Friend of ACL, Nick Schonberger is a patriot, writer, historian, Abe Lincoln expert and nacho lover. As a special contributor, Nick helps to shed some light on one of Philadelphia’s most intriguing neighborhoods.
A few weeks back I noticed a sly comment from Mr. Michael Williams about my neighborhood in Philadelphia. I emailed him, what do you know about Fishtown, USA? “I know that it is shitty and awesome and I love it. What do you know?,” was the gist of his reply. I told him I know that I live in Fishtown, and the idea for this photo essay was born.
I’ve lived in Fishtown on and off for the last 18-months. The neighborhood straddles the fine line between vibrancy and decaying urban America. Nestled just north east of Northern Liberties on the banks of the Delaware River, Fishtown has a distinct, if not exceptional history. William Penn signed his treaty with the Native Americans just a few blocks from my home. The spot is now recognized by a memorial park, a place people spend Saturday afternoons smoking blunts by the water. Few of these revelers would know that they are steps away from where the local industrial history begins. A center for the Delaware Rivers Shad fishery, the name Fishtown derives from the activity. The 20th-Century brought boatyards, dry docks and Reach Sporting Goods Company. All since perished. But, like the fishery, the remains of that industry continually play a roll in the neighborhood. It is primarily working class, with a small influx of professionals and artists, and the bars and taverns that mark corners are a reflection.
Bars play an obvious roll in this guide. But, efforts have also been made to capture local landmarks and oddities. Within its borders, Fishtown manages to produce some true moments of wonder and surprise. My friend Ryan happily helped me compile a few of them.
Below: Rooftops of Fishtown.
Below: Zoning in Fishtown is not particularly strict. While row houses are the norm there are also these odd exceptions.
Below: Additionally, the neighborhood has some marvels of modern engineering.
Below: For some, the American dream lives behind a white picket fence. In Fishtown, vicious dogs.
Below: On the corner of Aramingo and York, a 24-hour party.
Below: Just around the corner From Rock ‘n Roll Exxon, a more typical place of local refuge.
Below: My local. A bastion of gaiety.
Below: For comparisons sake, a child size ice cream from Scoops on Thompson Street costs $1.75.
Below: What to do with the money saved by not buying your child an ice cream?
Below: On an average walk through the streets of Fishtown my dog finds (and consumes) 3 soft pretzels.
Below: Beer, coffee, dry cleaning, pre-paid wireless minutes. All you need in a strip mall.
Below: Out of an incredibly small kitchen, Fishtown Pizza once produced the largest stromboli I’ve ever seen.
Below: Local street art
Below: Word is the answer was no. A handful of xanax purchased on the corner of Memphis and Dauphin, topped with that case of Corona, helped Christopher move on.
Below: Palmer Cemetary, looking towards Memphis Street.
Below: Factory – The ghost of industry past. Until the 1960s, Fishtown was an industrial hub, today a few relics of that history remain.
All Photographs By Mr. Ryan Miller