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South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

South Philadelphia
Neighborhood of Philadelphia
Newbold at Washington Avenue.
Country  United States of America
State  Pennsylvania
County Philadelphia
City Philadelphia
 • Total 142.6 sq mi (369 km2)
Population (2010)
 • Total 168,782
 • Density 16,771/sq mi (6,475/km2)
ZIP code 19145, 19146, 19147, 19148

South Philadelphia, nicknamed South Philly, is the section of Philadelphia bounded by South Street to the north, the Delaware River to the east and south, and the Schuylkill River to the west.[1] A diverse community, South Philadelphia is known for its large Italian American population.


South Philadelphia began as a satellite town of Philadelphia, with small townships such as Moyamensing and Southwark.[2] During the Industrial Revolution, the area saw rapid growth, in part due to mass immigration from Ireland. Its urbanized border reached that of Philadelphia. Along with all other jurisdictions in the county, South Philadelphia became part of the City of Philadelphia proper with passage by the Pennsylvania legislature of the city/county Act of Consolidation, 1854. The area continued to grow, becoming a vital part of Philadelphia's large industrial base and attracting immigrants from Italy, Ireland, Poland, and many other countries during the 19th and early 20th centuries, as well as Black American migrants from the southern United States during the Great Migration of the early 20th century. The immigrants and migrants became the basis of South Philadelphia's unique and vibrant culture that developed over the next several decades. Struggling to maintain their Catholic identity in a mostly Protestant city, the Irish built a system of Irish Catholic churches and parochial schools for their children, and added Catholic high schools. The later immigrant populations of Italians and Polish were also Catholic. At first they attended the existing churches but built their own national churches when they could. Ethnic Irish controlled the Catholic clergy and hierarchy for decades in Philadelphia and the region. Despite the dramatic growth in population, the low funding of education by the city resulted in the first public high school not being formed in South Philadelphia until 1934.[3] Attracted to the industrial jobs, the new residents created communities that continued many of their traditions.

While many of the new arrivals were Catholic, neighborhood parishes reflected their national traditions. Monsignor James F. Connelly, the pastor of the Stella Maris Catholic Church and an editor of the 1976 work The History of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, said in a 2005 Philadelphia Inquirer article that each parish church "offer[s] the immigrants the faith they were familiar with."[4] With the dramatic loss of industrial jobs during mid-20th century restructuring, there were population losses in South Philadelphia as well as other working-class parts of the city, and some neighborhood Catholic schools had to close.

Most of South Philadelphia's communities are largely Italian American. There also continue to be many ethnic Irish Americans and African Americans. An increase in late 20th-century immigration has given South Philadelphia significant populations from Asia: Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand; as well as from Russia and Mexico, and smaller groups from dozens of nations across the world. Today, many vendors that work alongside Italian-Americans at the Italian Market are of Asian descent and Mexican descent, and Vietnamese and Thai restaurants are interspersed with historic Italian ones in the Market area. The recent revitalization of Center City Philadelphia and the subsequent gentrification of adjacent neighborhoods has led to dramatic rises in prices of housing in the neighborhoods of historic Queen Village, Bella Vista, and some other parts of South Philadelphia.

Many of the community clubs that create the annual Mummers Parade every New Year's Day have traditionally been from South Philadelphia, especially those located on the largely Irish American S. 2nd Street ("Two Street") in the Pennsport neighborhood.[5][6][7]

Government and infrastructure

Portions of South Philadelphia are within Philadelphia City Council Districts 1 and 2. As of 2008 Council President Anna C. Verna and Councilman Frank DiCicco represent the two districts.[1]

The Philadelphia Fire Department operates nine fire stations serving South Philadelphia.[8] Most of South Philadelphia resides in Fire Battalion 1, headquartered at 711 South Broad Street. Portions of South Philadelphia reside in Battalion 4, headquartered at North 4th Street and Arch Street, and Battalion 11, headquartered at 43rd Street and Market Street.[1]

The Philadelphia Police Department patrols four districts located within South Philadelphia. The four patrol districts serving South Philadelphia are the 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 17th districts.[9]


According to the United States Census Bureau, South Philadelphia has an area of 9.7 sq. miles, of which none is water. South Philadelphia is located at 39°55′23″N 75°10′31″W / 39.9231°N 75.1753°W / 39.9231; -75.1753.


