Frankford won’t much miss me. That I know.
This neighborhood has been shaped for hundreds of years, thousands more, I suppose, when including Lenni Lenape men and women walking some form of Frankford Avenue. My time here, by comparison, has been simply inconsequential. Forty thousand people or so live here now, in varying states of fighting for, bettering, worsening, surviving and loving the gateway to the Northeast. I’ve just been one, but I’ve enjoyed my 13 months here enough that I hoped I might mark its conclusion.
I settled into the third floor of a big, renovated duplex on the 4600-block of Penn Street in November 2008. I wanted an affordable, culturally significant neighborhood independent of Center City but a short transit trip away. I’ve had that and leave with a sense of appreciation for Frankford.
I’ll miss being able to walk to the always welcoming and warm Frankford Library and around the corner to the hidden museum that is the Historical Society of Frankford. There are a dozen big, beautiful houses I’ll miss passing by, many of them chronicled here, including my favorite home in all of architecturally over-endowed Philadelphia. I’ll miss the chicken steaks from Leandro’s — no, not the original, but the one nearer and friendlier to me in my time here. I’ll miss playing basketball and the occasional lager at Billy’s Chili Pot.
I only lived in Frankford for 13 months. I must have called the cops 50 times and walked down those Margaret-Orthodox station steps twice that. I’ve sat on stoops with neighbors and took my bicycle along nearly all the streets of Frankford — by the great, big manses west of the avenue and the rowhomes to the east.
Of course, as people often say, this goodbye has no sense of finality to me. I’ll continue working with Frankford High School’s journalism club, and I’ll be around Frankford, Northwood and other civic meetings in my contributing capacities with NEast Philly, a hyperlocal news site for the Northeast.
But I know it’s not the same. Frankford is a neighborhood, perhaps even more than most in Philadelphia, that craves an authenticity that is hard to replicate outside of those boundaries around the creek, Torresdale, Castor and Cheltenham avenues. For whatever it’s worth, though, I’ll always see myself as a friend to Frankford. A year isn’t long enough to claim to know a neighborhood well, but I know it a little better.
I gave my landlord the keys and walked out of that one-bedroom apartment for the final time last week. I left for my El trip home thinking that there’s a fracture here in Frankford, one that also exists, to greater and lesser degrees, in the riverward neighborhoods that also share that rumbling, elevated mainstay. Some have argued that that big, dusty, blue train helped break the communities that existed here in the early second half of the 20th century. Today there are signs of departure from that. There are signs that the very same El that helped bring blight and drugs and crime will begin to bring another generation of communities that will hope to rebuild all the parts of Philadelphia its reaches.
Frankford will not be rebuilt tomorrow. But I’ll just be short El trip away to see that process unfold.
Christopher Wink is a freelance journalist. Earlier this month, he moved into his first home in Fishtown. You can see more of his work on his professional site here.
There is no doubt, we will be hearing his name again. Good luck Chris.