This blog entry reviewing the history of this populous region is presented by Abuse Guardian’s North Philly clergy abuse lawyers.
While the specific boundaries of North Philadelphia aren’t necessarily delineated, it is more of a general zone, it is widely understood that “North Philly” constitutes anything north of Vine & Spring Garden streets. If you didn’t know that, even being a local, then do not be concerned. Some residents of the County of Philadelphia have difficulty identifying all of the borders of the city with much precision at all!
Before the 1682 arrival of William Penn in North America, what is now North Philadelphia was covered with thick woods populated by Native Americans. Philadelphia’s establishment that same year began the area’s gradual transformation from forests to blocks of homes, factories, churches, universities, and other institutions built to serve the area’s inhabitants.
The inhabitants were quite varied in their backgrounds and included Native Americans, colonists, and slaves. Later waves of immigrants were just as varied and included peoples from southern states of the colony as well as Europeans, persons from the Caribbean and Latin America.
For thousands of years, the Lenape Indians occupied the banks of the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers where they established several large settlements in and around the area that became North Philadelphia. Today, most of the remnants of these native peoples are deep underground, accessible only to archaeologists. However, a handful of North Philadelphia roads, including Frankford Avenue and Old York Road, roughly follow trails established by the Lenape and other Native American tribes centuries ago. Naturally, after William Penn founded Philadelphia as the capital,, the forests that had sustained the Natives slowly gave way to farms and estates.
This occurred because, in his hopes of attracting settlers to his new town and to encourage development in and around the city, Penn granted the initial folks in Philadelphia lots within the city but also free lots in areas north of the original city limits where farms could be established. Many property lines in North Philadelphia have origins in the farms that were gradually developed as this area urbanized over the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Development After the Revolution
After the war, development pressure on the northern side of the city increased with the boom that accompanied Philadelphia’s post-war place as the political, financial, and social capital of the Nation. Not only did this part of the city offer businesses access to the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers and more than enough space for growth, but the area was far enough from the crowded Center City to ensure that industrial waste from factories would not interfere with the city’s open-air environments.
20th Century North Philly
North Philadelphia maintained its European immigrant influence until the turn of the twentieth century, when African Americans from southern states began to migrate to northern industrial centers, establishing many of North Philadelphia’s neighborhoods as important centers of black culture. North Philadelphia also became a center of black activism as the area’s African American residents fought for better representation and working conditions and against practices that refused housing loans to individuals who lived in areas deemed to be of high risk.
The Rebirth of the ’90s
The general disinterest shown North Philadelphia by investors from the ’50s into the ’90s dealth a devastating blow to this sector of the city. Fortunately, starting in the ’90s, many failed “projects” were refurbished or completely rebuilt which led to the improvement of neighborhood conditions in many sections of the region.
Some North Philadelphians openly opposed the waves of change that affected their neighborhoods while many others recognized, however, that North Philly’s history revolves more around transformation than around standing still. Without past communities embracing this very fact, the growing North Philly of today may never have come to be in the first place.
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