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 Queen Village? Buy the stuff.
Welcome to Queen Village, the quaint, residential neighborhood that’s within walking distance from some of the best the city has to offer, from the culture of Italian Market to the history of Old City to the nightlife on South Street. Queen Village falls in the middle of these areas, and mixes the feel of South Philly with the colonial and federal architecture of Society Hill.
Once home to the city’s free black residents in the 18th and mid-19th centuries, Queen Village is now home to families and young professionals with a development boom to boot. Vacant lots is the neighborhood are seeing new construction and dining options have grown over the past few years.
Queen Village is bounded by Lombard Street to the north, the Delaware to the east, Washington Avenue to the south and Sixth Street to the west, according to the book “Philadelphia’s Old Southwark District” by Heather Gibson Moqtaderi and Mehron Moqtaderi.
Population age 20 to 34
2,900 or 33.9 percent
Rent vs. Own
Renter occupied: 52 percent
Owner occupied: 48 percent
Average listing price is $350,930, according to Trulia. Median rent price is $894 a month, higher than the Philadelphia average of $691.
Originally named Southwark by William Penn, Queen Village was re-named in the 1970s to honor Queen Christina of Sweden. She reigned when the area was settled by the Swedes in the 1600s.
The Three Stooges’ Larry Fine, born Louis Feinberg
One of the Three Stooges, Louis Feinberg is from Philadelphia and grew up at Third and South streets. A mural of Fine is now in the area.
Lionel “L-Train” Simmons
Simmons, who grew up in the Queen Village area, led South Philadelphia High School to a championship in 1986 as small forward, went on to be a star at LaSalle University and was drafted in 1990. He played for seven years with the Sacramento Kings.
After growing up on Fifth and Christian streets in Queen Village, Chubby Checker went on to make “The Twist” dance style popular in 1960 after covering Hank Ballard’s “The Twist.” The song became one of the most popular singles of the 20th century.
After first being settled by the Swedish in the 1600s, William Penn later named the area “Southwark.” A well-known structure from the time is the Gloria Dei Old Swedes’ Episcopal Church, where Betsy Ross got married and the oldest still-standing church in Pennsylvania. It’s also the second-oldest still-operating church in America, and sits at Christian Street and Columbus Boulevard.
By the 1800s, the area turned into a residential corridor, especially near the river where some of the mid-18th century homes still stand, according to the neighborhood association. It was even given the designation of “Philadelphia’s first suburb.” But if you build it, they will come — severe overcrowding ensued and resulted in bad housing conditions and high crime rates.
Queen Village also became home to a number of churches for free black residents of the city, including the Mother Bethel AME Church at Sixth and Lombard streets, and the free black community settled in the neighborhood around the churches. Hundreds of structures from the time period remain that are certified with the city’s historic register and are now protected. Before these distinctions, about 100 Federal-era buildings were knocked down to make way for I-95 in the mid-1900s.
Things turned around for the Queen Village area. After a housing project was constructed (and demolished) and South Street was vastly revitalized, the restoration of Society Hill in the 1960s served as a blueprint for similar changes in other neighborhoods of the city. Once artists and shops came to South Street, development moved south from there and new residents turned the neighborhood around.
What Used to Be
Union Volunteer Refreshment Saloon
Founded in 1861, this building at Washington Ave and Swanson Street served as a place where Union soldiers during the Civil War could recuperate and have meals.
Bethel Burial Ground
Since last year, some residents have fought to have a Queen Village burial ground added to the city’s register of historic places so it can be preserved. In 2013, archaeologists found that 5,000 black Philadelphians from the 18th and 19th centuries were interred in a burial ground underneath Weccacoe Playground at near 4th and Catherine streets.
After that, the Friends of Bethel Burial Ground Coalition was established to fight to get the ground historic recognition so it can be preserved. Because of their efforts, the Historical Commission voted to establish it as an historic location, thus preserving it from being renovated or disturbed.
What to check out
For more than 100 years, shoppers have made their way to Fabric Row on 4th Street between South and Christian streets where fabric vendors and boutiques line the street. One of the oldest and largest fabric districts in the country, the area has long been home to some of the largest textile selections in the country.
Sparks Shot Tower
What was probably America’s first shot tower built in 1808 sits in Queen Village at Front and Carpenter streets. For a long time Sparks Shot Tower was one of the tallest structures in Philadelphia, and it’s now part of a neighborhood recreation center. It looks like a smoke stack, but centuries ago it was where the new technology of lead ammunition was manufactured.
Community gathering spaces
Queen Village Neighbors Association – 405 Queen St
Queen Village is home to some fantastic centuries-old architecture and hundreds of opportunities for home portraits and shots of federal-style building design.