Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Courts of Fishtown

Fishtown, with all the major changes since the 1980's is unique to most parts of the city. Here remains the structural integerty of "Olde City" residential courts. These dwellings have been expanded from "father, son, holy ghost" houses or less, as originally built, to accommodate the earlier need for real estate developement. These dwellings maintain the architectural characteristics of the neighborhood, whereas, mostly all new construction has been compared to the plight on London.
Eight courts remain intact in the immediate area of Fishtown. There is some despute of a ninth court which once occupied Hewson Street at the corner of Cedar Street. The previous owner of the properties said that it is not so. Many old timer's refer to them as a court even if they weren't enclosed. They sat back about fifteen (15) feet from the curb with a step up before reaching the front steps. They too were "father, son, holy ghost" houses.
There are two other courts that disappeared in the last fifty (50) years as told by a life long neighbor and his friend.
This article has been edited to include photographs of (Crease Street) the eighth court. This intacted and occupied court is on the 1000 block of Crease Street just before I-95. It has five renovated houses or units which is accessable by a steardy door. The court is across the street from the historic "Kenington Soup House", dated 1844-1870. It remained operational well into the mid to late 20th century. I was told that it closed only a few years ago because of a lack of funds and donations of food.
Marie, a charmig and welcoming lady, who lives just beyond the soup kitchem did not know the name of the Crease Street court: "I remember that it was always there."
Yes folks. I knock on people's doors to talk so to gather information. (Knock on a door and then stand back by the curb. This puts people at ease when answering the door and to see that there is a safe distance between them and a stranger.)
Joe F answered his door after a few knocks and saw me standing in the street. I did not approach him from the street until he came out onto his front step and was comfortable to talk about the topic.
I satisfied his questions and then we both discovered that I knew his family member as a long time neighbor were I grew up. Joe and I talked at length but he also did not know the name of the court. Joe then told me that he lived in this house all his life: Joe is sixty-five (65) years old.
The conversation stepped up a notch or two when Joe's friend and neighbor, Kevin, who lives around the corner on Wildey and Marlborurgh Streets, stopped to talk. Kevin said, in agreement with Joe, that a court was torn down  on that corner years ago. A bread bakery now stands there in this "newer" building.
We three talked about how Crease Street and many other streets ran throught to the river before they were blocked by I-95  back in the late 1960's and 1970's.
The I-95 planning and construction was the final nail in the coffin of the route No.8 trolly line: Richmond Street to 33rd Street and Ridge Avenue. Route No.8 ran on Susquehanna and Norris Street in Fishtown. This was the Connie Mack Stadium route ( one block away on Diamond Street) as the secret alternative from the Lehigh Ave. Route 54 which was always packed with a crush of people.
Joe F. described a court that was torn down on Crease Street where I-95 is. He, Kevin and I only knew of the seven other courts mentioned in this article. We even talked about the train yard which was on York Street where the Port Richmond Shopping Center is located.
Three neighbors and I also talked at length who lived across Wildey Street. They knew my extended family, my mom's, that lived on Columbia Avenue between Belgrade and Frankford. That was fifty (50) years of memory. That added too the over three hours of conversation during my travels.
They were six of twelve people in conversation that evening. That's what happens during a, should I say, brief walk in the neighborhood. I wouldn't change a thing. What wonderful neighbors.
My last conversation was meeting and talking to the owners of the new "Art of Pizza" before I got home. These guys are alright by me. Stop in.
Below are the photgraphs of all the known occupied courts in Fishtown. I can't tell all the comversations entailed in that journey. I'm just glad to have been a part of it all. Enjoy and learn.

Please comment if you're aware of any other court that I missed or if you know the name of them and those un-named here or incorrectly named. (I now included the Crease Street court.)
     Earl Court
Earl Court as seen from Willig Avenue
Miller Court: Five houses on the opposite side were torn down in the late 1960's. The old Holy Name school yard has since occupied that area.
Hewson Street across from Miller Court: I don't know its name. This use to be eight units but was converted into four. This block of Hewson Street also had one of the cities last gas steet lights that was removed in the mid 1960's. A man use to light it every day near night fall.

