pennsport

Pennsport: Birthplace of Federal Donuts, the Mummers and ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’

It’s all about the neighborhoods here in Philadelphia, and Billy Penn will take a deep dive into many of them with these “postcards” throughout the year. We’ll go over their history, their demographics, community centers and their neighborhood legends — and the most Instagrammable spots. Love Pennsport? Buy the stuff.

Welcome to Pennsport, home to a vast Irish American population, a bunch of Mummers clubs and everyone’s fav Philly donut. The first U.S. Navy ship was built off of Pennsport, a number of Revolutionary and Civl War-related landmarks sit in the area and it’s now home to traditional brick row-homes and a booming retail center on Columbus Boulevard. Here’s a look at one of the city’s growing neighborhoods.

Boundaries

Like every neighborhood, this is debatable. But we’re going to go with the boundaries outlined in the neighborhood’s redevelopment plan, which is Washington Avenue to the North, Snyder to the South, the Delaware River to the East and Fourth Street to the West. Note: This doesn’t include Dickinson Narrows, the apparently super popular but very tiny neighborhood west of Pennsport and east of Passyunk Square.

Population

16,649

Population 20-to-34

5,166, or 31 percent

Racial Composition

 

Rent vs. Own

31.5 percent vs. 68.5 percent

Average home price

The average home price of a townhouse in Pennsport is around $345,000, according to Coldwell Banker.

Name origin

According to the South Philly Review, the name “Pennsport” was created decades ago when the feds were actually spending money on urban renewal. But where the name came from is anyone’s guess — gonna go out on a limb and say the “port” part likely has to do with the neighborhood’s close proximity to the Delaware River.

Alumni

Rob McElhenney

This Pennsport native is the creator of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and plays Mac on the show. He’s also appeared in episodes of “Law and Order” and “Lost.”

History

One of the oldest neighborhoods of South Philly was settled by some of the first Swedish immigrants as early as 1638 and, after that, became one of the places where William Penn created an English settlement for his counterparts from across the pond. 

After the American Revolution, the first ship of the United States Navy was built at Humphrey’s shipyard just off of Washington Avenue at the Delaware River, starting Pennsport’s history as a shipbuilding ‘hood. The ship, the USS United States, was built in the late 1790s and was the first of the original frigates built to serve in the U.S. Navy (not the Continental Navy, though!)

By the Civil War, Pennsport had become key for supply delivery and transportation because of its proximity to the Delaware. The Camp Jefferson area in Pennsport (AKA Jefferson Square Park) near Third and Federal Streets was used by the Union Army as camp site. 

Afterwards, Pennsport became a manufacturing hub in Philadelphia and became home to factories and blue-collar jobs for the people of South Philadelphia. It also played a huge role for transportation during World War II.

Today, a growing number of restauranteurs, shop owners and developers have descended upon the area to turn it into a retail and development center. But it’s sometimes at the cost of the historical structures that for so long made Pennsport what it was.

Legendary event

The Mummers Parade

Pennsport is home to “Two Street” and the legendary Mummers Parade, the Philadelphia tradition that, if you haven’t heard of yet, I don’t know what to tell you. This annual New Years Day parade is basically where a bunch of mostly old, mostly white, mostly men dress up in bizarre costumes, play instruments, march around and sometimes get drunk.

The first official parade was in 1901, and just a year later was when the string bands got in on the action. Since then, the Mummers have become an integral part of Pennsport and many of the Mummer groups are headquartered there, in addition to the official Mummers Museum.

Backdrop

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

I mean, duh. The Passyunk Post points out this super cool Google Map where some hero plotted out the filming locations of It’s Always Sunny. These locations range from Bella Vista to Pennsport, where several locations — including homes, a theater and a deli — make appearances.

What used to be

Mt. Sinai Hospital

This abandoned structure near Fourth and Reed Streets in Pennsport is often called the Divine Lorraine of South Philadelphia — certainly the largest building in Pennsport — and now it’s looking like it’s headed toward full demolition.

According to PlanPhilly, the structure seemed at one point like it would be redeveloped and converted into a large apartment complex. By February, it was decided that the once-functioning hospital will be completely demolished and replaced with single-family row-homes created in the traditional brick design but with garages in the back.

The main hospital building, built in 1922, was created after the hospital was so overcrowded that it could hardly function (and at the time, was the only hospital south of Pine Street), according to Hidden CityAll the additions were completed by 1930, and it became one of the most highly-respected hospitals in the area.

In the 50s, Mt. Sinai merged with two other hospitals in Philadelphia that were serving primarily Jewish residents, and it became known as Albert Einstein Medical Center Southern Division. But the hospital began struggling financially. Graduate Health System bought it, restored its originally Mt. Sinai name, but couldn’t save the ailing hospital. By 1997, the old hospital — just a skeleton of what it once was — was shut down.

What to check out

The OG Federal Donuts

This ridiculously popular donut spot opened in 2011 at 1219 S. 2nd St. in Pennsport and, since then, has expanded to other locations. The store constantly has lines out the door of people lined up for the now-famous sugary donuts and Korean-style fried chicken. Now, the chicken spot has turned Philly into a destination for the fried stuff. Here’s how they did it.

The Mummer’s Museum

Check out Mummers costumes, string band concerts and some of the huge feathery costumes that the fancy brigades don each New Year’s Day.

Community gathering places

Rizzo Rink, 1001 S. Front St., is an ice rink that’s been around since 1979. Located in the shadow of I-95 at Front Street and Washington Avenue, this rink has a number of developmental and recreational programs for kids in South Philly.

Southwark House, 101 Ellsworth St., is used by the United Communities of Southeast Philadelphia as a hub for community resources.

Controversy

Who knew a AAA car repair center along Columbus Boulevard could cause so much controversy. It seems that after years of legal battles, a project to construct a AAA Service Center along the waterfront in Pennsport is back on after it filed for permits, permits were granted, permits were taken away, there were appeals, they were denied, and it was a mess. Philly Mag has the full story.

Point is, it appears the project is moving forward and Pennsport is getting its long-time-coming, large car repair center.  

Instagram this

Washington Avenue Pier

Photo courtesy of @mikethomaspsu on Instagram

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