WASHINGTON SQ WEST
Washington Square West (or Wash West) is a neighborhood in downtown, or Center City, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The neighborhood roughly corresponds to the area between 6th and 10th Streets and between Walnut and South Streets, bordering on the Independence Mall tourist area directly northeast, Market East to the northwest, Old City and Society Hill to the East, Bella Vista directly south, Hawthorne to the southwest, and mid-town Philadelphia and Rittenhouse Square to the west. Many realtors and civic groups, in an attempt to hype up the area as a desirable trendy neighborhood designate the western border of the neighborhood as Broad Street, 4 blocks from the more accurate boundary of 10th Street. The area take its name from Washington Square, a historic urban park in the northeastern corner of the neighborhood.
A section of Philadelphia’s Antique Row lies in the area as does the nation’s oldest hospital, Pennsylvania Hospital. Educational and medical facilities associated with, Thomas Jefferson University, a leading regional medical university and health care center, are located at the western edge of the neighborhood.
Washington Square West’s real estate is characterized by three to four story townhomes interspersed with mid-rize apartments and offices with ground-floor retail. The neighborhood follows William Penn’s original grid layout for the city, with many one-lane and pedestrian side streets added later as the population became more dense. In addition to the block sized Washington Square Park to the East, the neighborhood contains the smaller Kahn Park, named after the Philadelphia Architect Louis Kahn.
The name ‘Washington Square West’ came into official use in the late 1950s and early 1960s as part of Edmund Bacon’s comprehensive plan for Center City. In this plan, the south-east quadrant of center city was split into Washington Square East (more commonly known as Society Hill) and Washington Square West. Both neighborhoods were scheduled for urban renewal by Philadelphia’s City Planning Commission and Redevelopment Authority. After a period of decline in the early 20th century, city officials hoped that redevelopment would clean up the neighborhood and clear blighted areas.
After large scale renewal of Washington Square East/Society Hill in the early 60s, the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority turned to Washington Square West. In the late 1960s, the Redevelopment Authority bought and demolished buildings and, by the mid 1970s, owned one fifth of the neighborhood . By this time, however, federal money available for urban renewal had declined and the city was no longer able to fund the renewal of Washington Square West. Buildings razed by the city in the 1960s and 1970s were left as empty lots and the neighborhood was left in a state of decline.
Through the late 1970s and 1980 began a slow recovery without the aid of the large scale redevelopment that had occurred in Society Hill. The 1990s saw a shift in the neighborhood as Mayor Ed Rendell encouraged investment in Center City and gentrification began to take hold. By the end of the 1990s and early 2000s, the neighborhood had transformed into an economically vital community.
WHAT TO DO IN WASHINGTON SQ
What To Do
A popular gathering spot for residents and visitors alike, the green and lively Washington Square attracts those who want a respite from the city action — picnickers, families, sunbathers and history buffs.
Midtown Village maintains its own personality thanks to a small-business boom concentrated on the 13th Street corridor, where power couple Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran preside over a handful of popular restaurants and shops.
The Gayborhood sets itself apart with dozens of rainbow street signs that adorn poles throughout the area, along with many restaurants and bars catering to an LGBT clientele and their friends.
Jewelers’ Row and Antique Row
Also worth a visit while in the neighborhood: Jewelers’ Row, boasting nearly 300 diamond and jewelry merchants; and Antique Row, the go-to spot for museum-quality furnishings, cute collectables and funky art objects.
Just steps a block away from Washington Square West, the Market East station serves as a transportation hub for SEPTA’s regional rail lines with service from the suburbs and Philadelphia International Airport. The train — known as the El to locals — makes stops at 8th, 11th and 13th Streets along Market, while various SEPTA routes and New Jersey transit buses traverse the numbered streets between 8th and Broad Streets and along Market and Chestnut Streets.
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