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Port Richmond: Polish food, pro wrestling and Graffiti Pier

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 Port Richmond? Buy the stuff.

Port Richmond is one of Philadelphia’s old-fashioned neighborhoods. It’s been touched by gentrification and the end of the manufacturing economy but has still held onto its base as a working class neighborhood, largely of people with Irish or Polish ancestry. It features the city’s best Polish food, beautiful art at the Graffiti Pier and is the home of a famous professional wrestler.

Boundaries

The boundaries for Port Richmond are up for debate. For the purposes of this article, we’re including Olde Richmond as part of Port Richmond. Port Richmond is bounded to the northeast by Frankford Creek, to the south by the Delaware River, to the west by York Street and to the west and northwest by Frankford Avenue.

Population

23,780

Population 20-to-34

5,223 (22 percent)

Racial composition

PortRichmond

Rent vs. own

3,349 vs. 5,927

Name origin

Port Richmond once had major maritime activity going on for it by the Delaware, thus the Port. The Richmond comes from an old mansion located there. The mansion took its name from a London suburb.

History

Port Richmond has been inhabited for a loooooong time. It was one of the primary communities for Native Americans as far back as 3,500 B.C. European immigrants started coming to settle in the neighborhood in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. They came for the work. It was plentiful along the Delaware, with jobs in shipping, coal and the railroad being three of the most prominent trades.

Throughout the years, Port Richmond has maintained its working class, immigrant feel. Many people who live there today are ancestors of the Polish and Irish immigrants who came to America a century ago or longer. Like neighboring Fishtown, Port Richmond has also seen some gentrification in recent years. Younger people and artists are moving in, and real estate prices are lower than nearby NoLibs and Fishtown.

Legendary Event

Port Richmond didn’t want a legendary event. Back in the 1970s, Congress formed a commission to plan where and how the country would celebrate its bicentennial in 1976 with an exposition. Philadelphia and Boston were the top two candidates. And the first proposed area in Philadelphia was Port Richmond. The residents weren’t having it, though. They didn’t want the noise or the crowds, and then-mayor Frank Rizzo rejected a proposal for having it there. The U.S. ended up deciding not to have one major bicentennial exposition and instead had parties in multiple cities.

Alumni

Stevie Richards: Stevie Richards is the professional wrestling name for Michael Manna, who grew up in Port Richmond and attended Frankford High. He’s been in the WCW and the WWE during his career.

Leo Trombetta: Award-winning film editor who has worked on movies and shows like “Temple Grandin” and “Mad Men.”

Neighborhoods within the neighborhood

Some people who live in Port Richmond identify themselves as not only a Port Richmond resident but of other, smaller neighborhoods that make it up. These neighborhoods include Back Street, the Girders, Smearsville, Somerset and Gitneys. They formed based on geography or social aspects like race or work.

What to check out

Kielbasa isn’t the first type of food you think of when you think of Philadelphia, but Port Richmond, also known as “Little Poland,” has an abundance of Polish restaurants and groceries, like Krakus Market. and the Syrenka Luncheonette.

Czerw’s Kielbasy might be the best known of all. It opened in 1938 and has stayed in the family since. The kielbasa and golabki are the specialties, but it also has pierogies stuffed with cheesesteak.

What used to be

The Philadelphia & Reading Railroad was headquartered in Port Richmond during its 19th century heyday. It was called the “largest railroad tidewater freight facility in the world,” Port Richmond being the place where shipments of iron ore, grain and anthracite would be moved from train to ship so it could be moved from the Delaware to the ocean.

Port R Trains

Inside of the Reading Terminal station, also part of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad.

Controversy

Philadelphia has a reputation for being one of the most environmentally hazardous cities in the country because of its many man-made hazards. One of the biggest of those hazards is the Franklin Slag Pile superfund site in Port Richmond. The slag pile is now covered by a plastic seal, but lead used to seep from it.

Instagram This

Graffiti Pier

The Ben Franklin Bridge yesterday before sunset, as seen from #GraffitiPier #portrichmond #Philadelphia #igers_philly #iamphiladelphia

A photo posted by Francesco Bellafante (@iamphiladelphia) on

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