Old City, Philadelphia


Sometimes, you stumble upon a neighborhood rather than actively seek it out. On my previous trip to Philadelphia (after an excursion to Manayunk), Steve and I walked all over Center City, down South Street and back up to Rittenhouse Square. Along the way, after stopping for a drink at a cozy Irish pub (not Paddy’s), we suddenly entered an enclave full of funky coffeehouses and used book and record stores. Old City felt more like the West Village than any place else in Philly. I was determined to explore it further on my next visit.


On a lovely, unseasonably warm Sunday morning last month, I had my chance. While Steve attended a photography conference up near Logan Square, I spent a few hours in Old City, which is situated between Independence Hall and Penn’s Landing. Above, the corner of N. 3rd and Race Streets.


I’m guessing Old City was far grungier twenty or thirty years ago – many of its buildings appear to have been restored since then.


But not overwhelmingly so. The neighborhood retains a lived-in feeling with lots of color (in all senses of the word).


You certainly can’t call this “gentrified” (although perhaps you might, depending on how it appears a few years from now).


An Arch Street hair salon, although you’d never know it from this photo. Love the olive/maroon color combo.


It was too early to check out The Center For Art In Wood; fortunately, the exterior is a work of art in itself.


Like any urban neighborhood worth posting a photo essay about, Old City has a surplus of cool signs. These are across the street from the hair salon seen above.


Over on Race Street, a handmade sign (and a manufactured awning) for Scarlet Alley.


Not everything in Old City is so artisanal and classy. Take this joint on N. 2nd and Arch, where one can buy a pack of smokes along with a smoked sausage.


And then there are the neat, vintage signs, like this one on N. 3rd–note the curious logo at the bottom, which appears to be staring right at you.


Alas, not all of Old City’s old signs are in such relatively pristine condition.


Not a “cool” old sign like the others, but I love it anyway (albeit for all the wrong reasons).


A few steps back from International (International… International…), some genuinely clever, creative signage.


A classic, most utilitarian sign, although keeping it intact somewhat limits the retail options of this corner space at Front and Market Streets.


I’m certain I practically salivated at first sight of this on N. 2nd Street.



Sorry. One just doesn’t see such mid-century Art Deco splendor like this still standing in 2015. Once a food service equipment showroom, it is now (rumored to become) condos. Go here for more info on this astonishing time capsule.


Over on Market Street, a canny mix of vintage (the top glass panels and the gray steel structure) and modern (everything else).


I don’t remember exactly where I spotted this Bunny Buddha, but it wasn’t at Kink…


Nor was this inexplicable tableau seen at Kink, although perhaps it should have been.


At the corner of 2nd and Market, The Continental, topped with a swizzle-stick sign Sterling Archer would certainly approve of.


Across from The Continental: an idiosyncratic SEPTA station.


At the corner of Market and Letitia Streets: The Franklin Fountain, an old-time ice cream parlor housed in a genuinely old, turn-of-the-century structure complete with ghost signage.


An overpass view of Old City’s eastern edge at Front Street, with the Ben Franklin Bridge looming up ahead.

2 Responses to Old City, Philadelphia

  1. The one with the curious logo is for a cool store called Art In the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (http://store.artintheage.com/). Love me some Philly!

  2. Thanks for the SUGARCUBE and Old City at-large appreciation! http://sugarcube.us

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