Powelton Village

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NEIGHBORHOOD HISTORY

1790 – 1860
Lancaster Avenue, formerly known as the Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike, was constructed in 1792 to link Philadelphia with the West. This was followed by the construction of the Market Street Bridge in 1805 and the Spring Garden Street Bridge in 1813.

By 1852, most of the land previously occupied by William Powel, a carpenter who lends the neighborhood its name, was sold off and subdivided. In 1854 the city created the West Philadelphia District and by 1860 speculative residential development took off in Powelton Village with the first twin homes were erected along Baring and Hamilton Streets.

1860 – 1940
Many of the early homes developed in Powelton Village were large, and met the the needs of upper-class residents looking to escape city life. In the late 1800s, streetcar trolleys serviced the neighborhood, thereby making Center City easily accessible. The area’s popularity surged after the Centennial Exhibition of 1876, which brought thousands of visitors through this part of West Philadelphia.

By 1880, the majority of single and twin Italianate and Second Empire homes were built, and new development tended to be in the form of row houses and larger apartment buildings.

The Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry was founded in 1891 at 32nd and Chestnut Streets and the first dormitory was constructed at 34th and Powelton Avenues in 1931.

1940 – 1985
By 1940, Powelton Village was taking on a different character. The existing housing stock was aging and considered out of fashion and the population was becoming increasingly diverse as wealthier families moved out of Philadelphia. During the 1950s the subdivision of large properties into rooming houses and apartments quickly changed the character of Powelton Village.

In the 1960s, Powelton Village would come to be home to many cooperative houses and soon the neighborhood would be known as the center of the counter-culture movement in Philadelphia, shifting the character of the neighborhood again. Unfortunately, throughout the 1970s and 1980s dozens of historic structures and homes were taken down in the name of urban renewal. However this was protested by the local residents and by 1985 Powleton Village was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

1985 – Present
Powelton Village is a small, historic neighborhood compromised of approximately 30 square blocks. Lancaster Avenue is the primary commercial corridor. Grand semi-detached homes occupy many of the streets and give Powelton Village the unique character that it retains to this day.

Powelton Village is comprised of mostly students due to its proximity to Drexel University. There is however the core of Powelton Village that remains predominantly owner-occupied and committed to maintaining the small town charm of the neighborhood.

Resources

Powelton Village Civic Association

Powelton Village is located in West Philadelphia and is bounded by Spring Garden Street to the North, Lancaster Avenue to the South, Amtrak Rail Yards to the East and 38th Street to the West.