South Street Headhouse District

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South Street Headhouse District
The 400 block of South Street near the corner of Leithgow and South Streets
The 400 block of South Street near the corner of Leithgow and South Streets
South Street Headhouse District is located in Philadelphia
South Street Headhouse District
South Street Headhouse District
Coordinates: Coordinates: 39°56′30″N 75°09′02″W / 39.941758°N 75.15069°W / 39.941758; -75.15069
Country United States
CountyPhiladelphia County
 • Total0.12 km2 (0.047 sq mi)
 • Total27,805[1]
ZIP Code
Area code(s)215, 267 and 445

The South Street Headhouse District[2] (also referred to as South Street, even though it also includes Pine Street and only spans the streets east of Broad Street[3]) in Philadelphia is an area with more than 300 stores which includes a diverse urban mix of shops, bars and eateries. The neighborhood is generally bounded between Front Street and Seventh Street and includes Pine Street and is known for its "bohemian", "punk", and generally "alternative" atmosphere. It is one of Philadelphia's largest tourist attractions.[4]


In 2014, the area's population was 27,805. The average age for the neighborhood is 34.9, with 57.44% of the population between the ages of 18 to 44 and 62.3% of the population are renters with the average income of $71,856.[1]

According to City Data, the area has 1,248 males and 1,196 females.[5]


South Street scenery at night

The district spans the following areas:[1]

  • South Street from Front to Broad. Some sources also say that the neighborhood has begun to expand west from here since 2014. Traditionally, the original neighborhood only existed from Front to 7th. The limit as of 2017 is 11th Street
  • Pine Street at 2nd (Head House Square)
  • Lombard Street between Front and 3rd
  • Kater Street
  • 4th Street down to Catherine Street (Fabric Row)
  • Passyunk Avenue south to Fitzwater

The neighborhood significantly overlaps with Queen Village, Washington Square West, Bella Vista, and Society Hill.


Originally the southern border of William Penn's 1682 city plan and officially named Cedar Street until 1854[6], eastern South Street has been the center of local Swedish, Dutch, Jewish, Irish, and Italian immigrant culture as well as a vibrant African-American neighborhood beginning in the early 1800s.[7] Because Quaker doctrine opposed live performances within the city limits, the first permanent theater in America was built on the south side of the street at Leithgow Street[8], giving birth to a tradition of Philadelphians seeking out entertainment on South Street that continues today. In 1854, the same year that South Street officially became South Street, the city boundaries were redrawn to expand the area of Philadelphia to 130 square miles.[9] Despite no longer being a literal border, South Street remained a liminal space where cultures collided. The African-American theater district of western South Street, the Jewish shops, nearby Italian businesses, and visitors from other parts of the city combined to create a place described by William Gardner Smith in his 1954 book South Street as a lively zone of contact between many different ethnicities.

Corner of South and Front

From the early 1960s to the 1970s, South Street was filled with clubs and bars that fostered a growing nightlife. During this time, the neighborhood also served as an artists' haven and a hub of Beat subculture and, later, 1960s counterculture, bohemianism, and the hippie movement in Philadelphia, establishing a lasting association of South Street with avant-garde and alternative subcultures.[10][11][12][13][14]

It was not uncommon for South Philadelphians to "bar-hop" across the clubs, listening to live bands along the way. This community of fans helped attract recording contracts for many artists, including Kenn Kweder, the "bard of South Street"; George Thorogood; and Robert Hazard. From the mid to late 1970s into the 1980s, South Street's reputation as a musical, artistic, and countercultural hub was further solidified as it became the center of Philadelphia's punk scene and punk and alternative rock music communities, with venues such as JC Dobbs and stores such as Zipperhead catering to the burgeoning scene.[15][16][17]

In 1976, Jim's Steaks of West Philadelphia expanded to 400 South Street, becoming the notable restaurant's first franchise.[18]

In the late 1980s, South Street became one of the city's main tourist attractions anchored by the Theatre of Living Arts (TLA) which began as an arthouse theater and then was reborn as a live music venue. Tourists flocked to the South Street's nightlife and the "neighborhood" community aspect was gradually lost.

South Street remains a popular hangout area for teens, college students, and twentysomethings with its assortment of bars, take-out eateries, sex shops, gift shops, and retailers catering to hip hop fashion, punk fashion, and/or urban culture. A few restaurants and independent boutiques targeting a slightly more mature clientele are interspersed with these businesses, such as Accent on Animals, a pet supply store, and South Street Souvlaki, a Greek restaurant. Starting in the late 1990s, the street saw the establishment of various chain stores, including Johnny Rockets, two Starbucks locations, Häagen-Dazs, Rita's Italian Ice, Super Fresh, Whole Foods, CVS, and Fine Wine & Good Spirits. South Street is adjacent to Headhouse Square, a notable plaza with various shops and restaurants.

