How to find information on Olney for the Neighborhood Project
North Philadelphia is a district of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the United States. It is immediately north of the Center City district. Though the full
extent of the region is somewhat vague, "North Philadelphia" is generally regarded everything north of Spring Garden Street between Northwest Philadelphia
and Northeast Philadelphia. The city government views this sprawling chunk of Philadelphia more precisely as three smaller districts, drawn up by the
Redevelopment Authority in 1964. These regions are (from north to south) Olney/Oak Lane, Upper North Philadelphia, and Lower North Philadelphia.
Belfield, Cedarbrook / Stenton, Erlen, Logan, Ogontz, Upper Nicetown, West Oak Lane
East Logan, East Oak Lane, East Olney, Feltonville, Fern Rock, Melrose Park, Olney
Write a biography of your town or neighborhood. Using what you’ve learned about Industrialization and Urbanization, how cities grow, and why people
migrate and immigrate:
Discuss the following:
· The town’s or neighborhood’s founders;
Olney is named after the estate of Alexander Wilson (not the ornithologist), who resided on Rising Sun Avenue, near Tacony Creek. Wilson chose the name
for his residence because of his love for the poet Cowper, of Olney, England. The mansion was demolished in 1924, but the name was applied to the growing
Olney was originally vast, hilly farmland in the hinterland of Philadelphia County up to the late nineteenth century. The population was mainly farmers
and wealthy Philadelphians who could afford to live away from the city.
Prior to its incorporation into the city proper, North Philadelphia was little more than a collection of primarily agricultural townships above the
original City of Philadelphia. In the 18th century, as Philadelphia grew in importance and, consequently, population, then pastoral North Philadelphia
became an attractive alternative to the burgeoning city. The mansions of wealthy Philadelphians began to dot the landscape, and by the late 18th and early
19th century, several small town centers had developed to anchor the growing population. However, this suburban landscape was to be interrupted around the
middle of the 19th century, as rapid urban expansion led to The Consolidation Act of 1854. This state law annexed most of the townships within Philadelphia
County to the City of Philadelphia. With new territory now under the aegis of Philadelphia's city planners, and a rising influx of European immigrants, led
to the end of North as a suburb of Philadelphia. North Philadelphia's decentralized towns were gradually meshed into a sprawling network of the ubiquitous
Philadelphia rowhome. Many of the newly created neighborhoods retained the name of their ancestral towns and townships, for example, the Northern Liberties
was formerly Northern Liberties Township.
As the industrial age peaked in America, North Philadelphia became a working man's town. Upper North Philadelphia, Olney, Brewerytown, became major hubs of
production. Large factories and industrial complexes were erected, covering vast swaths of city land. Scores of rowhomes were constructed to house the
burgeoning worker population. This expansion was also the impetus for breaking ground on the Broad Street Line subway; designed specifically to carry a
passenger from the northern hub of Olney to Philadelphia City Hall in under 20 minutes. Major freight and passenger rail lines were built to intersect at
the newly constructed North Broad Street Station, and transmit cargo from the bustling factories. The completion of the BSL these major railways made the
region a thriving hub of transportation. For a time, North Broad Street station became the 2nd most heavily trafficked rail station in the city, and the
Olney metro the most used subway stop.
Along with many of Philadelphia's major manufacturing concerns came the nearby estates of the wealthy industrialists who had founded them. Lower North
Philadelphia in particular housed a number the nouveau riche; ambitious first or second generation immigrants or that had made their fortunes starting
manufacturing firms. Many were German Jews that had settled in the area, later founding companies and building synagogues. For a time, an age of opulence
and grand architecture returned to North Philadelphia, centered around what is now zoned as the Historic North Broad Street Mansion and Speculative Housing
Districts. Gentlemen's Clubs, upscale restaurants and shopping districts grew in this southern tier for a brief moment in history, peaking in the late
1920's. Upper-class foremen and executives lived farther north along Broad, in what is now the West Diamond Street Townhouse Historic District. Thriving
commercial districts sprung up along the great northern avenues; Columbia (renamed Cecil B. Moore Avenue), Susquehanna, Dauphin, Erie, Lehigh and Olney, to
name a few. However, just as this wealth was so suddenly gained, it would just as suddenly be lost. The new money culture proved to be an unstable
foundation for a lasting community, and like so many constructs of the Gilded Age, this core of wealth was doomed to rot.
As Philadelphia grew northwards, the area became more urbanized. People seeking to escape the growing population density towards the center moved to
Olney. Soon after, businesses began appearing, centered at 5th Street and Olney Avenue. Industry was also attracted and companies such as Heintz
Manufacturing Company, Proctor and Schwartz, and Brown Instrument Division built factories in the neighborhood. But this took second place to the strong
commercial district, lead by the Olney Businessmans' Association.
