Kensington, Philadelphia

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Neighborhood of Philadelphia
Playground in the neighborhood of Kensington, Philadelphia. Note the factories in the background, one of which has been recently converted into the Coral Street Arts House, low-income housing for artists.
Playground in the neighborhood of Kensington, Philadelphia. Note the factories in the background, one of which has been recently converted into the Coral Street Arts House, low-income housing for artists.
Country  United States
State Pennsylvania
County Philadelphia County
City Philadelphia
Area code(s) Area code 215

Kensington is a neighborhood in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is between the Lower Northeast section of Philadelphia and North Philadelphia. Not to be confused with the former Kensington District, now commonly referred to as Fishtown. As with all neighborhoods in Philadelphia, the lack of any official designation means the boundaries of the area vary between sources and over time.

Traditionally, Kensington is known for its large working class Irish Catholic community. Kensington was the location of the Philadelphia Nativist Riots in the 19th century.[1] Kensington is also the birthplace of the K&A Gang, (currently known as the Northeast Philly Irish Mob), an Irish American organized crime network. Kensington was also home to a large, and largely invisible, English American community. For example the five Episcopal parishes in the neighborhood (Emmanuel, Free Church of St. John, Good Shepherd, St. Ambrose, St. Luke's, and St. Nathanael's) were founded by 19th century immigrants from England.

Along with Irish Americans, Kensington is also home to a large population of Hispanic Americans (mainly Puerto Ricans), African Americans, Polish Americans, and Italian Americans.


Generally accepted boundaries are the triangular area bounded by Erie Avenue to the north, Front Street (and sometimes Fifth Street) to the West and Trenton Avenue to the East. While others say it's bounded by Kensington Avenue to north, Aramingo Avenue to the south, Lehigh Avenue to the west, and Castor Avenue to east. Within these boundaries, sub-neighborhoods include East Kensington, Harrowgate, Lower Kensington, West Kensington, Fishtown, and Olde Richmond. Due to colloquial changes in the boundaries of the area since the Act of Consolidation, 1854, no clear definition is possible. The Greater Kensington area of the city roughly coincides with the former Kensington District, Richmond District, Aramingo Borough and Northern Liberties Township. Since incorporation into the City of Philadelphia (see Act of Consolidation, 1854), these areas have evolved over time to include portions of the modern "Kensington". The area is just a couple of miles northeast of Center City and just to the West of the Port Richmond neighborhood. Bordering neighborhoods include West Kensington to the west, Olde Kensington and Fishtown to the south, Olde Richmond and Port Richmond to the east, and Harrowgate to the north.

The U.S. Postal Service designates Kensington as ZIP codes 19125 (Kensington Station) The U.S. Postal service considers 19134 (Richmond Station) as the area known as Port Richmond. Adjacent neighborhoods are Northern Liberties zip code 19123, Fishtown and Olde Richmond zip code 19125 (sub neighborhoods of Kensington), Port Richmond zip code 19134, Juniata, and Frankford.


Kensington was founded by Anthony Palmer around 1732. Palmer purchased what was called the Fairman Estate, located along the Delaware River in the Northern Liberties (area just North of the City of Philadelphia) The entire estate consisted of 191.5 acres of land, much smaller than the Kensington we know of today. Palmer was an English merchant, who came to Philadelphia very early in the 18th century, from Barbados. The town of Kensington was named for the area in London known as Kensington Gardens. Palmer laid out his town and sold parcels to the many people who worked along the Delaware River, in the fishing industry and many ship building yards. The original area of Kensington is now more commonly called "Fishtown" mainly because of the Shad Fishing that was the dominant business in Kensington in the 18th and 19th centuries. Anthony Palmer was very active in local government and was part of the Philadelphia council. As head of council, Palmer became the acting Provincial Governor of Pennsylvania in 1747 and 1748. Palmer died in 1749 and is buried in Christ Church Burial Grounds in Old City section of Philadelphia.

Kensington has traditionally been known as the working class center of Philadelphia.[2] Initially, employment focused around the nearby waterfront, and the activities of fishermen and ship- and boat-builders. In the early 19th century, Kensington transitioned to iron and steel manufacture,[3] and became home to a variety of factories, potteries, and machine works.[2] In the later 19th century, Kensington became one of the leading centers of the textile industry, particularly in carpet manufacture. McNeil Laboratories began with the purchase of a pharmacy in the area in 1879 by the company's namesake. In 1903 Mother Jones organized a "Children's Crusade" of children from the local mills and mines to protest against child labor. They marched from Kensington to Oyster Bay, New York, carrying banners demanding "We want to go to School and not the mines!"[4][5][6]

