322 Delancey Street in Society Hill

In honor of our wonderful new listing at 322 Delancey Street, we decided to spotlight the fantastic neighborhood of Society Hill.

– It all started in 1682 when William Penn first set foot in his new colony. To spur development, he chartered a section of the land off to “The Society of Free Traders.” The Society flew its flag on top of a small hill, garnering the name, “The Society’s Hill.”

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A letter from William Penn to The Free Society of Traders

– Years pass by, and as Market Street (then known as High Street) became very commercialized, some of the wealthier families began to build their houses toward the south across Dock Creek in the mid 18th century.

– By 1776, the neighborhood had a very diverse population from many elite figures settling there to enslaved and free Blacks.

– Some of the city’s first public schools and institutions took root here, as well as many church denominations.

– After the Revolutionary War, Dock Creek was filled in by the city to become Dock Street. This was due to the fact that Dock Creek had turned into a public sewer and was overly polluted. Hence Dock Street’s uncharacteristic street shape as it does not follow the typical Philadelphia grid pattern.

 

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A painting of row houses ca. 1839 in Society Hill

– Eventually, the neighborhood began to disintegrate and came to be defined as the Fifth Ward, which fit well until after World War II. Part of this was due to the overall growth of Philadelphia, causing commerce and elite families to move away from Society Hill.

– This area was the primary focus of W.E.B Du Bois’s The Philadelphia Negro. He wrote that by the end of the nineteenth century, the Fifth Ward was the worst Negro slum in the whole city and compared it to a “cess-pool.”

– Society Hill continued to sink, especially with the presence of the Great Depression. However, after World War II, the political reform in Philadelphia also led to the reconstruction of the neighborhood we know and love today for its historic perseverance.

– City planner, Edmund Bacon, is credited with the renewal of Society Hill. His urban renewal plan included demolishing several nonresidential buildings, adding greenways, and restoring many early residences.

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Edmund Bacon

– New organizations such as the Old Philadelphia Development Corporation and the Philadelphia Historical Commission were created through this urban development to certify historic homes and acquire property to resell to owners who agreed to follow strict preservation guidelines.

– Charles E. Peterson joined Bacon in his efforts to renew the Fifth Ward and is the one who renamed it to “Society Hill” as a way to help rebrand the neighborhood.

– Thanks to the efforts of everyone, especially Bacon, Society Hill has been restored to its former glory with the most preserved historic residences in the country, and went from being far below the poverty line to one of the most affluent neighborhoods in Philadelphia.

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Society Hill | Source: flickr.com

– Take a stroll down Delancey Street today in Society Hill to see some of the city’s best Federal and Georgian style homes that have been immaculately restored. Take a virtual tour here of 322 Delancey Street.

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