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 Graduate Hospital? Buy the stuff.
Long before Graduate Hospital became a haven for developers and young professionals, it was home to the manufacturing class and, of course, the actual Graduate Hospital. This neighborhood has been a part of history, too. Graduate Hospital featured the first U.S. Naval Academy and an important baseball diamond. As it continues to change, Graduate Hospital is becoming a diverse area where new developments are springing up around all these reminders of the past.
Graduate Hospital is between Broad Street and the Schuylkill River and South Street and Washington Avenue.
5,358 (43 percent)
Rent vs. Own
2,974 vs. 2,874 (51 percent vs. 49 percent)
Graduate Hospital, also known as Southwest Center City or South of South, gets its name from an actual hospital that’s technically not even in the neighborhood, located between Lombard and South streets on 18th Street. In the 20th century, this hospital was used by Penn’s Graduate School of Medicine and called Graduate Hospital. Penn sold it off to a private company in the late ’90s. Penn bought it back in 2007 and partners with Good Shepherd to use the hospital as a rehabilitation facility called Penn Medicine at Rittenhouse.
Swedish people started settling in the Graduate Hospital area long before William Penn arrived in Philadelphia. Up until the 19th century, the area was largely farmland, until it got a big break when a railroad was built to pass through the neighborhood. The railroad, plus an artillery and the Naval Asylum gave Graduate Hospital a manufacturing edge.
In the early and mid-20th century, the neighborhood’s ethnic makeup went from largely white and Irish to black. Black residents thrived in manufacturing jobs and added important cultural achievements to Philadelphia in music, film and entertainment
When the manufacturing sector fell off in the 1950s, Graduate Hospital struggled like many other Philadelphia neighborhoods. Its proximity to Center City could not save it. Graduate Hospital became a blighted, crime-ridden area until the 80s. That decade marked the beginning of the neighborhood’s rejuvenation and it has continued to this day. Now, Graduate Hospital is one of the hottest neighborhoods for young people and small families. Its growth rate for young people moving in is higher than almost all of the other neighborhoods in and around Center City.
Philly’s other famous baseball diamond
Citizens Bank Park has plenty of good memories in its early history (hello, World Series), but Graduate Hospital has a true neighborhood staple in the Anderson Yards baseball field at the Marian Anderson Recreation Center. The ball field, located between 17th and 18th on Fitzwater, has been around in some form for perhaps a century — Webster McDonald, a legendary Negro Leagues pitcher, grew up playing on a ball field at 17th and Fitzwater in the early 1900s.
Now, the field is more famous than ever, thanks to Mo’ne Davis and the Taney Dragons. Taney plays there, but the Anderson Monarchs are the home tenant. Several of the Taney Dragons, including Davis, also grew up playing for the Monarchs and for other sports teams affiliated with the rec center. Spike Lee’s famous Davis Chevy ad features Anderson Yards in the opening scene.
Graduate Hospital was one of the busiest hospitals in Philadelphia as recently as the ’80s. As such, it was in the background of many famous events. In 1982, one of the first Philadelphia victims of AIDS died at Graduate Hospital. Mob figures involved in shootings went there. The Eagles sent many injured players there after games or practices.
Marian Anderson: Anderson grew up in Philadelphia in the early 1900s, singing in her church choir. Despite dealing with racism throughout her career, Anderson broke through and became an international singing icon. She was the first black performer to sing at the White House and the first to sing with the New York Metropolitan Opera. She also performed at the Lincoln Memorial and for JFK’s inauguration. In 1991, the Grammy’s honored her with the Lifetime Achievement Award. The Marian Anderson House is located at 762 Martin St. between Catherine and Fitzwater near 20th.
What Used to Be
The United States Naval Academy got its start in Graduate Hospital at the Naval Asylum, also called the Naval Home. Located at 24th Street and Greys Ferry Avenue, this structure started out as a hospital in 1826, then for a few brief years between 1839 and 1845 also became the first school for the navy, known as the Naval Academy. In 1845, the Naval Academy moved to Annapolis. From then on, the Naval Home was used as a hospital and then a retirement home for Navy veterans up until it closed in 1976. The area is now known as Naval Square and features ritzy condos.
Library Company of Philadelphia
Another key landmark of Graduate Hospital is the Royal Theater. It still stands near 15th and South streets, but has been out of use and vacant since the ’70s. From the ’20s to the ’60s, it was the place to go for film and music for Philadelphia’s black community. The South of South Street Neighborhood Association is currently pushing for it to be redeveloped.
Graduate Hospital was at the center of some of Philadelphia’s most notorious gang warfare in the ’70s and ’80s with the 20th and Carpenter Gang. This group combined with the Philadelphia Black Mafia and later tried to separate, leading to serious violence and rifts within the city’s drug trade. The 20th and Carpenter Gang, though it had power, lacked the business-feel of organized crime. It was reported that the Black Mafia would shoot from Cadillacs and the 20th and Carpenter Gang would shoot from bicycles. Even after the gang disbanded, the area around 20th and Carpenter remained violent through the ’90s and even the early aughts as Graduate Hospital underwent its transformation.
Grays Ferry Triangle. This outcropping of shops and outdoor seating around 23rd and South streets provides a great place to spend a summer night and snap a few pics.
A photo posted by Yvonne Steveson (@ysteveson) on