A Guide to Fishtown, Philadelphia, USA


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: WTF?


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

Comments on “A Guide to Fishtown, Philadelphia, USA

    seth on February 18, 2009 9:11 AM:

    i love this entry. thanks.

    Llewelyn Moss on February 18, 2009 9:48 AM:

    My guess – ten years and it’ll be gentrified beyond belief.

    It’s a charming neighborhood, the filet of Philadelphia.

    Jonathan on February 18, 2009 10:03 AM:

    Every time I’m in Fishtown I forget that trees exist. Thankfully this tour left out the horrible PBR mural…an early sign of gentrification that feels 10 years too late.

    theKrisheim on February 18, 2009 10:19 AM:

    no photos of all the white r*cists?

    most appealing neighborhoods based on quality of life and hispter quotient…

    1. g-ho
    2. northern liberties
    3. queen village
    4. fishtown

    jeremy on February 18, 2009 10:29 AM:


    Niki on February 18, 2009 10:42 AM:

    Nick – you are a good man.

    only with posts like this we’ll keep the rent for the 2-3 b-room houses we live in sub-$1000.

    those who live in Fishtown know.

    jeremy on February 18, 2009 10:55 AM:

    Saw some of the best Hardcore shows ever right around Fishtown in the 80’s.

    SLR on February 18, 2009 11:50 AM:

    I liked this entry, but the photographs could have been taken in any other gentrifying neighborhood in America.

    Thom on February 18, 2009 11:58 AM:

    Is that a pink camo tank?

    rob on February 18, 2009 12:07 PM:

    theKrisheim – out of all the places on your list only fishtown doesn’t suck, although the skinheads do still occasionally crack a skull. graduate hospital and queen village are like cobble hill (couples, strollers and boring, except for some of the best drug corners in the city), northern liberties was good 5 or 6 years ago (before bart b. developed the “artists village” for pharmacuetical sales reps. and people from south jersey)

    All the cool kids moved south of Washington to be near the cheap rent and great mexican food.

    Sean on February 18, 2009 12:38 PM:

    Xanax & Pajamas.

    The El.

    Long live 10th & Ox.

    jk on February 18, 2009 12:45 PM:

    This is brill. My mother taught at Hackett Elementary School in Fishtown for 20+ years- I don’t know if it’s still there? And my grandmom grew up there/ great grandmom lived there. I spent a lot of my childhood visiting Fishtown. I really have to get back. Awesome post.

    theKrisheim on February 18, 2009 1:00 PM:

    “All the cool kids moved south of Washington to be near the cheap rent and great mexican food.”


    “cool kids” is not a quality or amenity i look for when finding a place to live

    and lets be honest, the “cool kids” in philadelphia are just lame anyway

    dwilton on February 18, 2009 1:10 PM:

    What? No love for Francisville?

    Matt on February 18, 2009 1:12 PM:

    Great article! Looks like a fun neighborhood with a definite flavor to it. Far away from suburban sprawl.

    Gentrified? Is that code for people with jobs and stuff living there? You should see some of the low rent areas of Deroit….make your hair stand on end.

    danielle on February 18, 2009 1:50 PM:

    my boyfriend takes the most beautiful photographs

    Mark on February 18, 2009 2:09 PM:

    I live in Fishtown. It’s a fantastic neighborhood. theKrisheim, you clearly have no idea what you are talking about if you think that Northern Liberties is filled with hipsters, but I agree with you about the ‘cool kids’ comment. Like rob said above a few years ago you may have been able to claim this, but it is all but finished as far as being ‘hip’ now. Check out the crowd at 700 these days…it’s a far cry from 4-5 years ago.

    Nick mentioned a lot of the fucked up/hilarious landmarks in Fishtown, although he seems to have failed to mention the LEED homes in the heart of Fishtown. Not to bad for a piece of shit neighborhood filled with racists. A couple of them were featured on ‘Renovation Nation’ (for those of you that watch Planet Green).

    Thom – If you are curious about the tank, here is a video about it but first you need to go to the Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby (the race it was built for) website.


    If any of you are ever in Fishtown, cross York a few blocks, and visit Memphis Taproom. It has possibly the best rotating taplist in the city.


    z on February 18, 2009 4:59 PM:

    if you ever met a white person with a really thick philly accent, they’re from fishtown. (or the neast)

    Hobo Ken on February 18, 2009 8:19 PM:

    Great photos – love that last one.

    Buzz on February 19, 2009 4:31 PM:

    I used to get my weed in Fishtown back in high school in the early 90s. There was a conglomerate of white rap fan types who sold out of their row home. Everyone called their place “White Boys.” As in, “Dear friend, are you going by White Boys for a bag today? Might you also procure one for me?”

    thabulbubak on February 19, 2009 6:22 PM:

    what no pics of 1308?

    sam on February 20, 2009 6:58 PM:

    Looks like North Baltimore.

    charlie on February 21, 2009 12:30 PM:

    Looks like South Boston. The parts that have avoided gentrification.

    Your Mama on February 21, 2009 3:50 PM:

    Wow Ryan! Your photos are fantastic…can’t wait to come see first hand. Very interesting!

    Anthony Palmer on August 5, 2009 2:12 AM:

    The photos look rather like normal neighborhood photos. About the best you can say is that they were taken with a decent camera and they are clear. Otherwise I don’t get it? Memphis Tap Room was a lot better back in the day when it was Walt’s Bar. Had lots of rot gut whiskey instead of yuppie beers. It was a man’s bar, now it’s kind of like the feminized men, over educated scene, talking intellectually about beer of all things? Go figure?

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