stuck in to the ground to find available space for new bodies.

* * *

Bill of Berkshire | Photo: Bradley Maule

Bill of Berkshire | Photo: Bradley Maule

ADDRESS: 1301 Beach Street
NAME: Penn Treaty Park
OPENED: 1893
DESIGNATED: March 2012
ORIGINAL USE: Shackamaxon, Fairman’s Mansion
CURRENT USE: Central Philadelphia’s only riverfront park where one can actually touch the Delaware River
SIGNIFICANCE: The significance of this one is pretty obvious as the place where the concept of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania came together. The elm tree under which Penn and the Lenape are said to have held their treaty blew down in a storm in 1810, and a monument obelisk was erected shortly thereafter to commemorate it. The obelisk still resides in the park, which was formally dedicated in 1893 on land that was used for lumber, marble, and ice companies and has grown to seven acres since. The statue pictured above, carved by Frank Gaylord in 1981 for Philadelphia’s tercentennial, was originally rejected by the Fairmount Park Commission (FPC on aesthetic grounds. Lobbying from the Daughters of American Colonists and Fishtown/Kensington civic leaders won out, however, and both FPC and Fairmount Park Art Association approved and the sculpture was unveiled in April 1982. A third sculpture of rusted steel, installed in 1991 and designed by Bob Haozous, commemorates the treaty itself, taking its imagery from the wampum belt held at the Philadelphia History Museum. Ken Milano’s book The History of Penn Treaty Park (History Press, 2009), accounts just what its name implies.

* * *

First Presbyterian Church of Kensington; monument to Rev. George Chandler at left | Photo: Bradley Maule

First Presbyterian Church of Kensington; monument to Rev. George Chandler at left | Photo: Bradley Maule

ADDRESS: 410–22 East Girard Avenue
NAME: First Presbyterian Church of Kensington
OPENED: 1859
DESIGNATED: March 1967
ARCHITECT: Samuel Sloan
ORIGINAL USE: First Presbyterian Church of Kensington
CURRENT USE: First Presbyterian Church of Kensington
SIGNIFICANCE: This church was the culmination of a congregation that formed in 1811, a grand statement on the neighborhood’s east-west main street, Girard Avenue. Its original 180-foot steeple was replaced in 1921 by the dome that still exists. For a full history, see the church’s web site HERE.

* * *

"Old Brick": Kensington United Methodist Church | Photo: Bradley Maule

“Old Brick”: Kensington United Methodist Church | Photo: Bradley Maule

ADDRESS: 300 Richmond Street
NAME: Kensington “Old Brick” Church
OPENED: 1854
DESIGNATED: February 1967
ARCHITECT: N/A
ORIGINAL USE: Kensington Methodist Episcopal Church
CURRENT USE: Kensington Methodist Episcopal Church
SIGNIFICANCE: The oldest church in the neighborhood, the beloved “Old Brick” has been in continual operation for over 160 years, has stained glass windows donated by shipbuilder William Cramp (whose own empire disappeared with PennDOT’s demolition of the final Cramp building in 2009), and strangely, an old wives’ tale claims it has an American Indian burial ground in the basement. On the Marlborough Street side, exposed asphalt recently revealed wood block streets similar to those on Camac Street in Center City.

* * *

308–10 Richmond Street | Photo: Bradley Maule

308–10 Richmond Street | Photo: Bradley Maule

ADDRESS: 308–10 Richmond Street
NAME: Old Fire Company
OPENED: ~Early 1800s
DESIGNATED: February 1967
ORIGINAL USE: Fire House
CURRENT USE: Private residence
SIGNIFICANCE: The early Kensington firehouse has an inlaid tablet reading “INSTITUTED MAY 20, 1791” and was likewise an early adaptive reuse, converting to residential use some time in the 1800s.

* * *

Most recently Ampere Electric, now mid-conversion to apartments | Photo: Bradley Maule

Most recently Ampere Electric, now mid-conversion to apartments | Photo: Bradley Maule

ADDRESS: 2200 East Norris Street
NAME: Ampere Electric, etc.
OPENED: 1860
DESIGNATED: May 1964
ARCHITECT: N/A
ORIGINAL USE: Friendship Engine Company No. 15
CURRENT USE: Conversion to apartments
SIGNIFICANCE: This unusual building has a long and varied history. Built as a fire hall for Friendship Engine Company, it also served Hook & Ladder Company C, later became a Post Office, then Dreifus & Co. Army/Navy surplus, and most recently, Ampere Electric. Theresa Stigale and Pete Woodall profiled it for Hidden City in 2012. Harman Deutsch is currently converting it to apartments.

