Lower North Philadelphia Views, 76-100+

Xmas day restaurant

There were a literal dozen Chinese takeout restaurants in a one-half mile radius from where I lived. For the uninitiated, these shotgun restaurants comprise a small foyer with a cashier, small grocery, and kitchen, behind bullet proof glass.



Pontiac excitement

This Grand Prix is a rare neighborhood specimen of a classic car surviving the streets.





There is an unforgivable amount of trash on the streets. It accumulates where it is first trapped by grass or other obstacles. An abandoned building in the background is one of many exemplary brick carriage houses commonly found in the north side.





Pay phone box on a extinct gas station lot still hosting advertisements. This block is the site of several particularly noteworthy small warehouse rehabilitation and new construction projects, some complete, others underway, and on the drawing board.




All Stars

Broken glass, ditched sneakers, and piles of leaves. Things just get left as they lay.




Morning Light

These six vacant lots are a playground, parking lot, stray animal refuge, and dump. A new construction and lot for sale hold promise for change: improvement potential.




Better is yet to come

Investor found. A few consecutive blocks along this street have sizable buildings left vacant and deteriorating but drawing attention for rehabilitation.





Tagged for ownership. Abandoned, kind of, this building is in use, despite attempts to keep it off limits.




At the museum

A mile west, toward the Schuylkill River, a collection of museums and the surrounding neighborhood stand in stark contrast to the Lower North.




Signs & Tags





Available for use across Philadelphia, local access rental bikes are usually pretty well used.




Wrought iron fence

New but replicating some of the older iron work in the neighborhood, this gate closes off a childcare playground serving the community.





The impact of Temple University’s growth, and management of student housing, cannot be overstated. It has fueled a high density of new buildings and renovations, block by block in most blighted areas, spreading west and south toward Ridge.





Stop-and-go is a common feature of construction, particularly for small scale projects. This building remained as is for several months.




Moderne Farrah School

One of the roughly 10% of area schools sold in the past five years. This one is now an apartment building for entry level professionals.




Door art

This entry way was preemptively painted and surprisingly was an effective deterrent against additional tagging.





A major rehabilitation of this nearly block-size (local) icon. A long view of its history reveals that it has been a white elephant, almost since its inception. In the current economic optimism, it is being given another chance.





Dismal, perhaps, but only a few doors down in either direction are $1M homes and condominiums. Vacant, and deteriorating, it is owned by a non-resident with local business interests, since the mid 1990s.




Moderne design

Neighborhood elementary school, still in use, built in the early 20th century, when the city and neighborhood were growing, 10-20% between each decennial census.




Store front

This storefront is in a more dilapidated section within an already run down area along Ridge. Outright public investment – not just tax abatement – is impending and may help spur private development.




Bell Telephone adaptive reuse

Vacant for decades, this building was converted into entry-level condominiums, occupied by mostly young, white professionals, oriented toward the Fairmont neighborhood.




Doorways, too

Results of reinvestment in single-family and multi-unit dwellings, between Ridge and Fairmont. A stark contrast to large swaths of housing between Girard and Cecil B Moore.




Boarding School

Occupying more than square quarter mile, largely separated from its surroundings by a 10-foot high rock, this bit of fence allows views in to the Girard College. Funded in perpetuity by an endowment, the “college” is a preparatory school for “academically capable students.”




Nikes & narrow lane

Hundreds of streets like this one, only a block long, with row homes end-to-end. This one, one-third boarded up and/or without roofs, a third occupied, and a third now under renovation – potentially, affordable, two-story, single-family homes.




Local retail

One of the few retail and service shops in area, the bike shop keeps busy provisioning coffee &c, on the side.




New units and tag

Electric meter boxes like this are a new multi-unit badge, you can walk down some blocks and count off by threes, into the 30s. Tags enable a sort of dendrochronology.




In process

This multi-unit building – a 20+ units, as opposed to three, six, or nine, is one of about a dozen filling in vacant lots just off of Girard, in areas lacking any kind of neighborhood sensibilities.




Leaving Philadelphia behind for opportunities elsewhere, I must admit to being rather smitten with its rougher edges and beauty.