Artist Isaiah Zagar has made South Street his home since the late 1960s and his mosaic work can be seen in multiple places along South Street including his large installation Philadelphia's Magic Gardens between 10th Street and 11th Street.

In popular culture[edit]

Zipperhead (now relocated and changed name) was mentioned in the song "Punk Rock Girl" by the Dead Milkmen.

The Orlons, a music group from Philadelphia, released a 1963 song based on (and entitled) "South Street", which begins with the line "Where do all the hippies meet?" Another Philadelphia-area band, The Dovells also mentioned South Street in their 1963 hit "You Can't Sit Down".

Philadelphia band Need New Body has a song called "So St RX" which is about South Street.

Fear's 1982 song "I Don't Care About You", which name-checks the neighborhoods associated with the punk movement in the United States in the early 1980s, begins with the line, "I'm from South Street Philadelphia" (also relevant to writer/vocalist Lee Ving who was born in the city).

The Dead Milkmen's 1988 song "Punk Rock Girl" makes references to Zipperhead (a punk rock/alternative clothing and accessories store) and The Philadelphia Pizza Company., Ltd, both of which were located on South Street. Portions of the video for this song were filmed on South Street. Zipperhead has since relocated to South 4th St. and been renamed to Crash Bang Boom. A few years after Zipperhead founder and building landlord Rick Millan sold the business to local musician Rob Windfelder of the rock band Live Not On Evil and his business partner Stefanie Jollis, the store was relocated and renamed.

Green Day made their Philadelphia debut on January 23, 1993 at J.C. Dobbs on the 300 block of South Street. The band had not yet signed with Reprise and the club oversold the 125-capacity venue. Late arrivals paid to enter the second floor and watch the live video feed. During the third song of the set, a young woman had a seizure, the show was halted, and police ended the concert and cleared the venue.[19]

Boyz II Men's debut song and video "Motownphilly" was partially filmed on South Street and the location is referenced in the song.

Singer songwriter Jake Laufer's 2009 rockabilly song, "Center City," about a guy from Tennessee coming north to meet up with his Philly-based girlfriend, features several South Street landmarks, including Lorenzo's Pizza and Famous 4th Street Deli.

The Theater of the Living Arts

The HBO comedy special The Diceman Cometh, starring comedian Andrew Dice Clay, was recorded at South Street's Theater of the Living Arts (and was mentioned in the special by Clay).

The block of South Street between 5th and 6th Street is shown in the opening credits of the FX Network show "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia".

Philadelphia native Will Smith makes mention in his song "Getting Jiggy with it" in the lyric "livin' that life some consider a myth, rock from south street to one two fifth".


South Street is served by the William M. Meredith School.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Key Facts & Demographics".
  2. ^ "South Street Headhouse District".
  3. ^ "Map of South Street Headhouse District".
  4. ^ What's In The South Street Neighborhood? (archived), Accessed August 15, 2012
  5. ^ "South Street Philadelphia".
  6. ^ "Philadelphia History: Old Street Names". Retrieved March 27, 2018.
  7. ^ "South Street | Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia". Retrieved March 27, 2018.
  8. ^ "Hippest Street In Town, Circa 1766 | Hidden City Philadelphia". Retrieved March 27, 2018.
  9. ^ "Consolidation Act of 1854 | Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia". Retrieved March 27, 2018.
  10. ^ Ivory, Karen (2011). Philadelphia Icons: 50 Classic Views of the City of Brotherly Love. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9780762767656. Retrieved April 1, 2016.
  11. ^ McCutcheon, Lauren (2009). Frommer's Philadelphia & the Amish Country. Macmillan. ISBN 9780470435137.
  12. ^ Keech, Pamela (2013). The Best Flea, Antique, Vintage, and New-Style Markets in America. New York Review of Books. ISBN 9781936941049.
  13. ^ Mann, Brett (2005). Blinded by the Lyrics: Behind the Lines of Rock and Roll's Most Baffling Songs. Citadel Press. ISBN 9780806526959.
  14. ^ Hunter, Marcus Anthony (2013). Black Citymakers: How The Philadelphia Negro Changed Urban America. OUP USA. ISBN 9780199948130.
  15. ^ Amorosi, A.D. "Where They Were Then". Philadelphia City Paper. Retrieved April 1, 2016.
  16. ^ Laird, R.F. (1991). The Boomer Bible. Workman Publishing. south street philadelphia punk scene.
  17. ^ Ivory, Karen (2007). Philadelphia Off the Beaten Path: A Guide to Unique Places. Globe Pequot. ISBN 9780762742103.
  18. ^ "Jim's Steaks History". Retrieved March 27, 2018.
  19. ^ Pearn Jr., Frank (January 23, 1993). "Philadelphia Police Seize The Moment At Dobbs". The Morning Call. Allentown. Retrieved April 10, 2014.

External links[edit]