* * *

Famous Corner corner, Fishtown's remaining vestige of its maritime past | Photo: Bradley Maule

Famous Corner corner, Fishtown’s remaining vestige of its maritime past | Photo: Bradley Maule

ADDRESS: 1100–02 North Delaware Avenue
NAME: Edward Corner Warehouse
OPENED: 1921
DESIGNATED: October 2015
ARCHITECT: A. Raymond Roff
ORIGINAL USE: Edward Corner Marine Merchandise Warehouse
CURRENT USE: Vacant
SIGNIFICANCE: While rather utilitarian in appearance, the Edward Corner building’s most defining traits are its ghost signs, harking to the days of maritime trade: ROPE, BOAT & SHIP SUPPLIES. The building, across the street from SugarHouse Casino, came close to demolition last year but was designated historic in the fall. Read the nomination HERE. It’s still awaiting reuse.

* * *

122–26 Richmond Street | Photo: Bradley Maule

122–26 Richmond Street | Photo: Bradley Maule

ADDRESS: 122, 124, 126 Richmond Street
NAME: 122, 124, 126 Richmond Street
OPENED: ~1830s
DESIGNATED: February 1967
ORIGINAL USE: Private residences
CURRENT USE: Private residences
SIGNIFICANCE: Handsome and well-preserved intact examples of early housing.

* * *

Rapp House, middle building (partially obscured by callery pear blossoms), oldest known residence in Fishtown/Kensington | Photo: Bradley Maule

Rapp House, middle building (partially obscured by callery pear blossoms), oldest known residence in Fishtown/Kensington | Photo: Bradley Maule

ADDRESS: 1003 Frankford Avenue
NAME: Frederick J. Rapp House
OPENED: ~1785
DESIGNATED: December 2015
ORIGINAL USE: Private residence
CURRENT USE: Private residence
SIGNIFICANCE: The oldest known still-standing residence in Fishtown/Kensington was built for Frederick Rapp, a German soldier turned American doctor. The Georgian style home features red brick with a darker Flemish bond. Read the full history on the nomination HERE.

* * *

Former hosiery mill and elevator factory at 1101 Frankford Avenue | Photo: Bradley Maule

Former hosiery mill and elevator factory at 1101 Frankford Avenue | Photo: Bradley Maule

ADDRESS: 1101 Frankford Avenue
NAME: Morse and Otis Elevator Companies
OPENED: 1851–56
DESIGNATED: December 2015
ORIGINAL USE: Landenberger Hosiery Mill
CURRENT USE: Conversion to mixed-use building, possible brewpub
SIGNIFICANCE: The oldest of a series of industrial buildings on the 1100 block of Frankford Avenue. First occupied by Landenberger’s hosiery concern, later Morse Elevator Works and Otis Elevator Company. See the nomination for details HERE.

* * *

Right half: 1105 Frankford Avenue | Photo: Bradley Maule

Right half: 1105–09 Frankford Avenue | Photo: Bradley Maule

ADDRESS: 1105–09 Frankford Avenue
NAME: Morse Elevator Works
OPENED: 1890
DESIGNATED: April 2016
ORIGINAL USE: main office (1105), production shed (1107–09)
CURRENT USE: Firth & Wilson Transport Cycles
SIGNIFICANCE: Part of the Morse elevator complex. See historic nomination HERE.

* * *

Left half: 1111–13 Frankford Avenue | Photo: Bradley Maule

Left half: 1111–13 Frankford Avenue | Photo: Bradley Maule

ADDRESS: 1111–13 Frankford Avenue
NAME: Morse Elevator Works
OPENED: 1899
DESIGNATED: April 2016
ORIGINAL USE: Morse Elevator Works
CURRENT USE: N/A
SIGNIFICANCE: Another important part of the Morse complex, most recently used by PMS Ice Cream Equipment. See the nomination HERE.

