As a followup question when I asked Jack McCarthy whether Frankford was in the Northeast, I asked him whether Bridesburg was in the Northeast too. Here’s what he said:
Bridesburg is an interesting – and confusing – case. Originally, there was a sharp bend in Frankford Creek as it approached Bridesburg, so that Bridesburg was positioned south of the Creek and thus technically not part of the NE. However, the area at the bend was prone to heavy flooding and in the 1950s the Creek was straightened out so that it ran directly to the Delaware River without bending. Since then, Bridesburg has been north of the Creek and so could be considered within the boundaries of NE Phila.
If you consult that City Planning Commission publication, however, you will see that they don’t include Bridesburg in NE, but include it in a Bridesburg/Richmond/Kensington district.
Many people do consider Bridesburg part of the NE and technically it should be considered as such, but you could also make an argument that historically it was not part of the NE and that the City Planning Commission does not consider it in the NE.
I’m about 100% sure that anyone with a real estate interest in Bridesburg would consider themselves to be a river ward and not want to be associated with the Northeast. I know the crew over on the Pridesburg forum like to consider themselves an island unto themselves.
Full disclosure: My father (and this site’s founder) grew up in Bridesburg, and I’m sure will chime in.
Does it matter if Frankford is in Northeast Philly? If I had my way, Frankford would always be in the same conversation as Kensington, our neighbor to along the El. I always have the same line that I use when talking about Frankford’s future. “I don’t mind Frankford being compared to Kensington, ’cause there’s hope in Kensington”. Kensington’s a dirty word in Northeast Philly but elsewhere I would say most people consider it to be gentrifying. The rest of the Northeast, however, seems to be scared that they’re in a long, slow decline. What I don’t like to see is when Frankford gets thrown into the abyss of “North Philly”. That’s not awesome at all.
So I asked Jack McCarthy, former famed archivist for the Historical Society of Frankford, and winner of Northeast Philly Quizzo over at the Grey Lodge many months ago. This was his response:
I would say that there is more or less consensus that the southern boundary of NE Phila is the Frankford Creek/Tacony Creek. (Coming out of Cheltenham it’s Tacony Creek, and becomes Frankford Creek at the point where Wingohocking Creek, which is no longer there, emptied into it.) This was the southern border of the old Oxford Township in Philadelphia County before the 1854 City/County Consolidation.
The Phila City Planning Commission calls the area between Frankford/Tacony Creek and Pennypack Creek the “Near Northeast” and the area between Pennypack and Poquessing Creeks the “Far Northeast.” See the following:
The borders of Frankford are a different matter. Frankford was a borough from 1800 to 1854; it had its own government and specific boundaries, with Frankford Creek being its southern boundary. The boundaries were actually changed a couple of times in the early 1800s and then the borough was abolished in the 1854 consolidation. Frankford then became w
hat it is now – just a neighborhood of Philadelphia.
More clues to bolster our case:
- The Center for Northeast History has been run out of the Historical Society of Frankford’s building
- I heard that the venerable historian and former Lincoln High principal Harry Silcox put Frankford in the first chapter of one of his books(someone fact check this for me)
- Wikipedia puts Frankford in Northeast Philly
I would go so far as to say that the consensus is the southern border of Northeast Philadelphia is the Frankford Creek. And that puts Frankford in Northeast Philly.
Many apologies to Jack McCarthy for just totally taking a nap on this post. I emailed him for his opinion back in April and am just getting around to this post.
I want to start a discussion of Frankford’s borders and geography, and also about Frankford’s place in Philadelphia. I think there are a lot of opportunities to discuss Frankford’s identity that way. There’s a lot of interesting questions floating out there. Is Frankford in the Northeast or North Philly? It’s probably got more in common with Kensington than it does with the rest of the Northeast. I don’t think most people would dispute that. And what are the implications of that?
There’s also history to consider. A look at Frankford’s borders are a look at it’s identity. Where did Frankford Valley come from? I think in the next few years there will be some interesting developments to the south, near where they built the Lowes and such. Will the developments on the fringes of Frankford be attributed to Frankford or will they be taken away by Port Richmond or Juniata or Bridesburg.
PennState’s online library has a 1941 paper about the old towns and districts of Philadelphia. It provides a nice history of the boroughs and townships of Philadelphia to the run up to the 1854 Act of Consolidation.
Of note is page 78, which is a map of the townships and districts of Philadelphia in 1854 and show’s us that Frankford was a little bit smaller then. It’s eastern border ended at Whitehall borough( which was centered at Bridge and Tacony Sts). And it shared a northern border with Oxford Township, along the Little Tacony Creek, Lieper, Harrison, and Horrocks streets.
[PDF] PennState’s library has a 1941 paper