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Where We Live | Northeast Philadelphia





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Posted on Wed, Nov. 17, 2004
 
 I M A G E S 
Burholme Park, north of Tacony Creek, offers a view of Center City. These days, the city divides Northeast Philadelphia into the lower Northeast, starting at Frankford and Tacony Creeks and stretching north to Pennypack Creek. Above that is the Far Northeast, starting at Pennypack Creek and extending north.
LAURENCE KESTERSON / Inquirer
Burholme Park, north of Tacony Creek, offers a view of Center City. These days, the city divides Northeast Philadelphia into the lower Northeast, starting at Frankford and Tacony Creeks and stretching north to Pennypack Creek. Above that is the Far Northeast, starting at Pennypack Creek and extending north.

Boundaries have evolved with the times




Inquirer Staff Writer

Its easy to tell where Northeast Philadelphia ends. That would be when you cross the county lines to the north and west, or, if you're heading east, when your feet get wet at the Delaware River.

But where does Northeast Philadelphia begin?

That depends on whom you are asking, and what era you are asking about.

When Philadelphia was a colonial town, the southern boundary of Northeast Philadelphia was roughly where Shackamaxon Street is now, or just south of Penn Treaty Park. North of that was mostly farmland.

Old texts disagree on what Shackamaxon, an American Indian word, means. Definitions offered in various city histories include "place of eels," "meeting place of chiefs," and "field of blood."

Philadelphians say the boundary has changed in recent decades. "It depends on how old you are," said Al Taubenberger, president of the Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.

For example, Taubenberger notes that in the 19th century, the first Northeast High School was at Second Street and Girard Avenue.

The neighborhoods to the north, Fishtown and Kensington, "were once considered Northeast Philadelphia because above them was farmland," says City Controller Jonathan Saidel, who grew up in the Oxford Circle area.

By 1903, Northeast High School had moved to a new building farther north at Eighth Street and Lehigh Avenue. That was followed by yet another "new" Northeast High, the current school that opened in 1957 at Cottman and Algon Avenues, in the heart of what everyone agrees is indeed the Northeast.

These days, the city divides the Northeast into the lower Northeast, starting at Frankford and Tacony Creeks - or about at Castor and Hunting Park Avenues - and stretching north to Pennypack Creek. Above that is the Far Northeast, starting at Pennypack Creek and extending north.

"I think that's too far south," Saidel said.

Of course, in the 1950s and early 1960s, some considered the Far Northeast to be Oxford Circle, which city planners now consider the lower Northeast.

City Council has gerrymandered the Northeast to please various incumbent council members.

Thus, the Far Northeast is in the hands of Tenth District Councilman Brian J. O'Neill. His district is shaped like a backward "C" with a fat middle.

Seventh District Councilman Richard T. Mariano represents a long, thin piece of Northeast on the western side of Roosevelt Boulevard, barely connected to the bulk of his district farther south.

Sixth District Councilwoman Joan Krajewski represents the east side of the lower Northeast.

And First District Councilman Darrell L. Clarke has a thin sliver of the lower Northeast between the intersection of Frankford Creek and Roosevelt Boulevard.

But Northeast Philadelphia can also be a state of mind. Taubenberger's chamber has nearly a quarter of its members in Bucks and Montgomery Counties.


Contact staff writer Nathan Gorenstein at 215-854-5983 or ngorenstein@phillynews.com.

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