Bella Vista, Philadelphia

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Bella Vista
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper House
Bella Vista is located in Philadelphia
Bella Vista
Bella Vista
Coordinates: Coordinates: 39°56′21″N 75°09′11″W / 39.93926°N 75.15295°W / 39.93926; -75.15295
Country United States
CountyPhiladelphia County
ZIP code
Area code(s)215, 267

Bella Vista, Italian for "beautiful sight", is a neighborhood in the South Philadelphia section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

It is bounded by 6th Street, 11th Street, South Street, and Washington Avenue.[1] It currently has a population of 5,898.[2]


Prior to the Act of Consolidation of 1854, Bella Vista was part of the Moyamensing Township. It was sparsely settled until the 1840s and 1850s when it became an impoverished area on the outskirts of the industrializing city. The New York Tribune noted in 1848 that the districts of Moyamensing and nearby Southwark were composed of "the most graceless vagabonds and unmitigated ruffians" as well as "loafers" who were members of various gangs.[3] In addition to Irish immigrants, it was also once home to a large portion of the city's black population, many of whom were former slaves from the South. In 1852, the Institute for Colored Youth, a school (and later college) for people of African descent, was established at 10th and Bainbridge.

During the late 1800s, Italian immigrants began settling the area in large numbers, which reshaped the neighborhood's character. One of the earliest immigrants, Antonio Palumbo, opened a boardinghouse (Palumbo's) on the corner of 9th and Catharine in 1884 that became the social center of the neighborhood's growing Italian community.

The planned construction of the South Street Expressway in the 1960s led to a drop in property values in the neighborhood. Many of the neighborhood's residents subsequently fled to the suburbs. As they did in adjacent Queen Village, developers and city planners attempted to rebrand the neighborhood and began referring to it as "Bella Vista" in the early 1970s.

The city eventually scrapped plans for the second cross-town expressway. In the late 1970s, the neighborhood began to gentrify due to its proximity to Center City. In 1982, it was featured as a case study in Michael Lang's Gentrification Amid Urban Decline: Strategies for America's Older Cities. During the same era, the neighborhood also experienced an influx of Vietnamese and Mexican immigrants, especially near Washington Ave. While much of the Italian-American community has moved away, many Italian shops and restaurants still remain clustered along the market on 9th Street.

The Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memorial, Institute for Colored Youth, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper House, and George W. Nebinger School are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[4]

Present day[edit]

Commercial activity within Bella Vista is focused around the 9th Street Market and South Street Headhouse District.

Bella Vista was voted 2016 best neighborhood to live in Philadelphia by [5] and is undergoing a new residential construction housing boom to meet demand;[6] in some cases adaptively reusing,[7][8] in other cases replacing existing structures by destroying historic and culturally significant buildings including the Christian Street Baptist Church.[9][10]

The neighborhood is served by the Bella Vista Neighbors Association (BVNA), as the primary Registered Community Organization (RCO) in Bella Vista.[11] BVNA holds zoning hearings, safety awareness, cleanup and beautification, coordinates delivery of city services, provides a public forum, and holds social events.[12]

The neighborhood is served by Police Service Area 1 (PSA1) of the 3rd District, operating out of the South Street Mini Station,[13] as well as the main municipal building at 11th and Wharton Streets.[14]


Annual festivals in the neighborhood include the Italian Market Festival.[15]

The Fleisher Art Memorial and Philadelphia's Magic Gardens are two large non-profit cultural institutions located within Bella Vista, along with the DaVinci Art Alliance, Jed Williams Gallery, and others.

Prior to Halloween, La Calaca Flaca and Fleischer Art Memorial organize and present a Día de los Muertos Altar Celebration and Procession. The first event took place in 2013.[16]


The School District of Philadelphia operates the neighborhood's public schools.[1] Bella Vista contains portions of the catchment area served by Andrew Jackson Elementary School,[17] William M. Meredith School,[18] and George W. Nebinger School.[19] All three K-8 schools are at or nearing capacity and are highly in demand.[20]

All residents of Bella Vista are zoned to Furness High School.[21]

The Free Library of Philadelphia operates the Charles Santore Branch (formerly Southwark Branch), serving Bella Vista.[22]

Public parks[edit]

Bella Vista is home to Cianfranni Park,[23] located at 8th and Fitzwater Streets; Bardascino Park,[24] 10th and Carpenter Streets; Palumbo Park, 700 block of Catherine Street; the Palumbo Recreation Center,[25] 10th and Fitzwater Streets, and adjacent to Starr Garden, 6th and Lombard Streets.

Each park is supported through the volunteer efforts of its own Friends of Parks group, which helps maintain and fundraise to support the maintenance of the park and its trees and plants.[26] The volunteer groups also produce public events in the parks such as summer concert series, yoga, and outdoor movies. [27] Bardascino Park hosts a neighborhood bocce league.

Bella Vista features a permanent community garden at 10th and Kimball Streets.[28]


  1. ^ a b "Philadelphia Neighborhoods and Place Names, A-K." City of Philadelphia. Retrieved on October 4, 2011. "Between 6th and 11th Streets, South Street to Washington Avenue."
  2. ^ "USA Location information -".
  3. ^ South Philadelphia." Philadelphia Encyclopedia. Retrieved November 8, 2014
  4. ^ National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  5. ^ "Bella Vista Named Best Place to Live in Philly". 9 August 2016.
  6. ^ "Bella Vista Lot to Swap Parking for Million Dollar Mansions". 18 January 2016.
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ Philadelphia, City of. "City of Philadelphia: Registered Community Organizations (RCO)".
  12. ^ "Bella Vista Neighbors Association".
  13. ^ "Friends of the South Street Police Mini-Station".
  14. ^ "3rd District - Philadelphia Police Department".
  15. ^
  16. ^ Harrington, Michael (October 26, 2017). "Shell Show, Día de los Muertos, Poe Festival, and other things to do in Philly, Oct. 27 to Nov. 2". Philadelphia. Retrieved October 17, 2018.
  17. ^ "Andrew Jackson Elementary School Geographic Boundaries Archived 2011-10-03 at WebCite." School District of Philadelphia. Retrieved on October 4, 2011.
  18. ^ "William M. Meredith Elementary School Geographic Boundaries Archived 2011-10-03 at WebCite." School District of Philadelphia. Retrieved on October 4, 2011.
  19. ^ "George W. Nebinger Elementary School Geographic Boundaries Archived 2011-10-03 at WebCite." School District of Philadelphia. Retrieved on October 4, 2011.
  20. ^ "At Meredith, a kindergarten lottery stirs worries — and larger issues".
  21. ^ "Horace Furness High School Geographic Boundaries" (Archive). School District of Philadelphia. Retrieved on October 4, 2011.
  22. ^ "Charles Santore Branch." Free Library of Philadelphia. Retrieved on September 22, 2011.
  23. ^ "Cianfrani Park Blog". Cianfrani Park Blog.
  24. ^ "Friends of Bardascino Park".
  25. ^ "Palumbo Recreation Center – Palumbo Recreation Center". Palumbo Recreation Center.
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^

External links[edit]