Updated July 24
Once upon a time, there was a big house in Fairmount Park. Back in the 19th century, developers of yesteryear decided to convert the mansion into a restaurant. The dining room apparently became pretty popular — especially the chef’s mean plate of strawberries and ice cream.
The dish was so good, in fact, that an entire area of Philadelphia was named after it:
Welcome to Strawberry Mansion.
Yup, the neighborhood that hugs Ridge Avenue north of Brewerytown was named after a dessert. How’d we find that out? Glad you asked.
Earlier this month, we stumbled on a cool social media post — a visualization featuring 43 of the city’s neighborhoods, with info about how each one got its name. Turns out the graphic was created by Adam Aleksic, a high school senior from Albany who does this sort of thing in his free time. He calls himself the “Etymology Nerd.”
We wrote about the map, mostly because it seemed important to tell y’all that Manayunk is the Lenape word for “place where we go to drink.” (Also, Moyamensing is named after pigeon droppings.)
Several readers pointed out that the graphic, albeit fascinating, omitted quite a few prominent Philly neighborhoods.
So we called up the Etymology Nerd himself, and asked him to help us remedy the lack. This time, we did the research and provided the descriptions for 20 more Philly neighborhoods, and Aleksic put them together on a map.
And Fishtown? An urban legend suggests it was Charles Dickens who named this neighborhood in 1842 — but it’s more likely this Philly neighborhood got its name due to the popularity of shad fisheries in the 1700s.
Now we present the sequel: Philadelphia Hidden Etymologies II.
Philly neighborhood etymologies II
- Brewerytown: Surprise, surprise, this neighborhood is named for the numerous breweries that were located there in the 19th century.
- Chestnut Hill: Got its name in 1704, when the neighborhood boasted a ton of chestnut trees due to its higher elevation and cooler temperatures. (Now, they’re almost extinct in the neighborhood.)
- Devil’s Pocket: Urban legend has it that this name came from a priest, who told a group of neighborhood teens that they were “hooligans enough to steal from the devil’s own pocket.”
- Dickinson’s Narrows: Named for the late Pennsylvania Governor John Dickinson.
- East Falls: Named in the 19th century for its close proximity to an original line of waterfalls on the Schuylkill River.
- East/West Oak Lane: Named for an ancient oak tree on the founder’s property.
- Fairmount: Named for the hill on which the Art Museum sits — a notoriously “fair mount”
- Fishtown: Got its name from its abundance of shad fisheries, which employed most residents in the 1700s.
- Fitler Square: Dedicated in 1896 to the well-regarded former Mayor Edwin H. Fitler
- Germantown: The name reflected the presence of German families that settled there in the 1800s.
- Graduate Hospital: The namesake of an actual hospital used by Penn’s Graduate School of Medicine
- Hunting Park: Former colonial Mayor James Logan used to hunt deer there.
- Lawncrest: This neighborhood is an amalgam of two smaller ones — Lawndale and Crescentville.
- Lawndale: Named by a real estate developer
- Northern Liberties: Back in the colonial days, when you purchased land in Philly, you got some bonus land for free in Northern Liberties. The giveaways were called “liberty lands,” hence the neighborhood’s name.
- Overbrook: Named for the small nearby brook, Mill Creek
- Point Breeze: Named after a point on the west side of the Schuylkill
- Society Hill: Named for the Society of Free Traders, which was first headquartered there
- Southwark: The namesake of a London neighborhood
- Strawberry Mansion: This neighborhood is named after a grand house in Fairmount Park, which later became a restaurant and served a signature dish with strawberries and ice cream.