NEIGHBORHOOD HISTORY

1800 – 1930
West Philadelphia first developed as a streetcar suburb in the early 1800s. Many early residents were employees who came to the area following the construction of the Kirkbride Institute in 1859, Presbyterian Hospital in 1872, the University of Pennsylvania in 1875, and Drexel University in 1892. The construction of the Market Elevated Line in 1907 resulted in a population boom, and most of Walnut Hill’s buildings were built between 1910 and 1930.

1930 – 2000
Through the mid-1960s, major businesses such as the Philadelphia College of Osteopathy at 48th and Spruce Streets, the Provident Mutual Life Insurance Company at 4601 Market Street, the Philadelphia Arena at 4530 Market Street, and the WFIL television studio that produced “American Bandstand” at 4548 Market Street all created numerous employment opportunities.

Before World War II, Walnut Hill’s residents were predominantly Italian and Jewish families. After the war, African American families began to move from the South to West Philadelphia in search of manufacturing jobs. The GI Bill of 1944 enabled veterans to buy homes with low-interest, no-down-payment loans; these loans, coupled with transit access to employment opportunities in other parts of the city, made Walnut Hill an attractive option to the incoming African American middle class.

2000 – Present
Today Walnut Hill’s long-term residents see the the neighborhood’s history as a model to recreate a vision for the future of the neighborhood.

Walnut Hill has a friendly atmosphere, elegant rowhomes, excellent access to public transportation, and rich history. The neighborhood is home to the first high school built west of the Schuylkill River, the first building designed for television broadcasting, and the last place where the noted activist and artist Paul Robeson lived. Many long-term residents can share their memories of the neighborhood from more than fifty years ago.

Homes are large, well maintained, and architecturally ornate. Due to the Market-Frankford El stations and the many bus routes that pass through the area, it is possible to travel from Walnut Hill to anywhere in the Philadelphia area rapidly and easily. The neighborhood’s assets make it an extremely attractive place to live, work, worship, and play.

Resources

Walnut Hill Community Association
The Enterprise Center

Neighborhood Boundaries

The Walnut Hill neighborhood extends between 45th Street and 52nd Street from Market Street to Spruce Street.