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.