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 Manayunk? Buy the stuff.
Welcome to Manayunk, the one-time working-class neighborhood that’s exploded into a home for one of the city’s largest millennial populations and a booming strip of businesses. It’s got a bakery visited by Frank Sinatra, a park where Bruce Willis was filmed and an old vaudeville theater where the Three Stooges once performed.
The lines between Manayunk, Roxborough and Wissahickon can easily be blurred and aren’t official. But the Manayunk Council of Neighbors defines it as the Schuylkill River to the West, Ridge Avenue to the South, Manayunk Avenue to the East and Fountain Street to Smick Street then LaMonte Street to the North.
7,021 or 79 percent (yes, really)
Rent vs. Own
52 percent rent vs. 48 percent own
The median home value in Manayunk is $207,000, according to Zillow. Manayunk home values have declined by 1.2 percent over the past year, but Zillow predicts they’ll slightly rise over the next year.
The median rent price in Manayunk is $1,695, according to Zillow, which is higher than the Philadelphia-wide median of $1,400.
Manayunk got its current name in 1824, and it was derived from the Lenape Native American term “manaiung,” which means “place we go to drink.” It was, of course, referring to the nearby Schuylkill River. Not this.
Part of M. Night Shyamalan’s film “Unbreakable” was shot in Manayunk. Above: Bruce Willis goes to meet his son at Pretzel Park in Manayunk with St. Josephat’s Cathedral in the background.
Philly Cycling Classic
Every year in June, some of the world’s best cyclists come to Philadelphia for a 12-mile course through the city that includes Manayunk, East Falls, Fairmount Park and Kelley Drive. The start and finish line sits at the “Manayunk Wall,” a 17 percent grade hill that’s challenged even the most experienced cyclists.
Edgar Allan Poe
Alright, well the famous poet isn’t exactly a Manayunk alum. But it’s been reported that he loved to go fishing in the neighborhood along the Schuylkill River. He apparently called it “The Eden of Philadelphia.”
This area near the Schuylkill River was settled by the Lenni-Lenape Native American tribe (hence, the “where we come to drink” thing,) and other settlers held agricultural posts just north of Manayunk away from the rolling, steep hills of the area. Originally called “Flat Rock,” the town got the name Manayunk in 1824.
Between 1816 and 1828, the Schuylkill Navigation (AKA the Manayunk Canal) was built to connect Philadelphia with the agricultural opportunities of the rest of the state of Pennsylvania. In 1840, Manayunk split away from Roxborough and was incorporated as its own borough, buuuuut that only lasted 14 years. By 1854, it merged with the City of Philadelphia.
According to the Manayunk Development Corporation, the Industrial Revolution spurred on a boom of development in the neighborhood where mills and factories started to spring up to accommodate the new German, Polish, Irish and Italian immigrants.
The two-mile canal system through Manayunk provided power and resources to the many mills and factories that dotted Main Street along the river. Eventually, the neighborhood’s booming textile industry helped Philadelphia to earn the nickname “The Workshop of the World.”
As recently as the mid-1900s, Manayunk was a working class community made up of families with blue-collar jobs living in the row homes on the many hilly streets of the neighborhood. Economically, it was struggling.
But over the last 25 years, it’s experienced gentrification to a huge degree — the area is now home to one of the largest millennial populations in the city and to upper/ middle class residents with jobs in the main business district of Philly. The neighborhood continues to evolve. Main Street is lined with bars, clubs, restaurants, boutiques and small businesses, and that growth only continues.
What used to be
The Empress Theater
That Loring Construction Building on Main Street in Manayunk was once the Empress Theater, which was used in the early 1900’s as a vaudeville theater and a cinema. There are rumors that the theater housed acts by W.C. Fields and the Three Stooges.
What to check out
Specializing in pizza, tomato pie and specialty breads, Marchiano’s Bakery located at 4653 Umbria St. has had some famous people coming in and out, including Frank Sinatra, The Temptations, The Four Tops, and Alyson Hannigan (AKA Lily from How I Met Your Mother). The bakery has photos across the wall of all the famous people that have stopped by for a pie.
Community gathering places
Take a ride or a walk along the Manayunk Towpath