Parkside. At the side of the park. That's where this fascinating neighborhood resides, just like the name says. Not unlike Strawberry Mansion on the
other side of the Schuylkill River, Parkside rests between Fairmount Park and a set of railroad tracks, and has a boulevard of mansions at its front.
Also like Strawberry Mansion, Parkside is predominantly black in population, with varying degrees of income but leaning toward the less. |
Regardless, Parkside is easy on the eyes and plentiful on the history. America's first World Fair, the Centennial Expo of 1876 which debuted to the public the telephone, the typewriter, the passenger elevator and Heinz ketchup (among other things), was held on fairgrounds here designed by Hermann Schwarzmann. Among the surviving structures are Memorial Hall, currently being converted into the Please Touch Museum, and the Catholic Total Abstinence Fountain.
Parkside really didn't get its teeth until the Industrial Revolution, though. At a time when America needed skilled laborers to fill its new factories, it turned to Eastern Europe. Many immigrants, mostly Jewish, settled in Parkside. The mansions along Parkside Avenue took their lead from popular styles in Europe at the time, and were occupied by professionals (doctors, lawyers, professors, etc). After World War II, like so many cities, the older population began to move out to the suburbs and residency was assumed by African Americans.
Nowadays, the Parkside neighborhood faces a lot of the same challenges other lower income neighborhoods do, but it has a positive outlook and far more assets than most of the others do. The Mann Music Center. The Philadelphia Zoo. The Please Touch Museum. The Whispering Bench. The oldest African American Presbyterian Church in the country. The restored 15 Trolley. And now the Microsoft High School of the Future.
I'd personally like to thank Mr. James Brown of the Parkside Historic Preservation Corporation for his insight, time and assistance with this photo essay.