Lower North Philadelphia Views, 51-75

This is the third of four posts, presenting another 25 pictures of North Philadelphia captured while walking Katie dog.


Due to the noticeable absence of trees – some blocks with none – fall passed almost imperceptibly into winter.  The Street Trees program aims to green the city with its free trees program.



Places evolve under multiple forces and as sums of their parts. This back alley canvas is one among many on a block that is quickly redeveloping to meet market demands.


Store front

Looking back from a future point in time, Ridge Ave will have transformed between 2015 – 2025. Until then, there is this, here and there. The contrasts between derelict and new are remarkable.



The restoration of the Divine Lorraine hotel carries forward an historic landmark into an uncertain but – more than likely – vibrant future. There is no shortage of Blumenfeld vision and Procida capital.


Philly Mural Arts

Since 1986, the program has produced a stupendous collection of art pieces.  Here, Celebrate Poetry enlivens a dead space between two hibernating buildings. Check out this map of murals that populate every nook and cranny of the city.


Autumnal Evening

Open for all as long as light and weather permits, tax dollars for civic infrastructure provide the universally appreciated and egalitarian city spaces. A city of brotherly love vibe, absolutely.


Stylin Chrysler

Cars are pride points, in this neighborhood is no exception.



Part way removed, a clean up and change of use are underway.  The Pyramid Temple #1, a civic organization, continues to hold an annual ball in support of its charity mission.


Open Door

Previously noted, houses of worship are omnipresent. Holy Temple Church’s door is open late, serving the diverse needs and preferences of the community.


Community Garden

Just south of Fairmont, the neighborhood home prices are higher than north of Girard, by a factor of three. Instead of vacant lots, there are amenities, like the remarkable Spring Gardens community garden.



Right center, the private Gesu School is “a national model for inner-city education” in a community that benefits greatly from its work.



About a mile south, Penn Center Suburban Station provides a transit hub for subway, trolley, and train lines. It is a stupendous example of art deco architecture, as well.


New Mags

Representative of gloss over substance or, conversely, the suitability of old things made to last. This classic, sanded down to the metal, sports a new set of wheels.


Civic Architecture

Formerly the Berean Institute, founded to provide professional training programs that were not available to blacks, it is now the Philadelphia Technical Training Institute, which is doing much the same thing, more than a 100 years later. Check out this long and windy history of the Berean Institute.



One stage in the redevelopment process. Very close to Girard, on Ridge, this is the first of the many on this block that could turn things around.


One block off broad

Once part of the rattle and hum of Philadelphia, this area’s pulse is barely perceptible. Zuzu’s Kitchen and Lorraine, with its solid neighborhood grit and great outdoor seating, are among the few restaurants and bars scattered about and drawing traffic.


School View

Monday through Friday, the streets are flooded with students in parochial school outfits. Students from Jersey and outlying areas bus or drive in to St. Joe’s Prep, completely incongruent with what surrounds it.


City Housing

This Project HOME site in a vital resource for addressing poverty and homelessness in this North Philadelphia neighborhood.


Opening Hour

Established in 1956, likely the zenith of the neighborhood’s 20th century development, Yellow Front remains as a solid step up from the average corner store. Not a great place to get your perishables, it has a voluminous stock of hot sauce and good selection of rices.



Top of the list of places I like to avoid, laundromats are the most common business after bodegas, barber shops, Chinese takeout, and bars. This place ranks.


Dog Park

Reflecting the amenity demands of more recent arrivals, this slice of land has been claimed by neighborhood dog owners as a leash-free park.


No parking

Lew Blum, free signs for service, is one of a couple shake-down outfits – more successful than the PD – keeping car owners from wreaking havoc on the streets and off. One fun to read story, among many (image captured using a Nikon D90).


Tree & Scaffold

Building sides are clean canvases for crisp shadows. Here, a dense cluster of new construction 3 per unit condominiums.


Barber Shop

Another neighborhood essential, the barber shop. Bill’s is looking for a suitor for this narrow corner building. A short block off Ridge, across from a park, it is a good buy.


School Doors

Many of the early 20th century public school buildings have been sold and converted to other uses. The Helen Fleisher Vocation School, now the Parkway Center City college prep school, built in the Academic Gothic style, remains in the public school system.