Dickinson Square West, Philadelphia
|Dickinson Square West|
|Neighborhood of Philadelphia|
|Area code(s)||Area code 215, 267|
Dickinson Square West, Philadelphia is a neighborhood in South Philadelphia bordered by neighborhoods Queen Village to the north, Whitman to the south, Pennsport to the east and Passyunk Square and East Passyunk Crossing to the west. The neighborhood was previously referred to as "Dickinson Narrows," but was officially reestablished as "Dickinson Square West" in 2013 by the Registered Community Organization, Dickinson Square West Civic Association, located within its boundaries.
The boundaries of Dickinson Square West are Washington Avenue to Mifflin Street, and Fourth to Sixth streets.
Long before William Penn and the founding of the city of Philadelphia, or even the arrival of Swedish settlers, the Lenni Lenape Indians claimed the land they called Weccacoe (pleasant place), now known as South Philadelphia. In 1638, Weccacoe became part of New Sweden when the early Swedes established Fort Christina (now Wilmington, Delaware) and settled along the Delaware River as far north as present day Trenton, New Jersey.
The Dutch briefly claimed control of what is now southeastern Pennsylvania from the Swedes in 1655, but the land was quickly ceded to the British, and in 1682 the king of England granted a land charter for what is now Pennsylvania to William Penn. Penn renamed Weccacoe Southwark, after a neighborhood in London, England. Penn's new city of Philadelphia quickly grew along the Delaware River waterfront and spilled over its original southern boundary of Cedar Street (now South Street) by the early 18th century. By 1687, the Southwark District (now South Philadelphia) was divided into two townships, which retained their original American Indian names, Moyamensing (pigeon droppings) and Passyunk (in the valley).
Provincial secretary Richard Peters noted the dramatic changes in Southwark's appearance as early as 1743, when he wrote to Governor Thomas Penn,"Southwark is getting greatly disfigured by erecting irregular and mean houses; thereby so marring its beauty that, when he shall return, he will lose his usual pretty walk to Wiccaco." Peters may have been referring to the wood-framed buildings that were common throughout Southwark. Whole blocks developed seemingly overnight; wooden houses were cheaper to construct, but harder to maintain.
Newcomers in the early 20th century continued to move farther south. This is evidenced by the building of Mt. Sinai Hospital (recently demolished) in 1921 by Russian Jews between 4th and 5th streets along Reed street, between the community’s initial center at 5th and Bainbridge streets and the area south of Snyder where it would relocate. By World War I, 7th Street, mostly south of Tasker Street, had become “a shopping mecca,” where Jewish merchants sold anything that could be bought. It would become the major artery of the Jewish neighborhood in South Philadelphia, surrounded by important community centers like the Workmen’s Circle on 6th Street and Tasker Street. After World War II, many of South Philadelphia's ethnic enclaves began a long and steady decline as the children of new immigrants left the neighborhood for other parts of the city and nearby suburbs.
Dickinson Square West is a narrow, two-block-wide strip of land stretching from Washington Avenue on the north to Mifflin Street on the south from 4th to 6th streets. It came into existence mainly because of the city's zoning code, which formalizes the role civic and community associations have historically played in reviewing and approving requests for zoning variances. Dickinson Square West is a unique and exciting part of that patchwork and is quickly becoming a high point of the Philadelphia real estate market. The area imbibes and accentuates all of the greatest attributes of South Philadelphia’s extraordinary charm, which is emphasized by its selection of parks, playgrounds, small businesses, and restaurants. Real estate site Redfin ranked it only behind San Diego’s El Cerrito neighborhood on their “Hottest Neighborhoods of 2015” list.
- Vare-Washington School (K-8), 1198 S. 5th Street.
Parks, playgrounds and gardens
- Mount Sinai Hospital (opened 1905, shuttered 1997, demolished 2015-2016)
- Free Library of Philadelphia, Southwark Branch (opened 1912, now Philadelphia Overseas Chinese Association)
- Vare-Washington School, National Register of Historic Places (added 1986)
- Places of worship: Mount Moriah Temple Baptist Church, Russell Tabernacle C.M.E. Church, Prophetic Church of Christ
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