20th Century and Decline
Over the next few decades The Great Depression, outsourcing, and white flight took their toll on North Philadelphia in a fashion similar to other major US
cities of the mid to late 20th century, if not in a more pronounced fashion. While residential corridors like Hope Street and Delhi Street had long housed
primarily African-American residents, redlining, racist loan companies, and rising unemployment led white residents out of the city, and forced poor blacks
in. For a time, Lower North Philadelphia became a great center of black culture and music, most notably Jazz. Many commercial corridors were maintained for
decades, and a great many musicians came to North Philadelphia, like John Coltrane and Stan Getz.
As the century marched past middle age, many other problems symptomatic of all US cities of the time came about. Many of the neighborhoods in North
Philadelphia sprung up around one monolithic factory, which was the center of the community's income. Each factory that closed down devastated its host
neighborhood. In this way, the wave of national industrial collapse caused the rapid break up of numerous "factory neighborhoods" in the predominantly
working class North Philadelphia. Furthermore, the Columbia Avenue race riots, became iconic for the rising ethnic tensions in the region, and the
continued withdrawal of white residents. The riot, which virtually destroyed the central shopping distict of North Philadelphia, signaled the beginning of
the end for the North's commericial sector. The withering of the American manufacturing sector led to the closing of many of the factories that many
northern neighborhoods were centered around and depended on. Increased urban blight and the general decline of Philadelphia in the late 20th century even
saw the decline of even many of the strong black communities in North Philadelphia. The legendary Connie Mack Stadium was closed in favor of the new
Pattison Sports Complex. North Broad Street Station lost Amtrak Service, and the BSL subway lines garnered a reputation for violent crime and rape. The
great art deco office buildings and government institutions were mostly abandoned, as were the mansions of the many ruined industrialists. Drugs, gangs,
educational problems, police corruption, and other woes common in the ghettos of America seemed to seal North Philadelphia's fate as a perpetual slum.
· Major ethnic groups, including when they arrived and what they contributed to the area;
Between the 60s and 80s, Olney began experiencing change. Large numbers of African Americans began migrating into the area from other parts of the city.
As part of the deindustrialization of Philadelphia, industry closed factories and moved from the area. People began to claim that Olney was detereorating:
crime was going up and property values were going down. Taking part in the white flight occuring across the country, many residents moved to the suburbs.
This receding population was quickly supplmented by a new wave of residents from Asia (Korea, mainly, as well as Vietnam, China, Cambodia, Laos) and Latin
America (Puerto Rico, Colombia, Mexico). This new population quickly filled the vacancies left behind in the commercial district and today 5th and Olney is
still a vital economic center. These groups also maintained Olney's historic civic pride through the creation of orgnizations such as the Korean Community
Today, Olney is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Philadelphia. The Olney stop on the Broad Street Subway, while no longer the terminal, is the
second most used (next to City Hall). There are thriving business districts at 5th and Olney, Broad and Olney, and Front and Olney. The neighborhood is
home to four elementary schools (Lowell, Finletter, Morrison, Washington, and Olney), three high schools (Olney, Central, and Girls'), and borders La Salle
Olney was settled by German-Americans and the population remained homogenious throughout the first half of the 20th century. Today Olney is a melting pot
of ethnic groups in Philadelphia with large numbers of African Americans, Koreans, Sub-sahran Africans, West Indians, Hispanics, and Arabs as well as other
smaller groups representing other nationalites and ethnic groups.
As of the census2 of 2000, the racial makeup of Olney is 21.13% White, 44.60% African American, 17.92% Asian, and 11.66% from other races. 21.03% of the
population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
The population of Olney increased by 7% between the 1990 and 2000 censuses.
Today, many remnants of more prosperous eras remain, albeit in a typically more dilapidated state. However, for as many remain, just as many thousands of
historic buildings have collapsed, either from neglect or demolition, and thousands more still lie abandoned. A handful have become protected historic
properties. Several blocks, with numerous old mansions, have been rezoned as the aforementioned historic districts. A great many extravagant churches were
built over the years, as well. Some still stand, but all too often money is scarce to preserve their deteriorating architecture. The stately trolley lines
which once crisscrossed the northern streets and connected the region with the rest of Philadelphia were shut down by SEPTA in 1992. Immense, abandoned
factories sit idle, warehouses empty, disused heavy rail lines scarring the landscape. The names of the old industrialists, such as Gratz, Poth, Uber, and
Schmidt, still adorn many buildings and street signs in the area, but are otherwise foreign to many modern day residents.
The Neighborhood Transformation Initiative, or NTI, was a City program launched by Mayor John Street during his first administration. The program called
for the demolition of thousands of condemned buildings and the construction of large scale, medium density public housing, with restoration efforts to be
employed on salvageable houses. Many blocks of old rowhomes have been bulldozed and replaced with suburban style tract houses. This program has radically
changed some sections of North Philadelphia. Some charge that little effort was made to save a number of historic buildings, others that NTI was needed to
change blighted neighborhoods. The lasting effects of the program remain to be seen.