In 2010, the area's population was 168,782. It is home to a diverse population of Italian Americans, Irish Americans, African Americans, and Mexican Americans, with a growing population of Cambodian Americans, Vietnamese Americans, Chinese Americans, and Central Americans. Many residents have lived in the neighborhood for decades. Many family-owned businesses are found in South Philadelphia.

On January 22, 2010 the Associated Press said "South Philadelphia has been growing more diverse for decades, but the last 20 years have seen the greatest influx of Asian and Hispanic families."[10] David Elesh, a Temple University urban sociologist, said that of the almost 60,000 Philadelphia residents who reported being born in China, many lived in South Philadelphia.[10]

As of the 2010 Census, there are 168,782 people in 78,440 housing units. The population density is 16,771 people per square mile. 46.6% of the population is male, and 53.4% is female. The South Philadelphia area comprises the zip codes of 19145, 19146, 19147, and 19148. Data for the zip codes that make up South Philadelphia as of the Census 2000 Summary File:

  • 19145 [1]
  • 19146 [2]
  • 19147 [3]
  • 19148 [4]

Racial demographics[11][12]

  • Non-Hispanic White: 87,268 (51.8%)
  • African-American: 43,404 (25.7%)
  • Asian: 20,926 (12.4%)
  • Hispanic or Latino: 12,866 (7.6%)
  • Mixed or Other: 10,531 (6.1%)
  • American Indian: 656 (0.3%)


I-95 runs north and south through South Philadelphia and, in this area, provides commuters with access to Philadelphia International Airport, I-76, the South Philadelphia Sports Complex, and the Walt Whitman Bridge. The Girard Point Bridge section of I-95 crosses over the mouth of the Schuylkill River, where it merges with the Delaware River.

I-76 becomes the Schuylkill Expressway at Passyunk Avenue in South Philadelphia and allows access between this section of the city and University City, Center City, 30th Street Station, and the western suburbs.

In addition, PA Route 291 serves as a major artery between the area and Delaware County, crossing the Schuylkill River via the Platt Bridge (named for Medal of Honor recipient George C. Platt). Broad Street is part of PA Route 611.

SEPTA's Broad Street Line subway services South Philadelphia and provides quick access to Center City and North Philadelphia. A number of SEPTA bus routes also serve South Philadelphia, ferrying commuters to and from Center City and its immediate suburbs, mostly those in Delaware County.

South Philadelphia is served by bike lanes on many streets going in all directions.[13] Snyder Avenue has bike lanes going East and West. Columbus Boulevard has North and South bike lanes. 22nd Street provides Northward lanes for cyclists. Some streets such as 11th Street have both Bike lanes and Sharrows or Shared lane marking.


In a 2007 Philadelphia Weekly article, the journalist Steve Volk stated that anti-drug activists said that South Philadelphia has secretive recreational drug dealing. More neighborhoods in the region are mixed-income than neighborhoods in some other regions; therefore, many drug dealers hide their activities. As in other parts of the city, drugs have contributed to crime.[14]


Primary and secondary schools

Public schools

Residents are with the School District of Philadelphia's South District.[1] Zoned public high schools in South Philadelphia include South Philadelphia High School, Audenried High School, and Furness High School.[15][16][17][18]

The Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA), a magnet school, is in South Philadelphia.[19]

The Mastery Charter Schools system operates the Thomas School (grades 7-12) in South Philadelphia. It was formerly the district school Thomas Middle School.[20]

Private schools

Saints John Neumann and Maria Goretti Catholic High School is in South Philadelphia. It is a merger of the former Saint John Neumann High School and the Saint Maria Goretti High School.[21][22][23] Philadelphia Free School is also located in the area.