* * *

Furness goes grayscale: Kensington National Bank, corner of Frankford & Girard | Photo: Bradley Maule

Furness goes grayscale: Kensington National Bank, corner of Frankford & Girard | Photo: Bradley Maule

ADDRESS: 1148 Frankford Avenue
NAME: Kensington National Bank
OPENED: 1877
DESIGNATED: August 1980
ARCHITECT: Frank Furness
ORIGINAL USE: Kensington National Bank
CURRENT USE: Wells Fargo Bank
SIGNIFICANCE: A somewhat restrained Furness contemporary of his masterpiece, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Originally built with five bays, it was added on in the same style in 1947. It’s the only one of Furness’ banks still in use as a bank. Try not to think of what the interior looked like in Furness’ original colorful design; the current interior is not pretty.

* * *

Bicycle Stable no more: 1420 Frankford Avenue | Photo: Bradley Maule

Bicycle Stable no more: 1420 Frankford Avenue | Photo: Bradley Maule

ADDRESS: 1420 Frankford Avenue
NAME: 10th District Patrol House
OPENED: 1892
DESIGNATED: April 2016
ARCHITECT: N/A, possibly John T. Windrim
ORIGINAL USE: Philadelphia Police
CURRENT USE: Most recently Bicycle Stable, soon to be Fishtown outpost of Cheu Noodle Bar.
SIGNIFICANCE: This Romanesque Revival patrol house was the Frankford Avenue frontage for the former 10th Police District, which, er, fronted on Front Street. It’s the only building on Fishtown’s bustling Frankford Avenue arts corridor (between Girard Avenue and York Street) that’s designated historic, and that happened last month. Read its nomination HERE.

* * *

"Just steps from Pizzeria Beddia": 1120–22 Shackamaxon Street | Photo: Bradley Maule

“Just steps from Pizzeria Beddia”: 1120–22 Shackamaxon Street | Photo: Bradley Maule

ADDRESS: 1120, 1122 Shackamaxon Street
BUILT: ~1830s
DESIGNATED: February 1967
ORIGINAL USE: Private residences
CURRENT USE: Private residences
SIGNIFICANCE: More intact examples of early worker housing

* * *

Historic Green Tree Tavern, next door to historic iDope | Photo: Bradley Maule

Historic Green Tree Tavern, next door to historic iDope | Photo: Bradley Maule

ADDRESS: 262 East Girard Avenue
NAME: Green Tree Tavern
OPENED: ~1843
DESIGNATED: May 1981
ARCHITECT: N/A, possibly Joseph Singerly
ORIGINAL USE: Green Tree Tavern
CURRENT USE: Mixed-use, residential and karate
SIGNIFICANCE: Until it closed in 1997, the Green Tree Tavern, later Marlborough Inn, was the longest operating tavern in the city. (That title now belongs to circa-1860 McGillin’s Ale House.) In 2008, the Barack Obama election campaign kept an office there. For a full backstory, see Ken Milano’s profile of the building HERE.

* * *

In fairness, the vinyl siding does preserve what's beneath really well | Photo: Bradley Maule

In fairness, the vinyl siding does preserve what’s beneath really well | Photo: Bradley Maule

ADDRESS: 212, 214 East Wildey Street
BUILT: mid-1800s
DESIGNATED: February 1967
ORIGINAL USE: Private residences
CURRENT USE: Private residences
SIGNIFICANCE: More intact examples of early worker housing

* * *

Kensington Soup Society, survivor of I-95 | Photo: Bradley Maule

Kensington Soup Society, survivor of I-95 | Photo: Bradley Maule

ADDRESS: 1036 Crease Street
NAME: Kensington Soup Society
OPENED: 1870
DESIGNATED: March 2012
ARCHITECT: Thomas S. Levy
ORIGINAL USE: Soup kitchen
CURRENT USE: Residence/mixed
SIGNIFICANCE: The Kensington Soup Society barely survived I-95’s swath of destruction, the highway passing by just two doors down. The society served the neighborhood’s poor through its closure in 2008. Read the historic nomination HERE.

* * *

Worker homes at left | Photo: Bradley Maule

Worker homes at left | Photo: Bradley Maule

ADDRESS: 506, 508, 510, 512 East Wildey Street
BUILT: ~1830s, possibly as old as 1790s
DESIGNATED: February 1967
ORIGINAL USE: Private residences
CURRENT USE: Private residences
SIGNIFICANCE: Typical housing stock of early riverfront workers’ homes, small and stout in stature.

