Fitler Square, Philadelphia
|Neighborhood of Philadelphia|
Fitler Square - Summer 2007
|Area code(s)||Area code 215|
Fitler Square is a 0.5 acre (0.20 ha) public park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, bounded on the east by 23rd Street, on the west by 24th Street, on the north by Panama Street, and on the south by Pine Street. It is in the southwestern part of Philadelphia's Center City on land owned by City of Philadelphia via the Department of Parks and Recreation. Fitler Square was named for late 19th century Philadelphia mayor Edwin Henry Fitler shortly after his death in 1896. The Square is cared for through a public private partnership between the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Fitler Square Improvement Association.
The name "Fitler Square" is also used to describe the neighborhood surrounding the square, bounded roughly by 21st Street on the east, the Schuylkill River on the west, Locust Street on the north, and South Street on the south. To the east of this neighborhood is the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood; to the west is the University City neighborhood, home to the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University; to the south is Southwest Center City (also known as "South of South" or the "Graduate Hospital Area"). The portion of Center City surrounding Fitler Square and nearby Rittenhouse Square is sometimes referred to as "Rit-Fit" after the two parks. A second nickname, "Fittenhouse Square", was coined by local comedian Niraj Shanbhag during the 1990s.
Before the 1950s the neighborhood was a prime example of the urban blight that had overcome much of the city. The park itself was described as a "mudhole inhabited by drunks and empty bottles". In the mid-1950s, The Center City Residents' Association successfully petitioned Mayor Clark to do something about the decline of the neighborhood. Working together, they freed up mortgage money for the construction of new homes and rehabilitation of the neighborhood. Also threatening the neighborhood was the proposed Crosstown Expressway. The threat of its construction, which would demolish much of the neighborhood, was enough to reduce property values and add to the neighborhood's blight. The Residents' Association was successful in changing these plans and in the following years the neighborhood drastically improved largely due to efforts of the Center City Residents' Association and the Fitler Square Improvement Association.
Today the neighborhood is mostly residential, composed of single-family homes, and within a short walk of the commercial areas of Center City. On the television show Philly, Kim Delaney's character "Kathleen" was portrayed as living in a small apartment overlooking the park. Hojun Li, co-editor of the film The Sixth Sense, claims to have been inspired by children in Fitler Square.
Fitler Square Improvement Association
The Fitler Square Improvement Association was founded in 1962 by neighborhood resident Marie Wilson who took on the initial responsibility for major overhaul of Fitler Square itself. In 2012 The Association celebrated its 50th Anniversary under the leadership of president Judy Romano. This celebration included a large tented in-square event on October 6, 2012 that raised a net of about $18,000 for use toward the improvement and maintenance of Fitler Square.
The Fitler Square Improvement Association works in public private partnership with the Philadelphia Department of Parks and Recreation to maintain and improve Fitler Square. The Association is responsible for almost all care and improvements to Fitler Square including ongoing maintenance such as sprinkler system upkeep, hiring a gardener and purchasing plantings, turf care, tree pruning fertilizing and planting, sweeping and cleaning, and snow removal. The Association additionally holds annual events such as its spring fair on the Friday and Saturday of mother's day weekend, Easter Egg Hunt, Halloween Event, Holiday Tree Lighting, annual "Park Work Day", and others.
In addition to these ongoing activities, the Fitler Square Improvement Association conducts major capital projects. In recent history these have included converting the central fountain into one that recirculates rather than runs water directly from the main into the drain (described below), restoring and painting all iron fencing in 2013, upgrading the sprinkler system in 2013, replacing all benches in 2014, converting all lighting to more energy efficient and higher quality LEDs in 2014, and other smaller projects. More capital improvements are planned for the near future. Most projects and events are funded by membership contributions from neighbors, for which The Association is deeply grateful. The bench replacement project was funded by 2nd District City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson who has been a continual steward of Fitler Square and its surrounding neighborhood.
On May 10, 2014 Fitler Square's new benches were officially opened to the public by a ceremony at the Fitler Square Improvement Association's spring fair. Present were Councilman Kenyatta Johnson and wife Dawn, Mark Focht from the Department of Parks and Recreation, and Fitler Square board members including president Judy Romano Zimering and Project Manager Derek Freres. A young park user (and we hope future member of the Fitler Square Improvement Association) held the official honor of cutting the ceremonial ribbon.
A 2014 article in PlanPhilly written by Ashley Hahn also posted on philly.com described the 2010 - 2014 stint of major improvement projects conducted by the Fitler Square Improvement Association and some of their effects on The Square and surrounding neighborhood. For its decades of work and in honor of recent improvements Philadelphia City Council Honored the Fitler Square Improvement Association and its president Judy Romano Zimering through a citation presented by Councilman Kenyatta Johnson in May 2014 (image to the left).
A sculpture of three turtles adorn the park made by well-known Philadelphia artist Eric Berg, as well as sculptures of a Grizzly Bear and a Ram. The center of the park is dominated by a Victorian-era fountain which flows most of the year. Prior to 2010 this fountain, like many in the City, flowed fresh water from the main directly into the sewer system. In 2010 the Fitler Square Improvement Association engaged a large project (approximately $40,000) funded by neighborhood donations and a $7,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society to change the fountain into one that recirculates all of its water with a pumping system saving huge amounts of water each year.
The Philadelphia School, a private institution, is located in the Fitler Square Neighborhood at 2501 Lombard St. The school, which originally opened in 1972, offers preschool through 8th grade classes.
- Department of Parks and Recreation
- Fitler Square Improvement Association, Inc
- Lowe, Jeanne R., Cities in a Race With Time: Progress and Poverty in America's Renewing Cities, p 338, Random House NY, 1967
- The Philadelphia School
- "Philadelphia City Institute." Free Library of Philadelphia. Retrieved on January 20, 2009.