SOCIETY HILL

LOCATION AND HISTORY

Society Hill is a neighborhood in the Center City section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The neighborhood, loosely defined as bounded by Walnut, Lombard, Front and 8th Streets, contains the largest concentration of original 18th- and early 19th-century residential architecture of any place in the United States.[citation needed] Society Hill is noted as a charming district with cobblestone streets bordered by brick rowhouses in Federal and Georgian style.

History

Society Hill is a neighborhood in the Center City section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The neighborhood, loosely defined as bounded by Walnut, Lombard, Front and 8th Streets, contains the largest concentration of original 18th- and early 19th-century residential architecture of any place in the United States.[citation needed] Society Hill is noted as a charming district with cobblestone streets bordered by brick rowhouses in Federal and Georgian style.

After the Revolutionary War, the city filled in the polluted Dock Creek, and created a new food distribution market on the street created by filling in the creek. Dock Creek became Dock Street. Though the streets of Philadelphia were carefully laid out in a grid, the new Dock Street’s arc connecting Chestnut and Spruce Streets between 2nd and 3rd, owes its uncharacteristic shape to the path of the former creek as it ran to the river.[3]

In the 19th century, the city expanded westward and the area lost its appeal. Houses deteriorated, and by the 1940s, Society Hill had become a slum neighborhood, one of the worst in the city.[4] In the 1950s, the city, state and federal governments began 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. The Dock Street wholesale produce market was relocated to South Philadelphia.

From 1957-1959, the Greater Philadelphia Movement, the Redevelopment Authority and the Old Philadelphia Development Corporation bought 31 acres (130,000 m2) around Dock Street. They demolished and relocated the Dock Street market, setting aside 5 acres (20,000 m2) of land that would become the Society Hill Towers.[5]

In 1957, Edmund Bacon, the executive director of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, awarded developer-architect firm Webb and Knapp the competition for the redevelopment of Society Hill. Architect I. M. Pei and his team designed a plan for three 31-story Society Hill Towers and low-rise buildings.[6] The Towers and townhouses project was completed in 1964, while the entire plan was completed in 1977.[7] Architect Louis Sauer designed dozens of rowhouse projects for the area around Society Hill, including Waverly Court and Penn’s Landing Square.

Historic buildings in Society Hill include the Society Hill Synagogue, built in 1829 as a Baptist church by Philadelphia architect Thomas U. Walter, one of the architects of the United States Capitol in Washington, DC. The synagogue was entered into the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. Another notable building is St. Peter’s Church, constructed between 1758 and 1761 by Robert Smith.

The Society Hill Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. In 1999, it was listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places.

EDUCATION

AND OVERVIEW

Society Hill residents are assigned to schools in the School District of Philadelphia. Residents are zoned to the General George A. McCall School, located in Society Hill,[8] for grades Kindergarten through 8,[9] and Furness High School for high school.[10]

McCall serves Society Hill and the Chinatown areas.[11] The official opening of McCall occurred on February 1911; the construction of the building had been awarded on October 26, 1909.[12] By September 1998 the school, which had 650 students, established a bilingual English-Chinese program to serve Chinese immigrant students, and that month it began hiring teachers fluent in both languages to teach core subjects. At the time 25% of the students were Chinese, and the number of Chinese students had doubled in the previous two-year period.[11] Russell Scott Smith of Edutopia wrote that in 2004, compared with other School District of Philadelphia campuses, “McCall already had a fairly good reputation for academic rigor and safety” and that by 2009 it had improved even more.[13] In 2012 Kristen A. Graham of the Philadelphia Inquirer stated that McCall was one of “the district’s stronger neighborhood schools”.[14]

As of 2009 the racial percentages of McCall’s student body were 55% Asian, 27% black, 11% white, 4% from other racial backgrounds, and 1.7% Hispanic and Latino. The school’s parent-teacher organization is the McCall Home and School Association.[13] In 2012 about 50% of the student body was below the poverty line.[14] The school received a “cybrary”, a library facility with 22 computers and materials in Mandarin Chinese, in 2007, financed by fundraisers and bake sales.[15] Its mandatory school uniform policy went into effect in 2001 when the school district required all schools to have strict dress codes.[16]

SOME OF PLACES TO VISIT

HISTORICAL PLACES, RESTAURANTS AND MORE.

What To Do
Washington Square

Washington Square, one of Philadelphia’s five public squares laid out by William Penn in his original plan for the city, has been a scenic modern-day park for 200 years. Its proximity to Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell and the Independence Visitor Center make it hard for visitors and locals to resist the appeal of walking the same land and streets the nation’s founders once strolled. Today’s beautiful park setting and the lovely homes and buildings that surround it complete the experience.
Headhouse Square

With its cobblestone streets and original 18th- and 19th-century buildings that line the streets, Headhouse Square remains as picture-perfect today as it was hundreds of years ago. It’s also home to Headhouse Square Farmers’ Market, the oldest farmers’ market in Philadelphia. Held every Sunday May through December, the market boasts more than 25 farmers and producers, all displaying their fresh produce, baked goods and local meats, cheeses and wines.
Dock Street

Though just a short street in Society Hill, the cobblestoned Dock Street area is home to a number of the city’s best restaurants and entertainment. Look no further than the modern-yet-traditional cuisine at Zahav, Mediterranean treats at Positano Coast and the Ritz Five, which screens independent and foreign films.
Getting Around

Many SEPTA buses make stops in Society Hill, and both the 2nd Street and 5th Street subway stations are located a couple of blocks away in Old City.

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TREND IDX data last updated at September 21, 2017 10:46 PM ET