Northeast Philadelphia is a sizable swath of land that runs north of Center City along the Delaware River. Nearby are Bucks and Montgomery Counties. It is a combination of more than twenty neighborhoods, each with unique histories and personalities.
Here are some fun facts about the Northeast you may not know:
1. It’s a Microcosm of America’s Melting Pot: The Northeast is a prime example of the United States’ immigrant roots. People have come here from all over the world, each adding the flavor of their homeland’s culture.
In Somerton, for example, a little more than seven percent of residents have Russian roots, and three percent trace their ancestry to Greece. In fact, there are more residents with Russian and Greek ancestry than in almost any other neighborhood in the country. Among the other most commonly identified ethnicities and ancestries from people who live in the area include Irish, German, Italian, and Polish.
2. It’s Home to the Original Road Across America: Slicing through the Northeast, Roosevelt Boulevard was part of Lincoln Highway when it opened around 1915. This road traversed the nation from sea-to-sea, running 3389 miles from New York City to California. Soon after it was constructed, builders took advantage of the new road access by building homes alongside it.
Today, while it allows traffic to travel north and south through the Northeast’s communities, this twelve-lane congested highway acts almost as a buffer between neighborhoods on the east and west sides of it. People tend to keep to their side of the Boulevard for shopping, worship, recreation and other activities.
3. It Has a Bug Museum: In the Holmesburg neighborhood, you’ll find the Philadelphia Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion. If you are into tarantulas, scorpions or praying mantises, the Insectarium is the place to be. If these creepy-crawlies are not up your alley, you might prefer to visit the butterflies that flutter around visitors in a 7,000 square-foot tropical ecosphere. You can even take a look at some busy bees, working in a revolving see-through hive.
4. Famous Politicians, Pundits and Performers Have Lived Here: A few renowned people have ties to Northeast Philly. One of our founding fathers who signed the Declaration of Independence, Dr. Benjamin Rush, had a summer home in Frankford. Chris Mathews, political commentator and host of ‘Hardball with Chris Matthews,’ was raised in the Northeast. He attended St. Christopher’s School in Somerton. Also, although many associate Sylvester Stallone with the iconic image of Rocky running up the Art Museum’s steps in Center City, his Northeast origins are less known. At one time, he was a resident of Holme Circle.
5. The Oldest Stone Arch Bridge in the U.S. Is in Philly’s Northeast: Pennypack Park, a ribbon of 1,300 open acres that runs across this densely populated area, is where you will find the oldest existing stone arch roadway bridge in the country. The Frankford Avenue Bridge was built in 1697, and George Washington is known to have crossed it.
Another fun fact: People still find stone tools and arrows in the park, evidence of the Native Americans who lived here long before Washington crossed the bridge.
6. It’s a Haven for Row Houses: Anyone who has lived in or visited The Northeast knows there is an abundance of row houses. Did you know, however, that in Mayfair more than 74 percent of the residential real estate consists of row and attached homes? That’s a higher percentage of houses than in almost any other neighborhood in the U.S. This density of row houses, which repeats over Northeast Philadelphia, contributed to Philadelphia becoming known as the City of Homes at the end of the nineteenth century.
7. Small Arms Were Once Big Business: Located on Frankford Creek near the Delaware River, the Frankford Arsenal was once the largest manufacturer of small-arms ammunition in the U.S. It played a significant role in developing Philly’s reputation as a hub for manufacturing.
Based on these tidbits about Northeast Philly, its collage of neighborhoods represent the history and diversity of America, and with a wonderful public transportation and road network that connects to Center City and beyond.
A special thanks to Carolyn Frith, a content consultant who writes on behalf of Phillyaptrentals. Topics she covers include Philadelphia lifestyle, events, apartment living, and neighborhoods. She aims to rid the world of snore-and-bore writing on the web.