* * *

Preservation by late addition: homes on 1100 block of East Berks Street | Photo: Bradley Maule

ADDRESS: 1118, 1120, 1122 East Berks Street
BUILT: ~1830s
DESIGNATED: February 1967
ORIGINAL USE: Private residences
CURRENT USE: Private residences
SIGNIFICANCE: One half of one of the best intact blocks of worker housing for Dyottville Glass from the first half of the 19th Century.

* * *

Home Depot door added later; historic homes on East Berks Street | Photo: Bradley Maule

Home Depot door added later; historic homes on East Berks Street | Photo: Bradley Maule

ADDRESS: 1125, 1129, 1131, 1133, 1135, 1137 East Berks Street
BUILT: ~1830s
DESIGNATED: February 1967
ORIGINAL USE: Private residences
CURRENT USE: Private residences
SIGNIFICANCE: Other half of one of the best intact blocks of Dyottville housing from the first half of the 19th Century.

* * *

Contentious Laurentius: Circa-1885 St. Laurentius Catholic Parish | Photo: Bradley Maule

Contentious Laurentius: Circa-1885 St. Laurentius Catholic Parish | Photo: Bradley Maule

ADDRESS: 1600–06 East Berks Street
NAME: St. Laurentius Church
OPENED: 1885
DESIGNATED: July 2015
ARCHITECT: Edwin Forrest Durang
ORIGINAL USE: St. Laurentius Roman Catholic Church
CURRENT USE: Vacant, possible apartment conversion
SIGNIFICANCE: The Archdiocese of Philadelphia closed St. Laurentius in 2014 out of fears of structural liability. The high Gothic church features Polish motifs—“Polish Cathedral Style of Architecture”—a nod to the population the church served. Its closure and threat of demolition proved a rallying cry to the community, as a group formed to Save St. Laurentius, and a nomination spearheaded by occasional Hidden City contributor Oscar Beisert successfully placed the church on the Philadelphia Register. In January 2016, the Archdiocese issued a stern memo to the priests in its jurisdiction to avoid and report any efforts of preservation of their ecclesiastical structures. The nomination has a complete history of the building HERE.

* * *

Next door to the shuttered parish, St. Laurentius School carries on | Photo: Bradley Maule

Next door to the shuttered parish, St. Laurentius School carries on | Photo: Bradley Maule

ADDRESS: 1608–10 East Berks Street
NAME: St. Laurentius School
OPENED: 1885
DESIGNATED: July 2015
ORIGINAL USE: Rectory and Convent
CURRENT USE: Catholic School
SIGNIFICANCE: Interestingly, St. Laurentius School had its own original building at 1612 East Berks, which is not currently designated. They’ve since assumed use of 1608 and 1610, originally the parish’s rectory and convent. A later convent was built in the mid-century modern style in the 1950s up the block.

* * *

Typical Furness color, atypical Furness restraint | Photo: Bradley Maule

Typical Furness color, atypical Furness restraint | Photo: Bradley Maule

ADDRESS: 2176 East York Street
NAME: Dr. Shriner Office and Home
BUILT: 1886
DESIGNATED: October 2015
ARCHITECT: Frank Furness
ORIGINAL USE: Doctor’s office and private residence
CURRENT USE: Private residence
SIGNIFICANCE: Frank Furness interpretation of Queen Anne style, a home and office building of red brick with brownstone trim. Read the nomination HERE.

* * *

That’s all for Fishtown’s places on the Philadelphia Register. Tomorrow, we’ll look at historic buildings that are not on the register.

About the author

Bradley Maule is co-editor of the Hidden City Daily and the creator of Philly Skyline. He's a native of Tyrone, Pennsylvania, and he's hung his hat in Shippensburg, Germantown, G-Ho, Fishtown, Portland OR, Brewerytown, and now Mt. Airy. He just can't get into Twitter, but he's way into Instagram @mauleofamerica.



17 Comments


  1. Your tally leaves out the two blocks of historically-designated paving on Wildey Street – part of the Historic Street Paving Thematic District…

  2. Wonderful pictures, I enjoyed them. Thank you.

  3. What you see here is reactive designations. People notice a building that’s under threat and rush out to submit a nomination. The community needs to get ahead of the issue by doing an updated survey of its historic properties.