Public libraries

Free Library of Philadelphia operates six branches in South Philadelphia: Charles Santore, Fumo Family, Queen Memorial, South Philadelphia, Thomas F. Donatucci, Sr. and Whitman.[24] Prior to its 1999 reopening in a new building, the Fumo Branch was known as the Ritner Children's Branch.[25]

Places of note

Perhaps the most famous landmark in South Philadelphia is the South Philadelphia Sports Complex at the corner of Broad Street and Pattison Avenue. Here, the Philadelphia Phillies (professional baseball), Philadelphia Eagles (professional football), Philadelphia 76ers (professional basketball), Philadelphia Flyers (professional ice hockey), Philadelphia Wings (professional lacrosse), Philadelphia Soul (professional arena football), Temple Owls (college football) and the annual Wing Bowl (an event sponsored by the sports talk radio station, 610-WIP) make their home in the massive state-of-the-art sports arenas surrounding the well-known intersection: Citizens Bank Park, Lincoln Financial Field, and the Wells Fargo Center.

The sports complex was once home to Veterans Stadium (The Vet) which stood from 1971 to 2004; JFK Stadium, which stood from 1925 to 1992; and the Spectrum, which was in use from 1967 to 2009 and was demolished in 2011. The NovaCare Complex, located on Pattison Avenue just west of the stadium area, serves as the practice facility of the Philadelphia Eagles. They now play at Lincoln Financial Field.

The intersection of 9th Street and Passyunk Avenue is home to the regionally famous Geno's Steaks and Pat's King of Steaks cheesesteak shops, fierce competitors in the local deli market for decades. Also, nearby is the city's open-air Italian Market, specializing in fresh produce, meats, and other foods. It is lined by specialty shops, such as butchers, bakeries and cheese/grocery stores, as well as one for kitchen goods, and new cafes and coffee houses. The area was featured in the film Rocky and its sequels. This is the heart of an annual street festival celebrating the neighborhood's food.

South Street has long been considered the border between South Philadelphia proper and Center City. It originally ran east and west (although traffic is now routed east one-way). Many bars, nightspots, shops, tattoo parlors, and restaurants are located along this neon-lit hotspot, with occasional live music venues (including the TLA) along the way.

The American Swedish Historical Museum is located in Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park. One of Philadelphia's last pre-World War I rowhouse synagogues, Congregation Shivtei Yeshuron-Ezras Israel, remains active in Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, location of the alleged Philadelphia Experiment, is located in this section of town along the Delaware River. For decades during the World Wars and after, the shipyard was a major employer, whose craftsmen built new ships and repaired and maintained existing ones. With the decline in the military uses, the area is being redeveloped by the Navy and city for a variety of business and industrial uses.

The Sunoco oil corporation bases its headquarters along South Philadelphia's Passyunk Avenue. This is a short drive from the wide collection of car dealerships known as the "Philadelphia Auto Mall".

A refurbished area of South Philadelphia alongside Columbus Boulevard/Delaware Avenue (near the Walt Whitman Bridge) provides big box shopping at a Best Buy and an Ikea for thousands of shoppers. There are also many new chain restaurants and fast food establishments along this stretch, including Longhorn Steakhouse, Famous Dave's Bar-B-Que Pit, and Chick-fil-A just to name a few. This new shopping area goes by the name Columbus Commons.

Washington Avenue, between 16th St. on the west and Front St. on the east, is home to many Asian businesses, including Vietnamese, Chinese and Korean. Among these are restaurants of all types, two large Asian supermarkets, jewelers and a wide variety of specialty shops.

Passyunk Avenue, running on a diagonal from Broad Street to South Street, is a formerly thriving consumer district currently undergoing revitalization efforts. Within the past few years, several coffeeshops, restaurants and bars have opened which appeal to the younger population beginning to live in the area. In addition, a farmers' market is held on Wednesday nights at one of the squares.

The Arena (better known as the ECW Arena) at the corner of Swanson Street and Ritner Street is a venue known for hosting boxing and professional wrestling events.

Famous residents

See also

Philadelphia portal
Pennsylvania portal


External links

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