Deindustrialization eventually took its hold on the neighborhood in the 1950s, leading to a significant population loss, high unemployment, economic decline, and the abandoning of homes in the neighborhood. However, some sections of the neighborhood have been revitalized in recent years, especially those near Frankford Avenue, Kensington's neighbor north of Lehigh Avenue, and Fishtown, an area of Kensington where many Shad fisheries were located, another traditionally working-class neighborhood which has seen rents increase. While most of the large manufacturers have left, the area has many small shops and large renovated factories and warehouses for newer artisans to set up shop.[7][8][9]

National Register of Historic Places[edit]

The 26th District Police and Patrol Station, Beatty's Mills Factory Building, H.W. Butterworth and Sons Company Building, Kensington High School for Girls, and Philip H. Sheridan School are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[10]


As of the 2010 Census, Kensington was 38.9% Hispanic of any race, 37.4% non Hispanic white, 14.8% non Hispanic black, 6.2% Asian, and 2.7% all other.[11]

Government and infrastructure[edit]

The United States Post Office operates the Kensington Post Office at 1602 Frankford Ave.[12]

The intersection of Kensington and Allegheny Avenues (commonly referred to by Philadelphians as "K & A") is a major transportation and retail hub in the Richmond neighborhood, as it is served by the Frankford Elevated portion of the Market-Frankford Line which, running on top of Kensington Avenue, dominates the intersection. SEPTA bus routes 3 (on Kensington Avenue, running underneath the "El") and 60 on Allegheny Avenue, with route 5 nearby on Frankford Avenue, also serve the K & A area.


Primary and secondary schools[edit]

The School District of Philadelphia operates public schools. Public schools in Kensington include Kensington High School Complex, Jules E. Mastbaum Vocational Technical High School, Russell Conwell Middle Magnet School and John H. Webster Elementary School. Private schools include Ascension of Our Lord Parish School.[13]

Public libraries[edit]

McPherson Square Branch

The Free Library of Philadelphia operates the McPherson Square Branch at 601 East Indiana Avenue,[14] and the Kensington Branch at 104 W Dauphin Street.


Kensington was the birthplace of the K&A Gang, an Irish American organized crime association known for their distribution of methamphetamine in the 1980s.

The intersection of Kensington Avenue and Somerset Street was listed number one in a 2007 list of the city's top ten recreational drug corners according to an article by Philadelphia Weekly reporter Steve Volk.[15]

In 2010, three victims were found strangled. The killer is referred to by the media as "The Kensington Strangler." A "person of interest", Antonio Rodriguez, in the case was arrested in January 2011.[16] Antonio Rodriguez confessed to the murders and was sentenced to life in prison in 2012.[17]

People from Kensington, Philadelphia[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mandell, Melissa. "The Kensington Riots of 1844". Phila Place. Retrieved 30 November 2015. 
  2. ^ a b "Kensington". Workshop of the World—Philadelphia. Retrieved 30 November 2015. 
  3. ^ "A Brief History of Philadelphia". US History. Retrieved 30 November 2015. 
  4. ^ "Mother Jones leading a protest, circa 1903". Explore PA History. Retrieved 30 November 2015. 
  5. ^ "Today in labor history: Mother Jones leads march of miners' children". People's World. September 21, 2012. Retrieved 30 November 2015. 
  6. ^ Jones, Mother (1925). "Chapter Ten: The March of the Mill Children". In Parton, Mary Field. The Autobiography of Mother Jones. Chicago: Charles H. Kerr & Company. Retrieved 30 November 2015. 
  7. ^ O’Connell, Caitlin (April 30, 2015). "Kensington: A Lot Of Heart Has Gone Into Revitalizing A Community". Philadelphia Neighborhoods. Retrieved 30 November 2015. 
  8. ^ Miller, Alisa; Pina, Marissa Nicole (January 7, 2015). "Kensington: Rise and Fall of the Housing Market". Philadelphia Neighborhoods. Retrieved 30 November 2015. 
  9. ^ Pina, Marissa Nicole; Miller, Alisa (January 7, 2015). "Kensington: Artists Make New Homes Amongst Longtime Residents". Philadelphia Neighborhoods. Retrieved 30 November 2015. 
  10. ^ National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  11. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  12. ^ "Post Office Location - KENSINGTON." United States Post Office. Retrieved on January 16, 2009.
  13. ^
  14. ^ "McPherson Square Branch." Free Library of Philadelphia. Retrieved on November 7, 2008.
  15. ^ Volk, Steve. "Top 10 Drug Corners." Philadelphia Weekly. May 2, 2007. Retrieved on January 20, 2009.
  16. ^ 6 ABC news, 17 January 2011. "Police arrest 'Kensington Strangler' person of interest". Accessed 17 January 2011.
  17. ^ Kerry McDermott (August 17, 2013). "Philadelphia man dubbed the 'Kensington strangler' gets three life sentences for killing three women after paying them for sex". Daily Mail. Retrieved 17 March 2014. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 39°58′53″N 75°07′21″W / 39.981495°N 75.12243°W / 39.981495; -75.12243