East Falls, Philadelphia
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East Falls is a neighborhood in the Northwest section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. East Falls is located adjacent to Roxborough, Manayunk, and Germantown, and Fairmount Park. The neighborhood runs along a stretch of Ridge Avenue that is only a few miles long, along the banks of the Schuylkill River then extends northeast to Wissahickon Avenue. East Falls overlooks the multi-use recreational path of Fairmount Park along Kelly Drive, and is desirable for its central location, an easy commute to Center City, with easy access to several major roadways and public transportation. East Falls continues to develop, with new housing, retail space and recreation centers in production. It features three streets in proximity with the word "Queen" in them (Queen Lane, New Queen Street, and Indian Queen Lane), two train stations, a number of bars and restaurants, a small Korean grocer, illustrious mansions as well as some recently renovated housing that continues to increase in value.
Recently, East Falls has been undergoing redevelopment to elevate its status relative to nearby Manayunk and other local shopping districts in the Philadelphia area. Several new restaurants and coffee shops have been built, and are beginning to see financial success. Another substantial addition, The Arthur Ashe Youth Tennis and Education Center, was recently completed. It offers instruction to Philadelphia youth in its new 9.2-acre (37,000 m2), sixteen-court facility and operates in cooperation with the City of Philadelphia, School District of Philadelphia, and others. It was built with private funding in partnership with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
East Falls is best known as the childhood home of Grace Kelly, actress and Princess of Monaco, who grew up in a house at 3901 Henry Avenue. In addition, former U.S. Senator Arlen Specter, Jewish studies scholar Chaim Potok, Pennsylvania Governor and former Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell have homes in East Falls. Ravenhill Academy, a Catholic girls school run by the Mothers of the Assumption from the Philippines, was attended by Grace Kelly and the former President of the Philippines Corazon Aquino. It was closed in 1977 and now is part of the Philadelphia University campus. It is a common misconception that Frank Sinatra exchanged nuptials with his second wife, Ava Gardner, in another campus building, a house on the corner of School House Lane and Henry Avenue. Before the founding of Washington, D.C., East Falls was seriously considered as the site for the permanent federal capital.
East Falls was the site of the world-famous Schuylkill Falls Public Housing Project by the International Modern architect Oscar Stonorov. Constructed in 1953, Schuylkill Falls was one of the most admired and studied high-rise public housing designs in the US. Despite its status as a National Historic Landmark, the building stood vacant for many years and was finally demolished in 1996.
East Falls is also home to historic Laurel Hill Cemetery, burial place of numerous prominent Philadelphians and other notables.
East Falls takes its name from its location on the east side of the Schuylkill River at the original line of waterfalls where the river descends from the elevation of the Pennsylvania piedmont to the coastal plain occupied by the main part of the City of Philadelphia, thus East Falls was in colonial times the highest point on the river navigable by boat and transfer point to the Indian path/colonial roadways which later became Ridge Avenue and Germantown Avenue. The falls disappeared when the river level was raised by the construction of the dam at the Fairmount Water Works, four miles downstream, but rocks still visible above the water show the location of the natural fall-line. Before the arrival of European settlers, the Lenni Lenape Indians considered the lower Schuylkill River their home. The Wissahickon Creek runs into the Schuylkill here and today is included as a part of Fairmount Park, providing walking and bike paths along its banks. Wissahickon is a merging of two Lenape words: "Wisaucksickan" meaning "yellow-colored creek", and "Wisamickan" meaning "catfish creek". In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries "catfish and waffles" was a favorite food at the many inns and taverns that ran through the valley, and a catfish still serves as the weathervane atop the Free Library of Philadelphia Falls of Schuylkill Branch. East Falls, so named in the nineteenth century, had earlier been known as Falls of the Schuylkill or Falls Village. In the 19th century, the Dobson Mills textile factory thrived there.
- Note: A detailed early history of East Falls is contained in "Early History of the Falls of Schuylkill, Manayunk, Schuylkill and Lehigh Navigation Companies, Fairmount Waterworks, Etc.", by Charles V. Hagner, in 1869. It was reprinted by the University of Michigan in 2010 as part of its Historical Reprint Series.
As of the census of 2000, the racial makeup of East Falls is 72.06% White, 19.98% African American, 4.79% Asian, and 0.86% from other races. 2.58% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
In 2005, the median home sale price in the 19129 zip code, which contains East Falls, was $184,000. This was an increase of 8% over the median sale price for 2004.
- 4th Council District (includes Roxborough, Manayunk, Andorra and part of West Philadelphia)
- 38th ward (becomes 21st Ward west at School House Lane)
- U.S. Representative District 2 (most of Philadelphia west of Broad Street)
- State Senator District 7 (similar to 4th Council District)
- State Representative Districts 194, 197, and 198
East Falls is home to a number of businesses.
The largest center of commerce in East Falls is the Falls Center. It is home for over 18 businesses and dormitories for Philadelphia University.
Colleges and universities
- Philadelphia University is a private university with a 100-acre (0.40 km2) campus in East Falls, predominantly along School House Lane and Henry Avenue. Founded in 1884, it was previously known as The Philadelphia College of Textiles & Science (1961–1999). Currently with 3,100 part and full-time students, the university offers more than 50 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.
- East Falls became the main campus of Drexel University College of Medicine since it took over MCP-Hahnemann University School of Medicine in 2003. It is the consolidation of two medical schools, each with over one hundred and fifty years of history, Hahnemann Medical College, founded in 1848, and Woman's Medical College, founded in 1850 and later the Medical College of Pennsylvania.
Primary and secondary schools
The School District of Philadelphia operates public schools.
- The Mifflin School, a K-8 grade school, is currently undergoing an $8 million refurbishment project, and is also part of the Bright Futures project.
- The William Penn Charter School, a private day school founded by William Penn in 1689 has called its forty four acre East Falls campus home since 1925.
- St. Bridget’s Catholic Elementary School, run by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, was in East Falls since 1853. It was founded by Saint John Neumann, who was then Bishop of the Diocese of Philadelphia. The 2011-2012 school year was the last. They would have merged with Holy Child (Holy Family Parish) to become a new school, St. Blaise Regional Catholic School. But unfortunately, due to low enrollment, jumps in tuition, and a general lack of quality Archdiocesan leadership, Saint Blaise Regional Catholic School will not be opening as of June 2012—now leaving all of Manayunk and East Falls, an area once dotted with Catholic schools, without a single one.
Places of worship
- Baptist: Falls of Schuylkill Baptist Church
- Catholic: St. Bridget's Roman Catholic Church
- Episcopal: Memorial Church of the Good Shepherd
- Lutheran: Redeemer Lutheran Church
- Presbyterian: East Falls First Presbyterian Church
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09.
- "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- "East Falls Business Directory". East Falls Development.
- "Falls of Schuylkill Branch." Free Library of Philadelphia. Retrievedon October 19, 2012.
- The Fallser Newspaper
- East Falls Community Council
- East Falls Development Corporation
- Historic Photographs of East Falls, Phillyhistory.org