Some areas, like Olney, Allegheny and Erie still have relatively active communities, but even they are often troubled by drugs, crime, or social
underfunding, sometimes all three. Allegheny West has advanced, mostly from support of some of the last industries in North Philadelphia, Tastykake and Pep
Boys which are headquartered in the neighborhood. Temple University continues to try to restore its Lower North Philadelphia neighborhood, with mixed
successes and failures. It has assumed control of several local public schools, gives extra benefits and aid to local residents that are admitted, and
sponsors many student volunteer projects to help the surrounding neighborhoods. However, this work pales in comparison to other revitalization efforts,
like the West Philadelphia University City project, in terms of its practical results. Some residents have also accused Temple of either ignoring the
wishes of local citizens in its moves to expand, or being more concerned with its own projects than the viability of the surrounding area. Critics note the
great many properties it has purchased, leveled and redeveloped for university use, while much of the surrounding area still struggles. A proposed private
commercial development just south of the campus, designed to spur a North Broad Street corridor revitalization, makes it seem likely that the rejuvenation
of the area will occur by virtue of the school's existence, but not because of its particular efforts.
· The problems created by growth and the way that the problems were solved;
PHA Makes History in Olney with Opening of Latest Property Suffolk Manor
The Philadelphia Housing Authoritys newest property is also its oldest. Thanks in part to historic tax credits, PHA was able to acquire and redevelop
Suffolk Manor, an apartment complex built in 1929. PHA Executive Director Carl Greene said the property had deteriorated into a state of severe disrepair.
We saw this as a great opportunity to convert a building which had fallen on hard times into modern affordable housing, Greene said.
PHA sought and received special designation from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the National Park Service making the building a historical site. That
cleared the way for the historic rehabilitation tax credits. PHA has made extensive use of Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) to raise capital for new
construction throughout the city and has done so again in this case. However, Suffolk Manor marks the first time PHA has also received historic tax credits.
The overhaul of the 137-unit complex cost $24 million, of which $13 million is coming from tax credits. The remainder of the funding is a combination of
federal capital grants and the diversion of rental voucher money.
The redevelopment is expected to provide an immediate boost to both the quality of life and the economy in the Fern Rock/Olney section of North
Philadelphia. Carl Greene said the complex is a great example of how funds earmarked for public housing can be used to lift an entire community.
Broad Street Line & Broad-Ridge Spur
1928 - Olney - City Hall
Insurance Maps for Fire
· What the future of the town/neighborhood might be.
In past decades, North Philadelphia was hit very hard by white flight and economic recessions, and therefore the majority of North Philadelphia's
population are poor, working-class, African-Americans or Hispanics. Despite its wealth of history, schools, cultural sites, parkland, architecture and
other holdovers from more prosperous times, high crime and unfettered poverty have earned North Philadelphia a reputation as a slum of Philadelphia. The
region is highly segregated, with whites primarily living in the wealthier southern regions, Hispanics in the Logan, Hunting Park and West Kensington areas,
and African Americans dominating most other neighborhoods. Its inherent positive factors and recent developments have given North Philadelphia a brighter
future, as several neighborhoods begin to overcome some of the aformentioned problems.
What is the Olney neighborhood pilot?
The Olney neighborhood pilot is any early deployment of Wireless Philadelphia. The Olney neighborhood will have free access to the public network sponsored
by AT&T, Lucent Technologies, BelAir Networks, Pronto Networks and Ninth Wave Media for the next twelve months.
Why was Wireless Philadelphia created?
Wireless Philadelphia was created to strengthen the City's economy and transform Philadelphia's neighborhoods by making broadband access more available and
affordable. Wireless Philadelphia will help citizens, businesses, schools, and community organizations make effective use of this technology to achieve
their goals while providing a greater experience for visitors to the City.
Where can I get coverage?
Currently, the Olney neighborhood network provides service to about one square mile area. Due to the nature of WiFi, coverage will vary and may not be
available in all spots in the serving area. Access equipment needs vary according to signal strength.
How much will the service cost?
The Olney Neighborhood Network will provide free wireless broadband access to local residents and businesses for a one-year period from July 2005 through
July 2006. Wireless Philadelphia and service providers will determine residential and small business access costs for the future. It is estimated that the
basic service will cost approximately $16.00 - $25.00 per month, with a discounted rate for very low-income and disadvantaged subscribers.
Tracing the Growth of a Town: Gathering Information
Northeast, clickable map
Northeast, clickable map
Northeast, clickable map
Northeast, clickable map
Northeast, clickable map
Northeast, clickable map
Northeast, clickable map
Use the local newspaper, library, or museum to find books, maps, websites, and other information;
Prepare questions and then interview older members of the community, your family, tape or video recording them and their comments;
Get permission to visit schools, places of worship, the Chamber of Commerce, and other sites of interest;
Check your own family’s sources for photographs and memorabilia.