    • In some cases, but not all of them. The older designations in particular stand on their original merit, while some of the newer ones did require a lot of heavy lifting. You’re right, though, that a full survey should be done – and is somewhat ongoing on a grassroots level – but it should be done citywide. That’s where more funding for the Commission would be especially helpful.

  4. It’s all KENSINGTON 🙂

  5. Leonard Eisenstein

    The buildings in photographs # 3,5,6,8,15,16, 18, 24, 25 and 26 are terrific. the rest of the neighborhood should not only be rebuilt in brand new buildings (no more grittiness), and also find some way to eventually be a part of a greater Center City

  6. Your article is a wonderful collection of the treasures that have lasted over the years.
    The Obelisk that is today in Penn Treaty Park was first placed on private property in 1827. The Penn Society raised money to commission this monument which is the oldest public monument in Philadelphia.
    The members of the Penn Society wanted the location and the story of the 1682 Treaty of Friendship to endure.
    They succeeded in their endeavor.
    Thank you, Hidden City, for remembering this place and for all the other treasures you have illuminated in Philadelphia.
    Penn Treaty Museum

  7. Excellent first installment. Looking forward to the rest of the series.

  8. Gilberto Gonzalez

    Great Article – I have lived in Fishtown 18 years. When I first moved here many of the original families were still living. One of our traditions was to listen to their old stories. One of the stories was that, some blocks did not have back yards but instead had huge open space (Courtyards) that people shared and was for the residents of the block. Now many of the open space have been claimed by residents who wanted a privet space. Is there a way to see how many of these open space can be reclaimed? Folks will get mad but I think it would help create connections and conversations.

  9. A source you may or may not have look at is Stuart Dixon’s Fishtown chapter in “Workshop of the World,” the catalogue prepared by the local chapter of the Society for Industrial Archeology for its conference in Philadelphia in 1990. This chapter was based on work Mr. Dixon did uncovering the industrial history of Fishtown for a year-long project at the Philadelphia Historical Commission. Hss chapter is now on-line.

    http://www.workshopoftheworld.com/fishtown/fishtown.html

  10. I knew about the Furness bank on Frankford ave but not the building on York street…thanks for the heads up…great article…I better run over there

  11. Mary Seton Corboy

    Does that mean that the old block pavements on Wildey will have to be rebuilt as they convert the Wildey/Frankford Corner? It seems every time the do “work” on street they dump asphalt or cement instead of resetting the blocks. One time they tried painting it to look like blocks.

  12. Thank you so much for this article about my nabe. I’m late to the party; I just opened HC for the first time in a couple weeks and just now reading this series, but also only moved here recently too. I know what some are thinking … but don’t blame anything on me – I live in a nicely-kept brick original rowhouse!

  13. My great great great grandfather, Johann Schittenhelm, emigrated from Wurttemberg and settled in Fishtown around 1853. He bought a house at 1315 Frankford Avenue and had his blacksmith shop on the 1100 block. I-95 goes through what would have been the smithy’s front door. His house was torn down and is now how to Bottle Bar East and butcher shop. Gentrification… and urban renewal.

    Johann came from a long line of blacksmiths. Two of his three sons, including my great great grandfather, Edmund, shortened their surname to Helm. They started, Helm & Brother, a once famous furniture store on the 1300 block of Frankford. Walter held a couple patents for apparatuses. A few pieces of their furniture are known to survive.

    My ancestors stayed into Fishtown until the 1920s when the ’emigrated’ to Kensington, Harrowgate and parts further away.

    My father never knew about his familial connection to Fishtown. He was, until the day he died, a “proud Kensingtonian — born and raised”. He always joked that they should have built a wall around Kensington in the 1950s and charged admission to get in. He forbade me to date “Fishtown girls” when I was in high school and college. For outsiders, this might sound odd or silly, but to proud Kensingtonians, there was a cultural and geographical difference between the two neighborhoods.

    I grew up in the “formerly known as” Great Northeast. From my vantage point, I could see a distinction, but not as sharp as I once thought. Many of my good friends today are native Fishtowners. In 2000, I scoffed at a friend’s suggestion to buy a fixer-upper on Marlborough Street. “Why the hell would someone live in Fishtown? You can’t even park here! It IS Fishtown for godsake.”

    How shortsighted of me.

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