Hewson Street  Court as seen from Belgrade Street
Dakota Street Court: There were eight units but two were torn down. The remaining six were converted into three houses.

*Edit. Dakota Street Court was demolished in 2016. Seven 3-story, 5 or 6 rooms houses replaces it.
 Lewis Court: Eight units were converted into four units.

George Street Court: Seven or eight units converted into five units.
Shackamaxon Court: I don't know its original configuration. An elderly neighbor told me that this court was constructed sixty or seventy years ago. A family member house was there but torn down when he was a child. The court, afterwards, was built. Please tell me what you know to set the record straight.

1000 Crease Street
A veiw From I-95


Hewson and Cedar Sts: This is the disputed site of what once may have been a court.
I'm thankful for the many neighborhood people that spent time recalling their memory of the original make up of the courts and those who once dwelled there. We spent many hours together, strangers getting to know each other, remembering what once was and their thoughts and feelings about the most recent changes in the neighborhood for better and for worst.

all photos and story by roman blazic_all rights reserved    

9 comments:

  1. I lived in Fishtown for the past three years and explored the neighborhood. I was not aware that there were that many courts. This article made me feel good in the sense of knowing that this neighborhood has a deeper historic aspect and that I now live here to enjoy it even more.
    I saw the bi-polar comment (you earn it) and your response, "my mom had me tested". It made me laugh and again watching a re-run of The Big Bang.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have lived in Fishtowne for over fifty years and I could care less about these so called courts. What a waste of ink.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The "Book of Oxymoron's: 2014 Edition" already went to press. How about a quart of FREE BEER.

      Delete
  3. The previous comment had their reason to say what they had to say. Lord knows why. It was something angry, mean and far from the spirirt of an iinformative and interesting post. I been here for a long time and didn't know so many courts exist. I doubt if the new neighbors knew this. Awarenes of this Fishtown history is wonderful for all to know. I don't remember anyone writing about this or does my family and friends. They had the same surprise like me. Your reply was funny. Maybe the previous writter can see that this post is worth while meaning beyond his selfishness. Thanks .

    ReplyDelete
  4. Being proud is not the same as bragging. I don't see that on your blog. I beleive you talk to many people .Bragging turns people off but the pictures and stories tell you don't. I met you at the park and your manner got me and my friends to pose for a pictures.It was fun and the nice way you spoke to us. Your smile made me forget what a miserable day I was having. because I told you no questioned you like a lawyer and your answers made me laugh. My friends said I was blushing. I can see why all those people talked to you for over three hours. I'm sure they had a good time. I'll bet the person who called the police wish they were in the crowd. Their loss. The pictures tell a story just like in the park. My husband didn't even get jealous.
    Jenny

    ReplyDelete
  5. I just moved to one of these courts a few months ago, although before you wrote this post. It's too bad we didn't cross paths when you dropped by, as I've been fascinated by the history here and am trying to learn more about the unique place I inhabit. Completely by coincidence, I came across this post just after publishing my own about learning what a trinity was and choosing to move into one. You can read it here: http://www.livinghe.re/living-here/philadelphia/philadelphia-trinities/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Welcome to Fishtown. I'm glad you read this article as I have read yours. I commented on your article that a trinity house is derived from Father, Son and Holy Ghost. I hope that this article prompts you to take a walking tour of the Courts of Fishtown. I could map out a tour, if you so like too, by contacting me at rblazic1@gmail.com.
      The Spirit Newspaper, at the corner of Gaul St and Susquehanna Ave, printed a small poster of the eights courts that appeared in this article as a front page story. (five dollars) Peace.

      Delete
  6. It's wonderful that someone has posted this information. It is history that could be lost, but now will not. And yes, Fishtown has a lot of history that the newcomers don't know about. Keep sharing! Thank you.

    ReplyDelete