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East Falls
East Falls at Ridge Avenue and Midvale Avenue
East Falls at Ridge Avenue and Midvale Avenue
Country  United States
State Pennsylvania
County Philadelphia County
City Philadelphia
Area code(s) 215, 267 and 445
East Falls Map
The East Falls section of Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania
The Kelly Family House in East Falls, Philadelphia 02
The Kelly Family House
Falls Bridge (cropped)
Falls Bridge

East Falls (also The Falls, formerly the Falls of Schuylkill) is a neighborhood in the Northwest section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. It lies on the east bank of the "Falls of the Schuylkill," cataracts submerged in 1822 by the Schuylkill Canal and Fairmount Water Works projects. East Falls sits next to the Germantown, Roxborough, Allegheny West, and Nicetown-Tioga neighborhoods, and to Wissahickon Valley Park. The neighborhood runs along a few miles of Ridge Avenue, along the banks of the Schuylkill River then extends northeast to Wissahickon Avenue. It overlooks the multi-use recreational path of Fairmount Park along Kelly Drive, and is desirable for its central location, an easy commute to Center City with easy access to several major roadways and public transportation.

Early history

East Falls takes its name from its location on the east side of the Schuylkill Falls along the Schuylkill River at the original line of waterfalls known as the 'Falls of the Schuylkill' where the river descends from the elevation of the Pennsylvania piedmont to the coastal plain occupied by the main part of the City of Philadelphia. Thus East Falls was in colonial and Federalist times the highest point on the river navigable down the river by boat's not driven by a skilled pilot; accordingly the settlement housed a dock and became a transfer point to the Indian path converted into colonial roadways which later became Ridge Avenue and Germantown Avenue.

Before the War of 1812, Josiah White and Erskine Hazard harnessed the water power from the cataracts for a foundry, wire mill and nail manufactory — whose combined energy needs led them to learn how to successfully use anthracite in industrial heating during the war of 1812, caused them to push for the legislation and corporation behind the Schuylkill Canal, then found the Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company and in many respects, bootstrap the American industrial revolution between 1820-1860 by building mines, canals, and railroads, including the first railroad over five miles long and bringing smelting of Anthracite pig iron to the United States.

The falls disappeared when the river level was raised by the construction of the dam at the Fairmount Water Works, four miles downstream, but rocks still visible above the water show the location of the natural fall-line. Before the arrival of European settlers, the Lenni Lenape Indians considered the lower Schuylkill River their home. The Wissahickon Creek runs into the Schuylkill here and today is included as a part of Fairmount Park, providing walking and bike paths along its banks. Wissahickon is a merging of two Lenape words: "Wisaucksickan" meaning "yellow-colored creek", and "Wisamickan" meaning "catfish creek". In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries "catfish and waffles" was a favorite food at the many inns and taverns that ran through the valley, and a catfish still serves as the weathervane atop the Free Library of Philadelphia Falls of Schuylkill Branch. East Falls, so named in the nineteenth century, had earlier been known as Falls of the Schuylkill or Falls Village. In the 19th century, the Dobson Mills textile factory thrived there.

Note: A detailed early history of East Falls is contained in "Early History of the Falls of Schuylkill, Manayunk, Schuylkill and Lehigh Navigation Companies, Fairmount Waterworks, Etc.", by Charles V. Hagner, in 1869. It was reprinted by the University of Michigan in 2010 as part of its Historical Reprint Series.


As of the census of 2000, the racial makeup of East Falls is 72.06% White, 19.98% African American, 4.79% Asian, and 0.86% from other races. 2.58% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

In 2005, the median home sale price in the 19129 ZIP code, which contains East Falls, was $184,000. This was an increase of 8% over the median sale price for 2004.

Places of worship

  • Baptist: Falls of Schuylkill Baptist Church
  • Catholic: St. Bridget's Roman Catholic Church
  • Episcopal: Memorial Church of the Good Shepherd
  • Lutheran: Redeemer Lutheran Church
  • Presbyterian: East Falls First Presbyterian Church


The largest center of commerce in East Falls is the Falls Center. It is home for over 18 businesses and an apartment complex.


Colleges and universities

  • Jefferson University is a private university with a 100-acre (0.40 km2) campus in East Falls, predominantly along School House Lane and Henry Avenue. Founded in 1884, it was previously known as The Philadelphia College of Textiles & Science (1961–1999) and then as Philadelphia University until it merged with Jefferson. The school has 3,100 part and full-time students, the university offers more than 50 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.
  • East Falls became the main campus of Drexel University College of Medicine since it took over MCP-Hahnemann University School of Medicine in 2003. It is the consolidation of two medical schools, each with over one hundred and fifty years of history, Hahnemann Medical College, founded in 1848, and Woman's Medical College, founded in 1850 and later the Medical College of Pennsylvania.

Primary and secondary schools

Public schools

The School District of Philadelphia operates public schools.

  • The Mifflin School, a K–8 grade school, is currently undergoing an $8 million refurbishment project, and is also part of the Bright Futures project.

Private schools

  • The William Penn Charter School, a private day school was granted its charter to operate by William Penn in 1689. It has called its forty four acre East Falls campus home since 1925.
  • St. Bridget's Elementary School, operating since the 1880s, was closed by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 2012. St. Bridget's Roman Catholic Church, founded in 1853, remains open.

Public libraries

Phila FLP FallsSchuylkill01
Falls of Schuylkill Branch

The Falls of Schuylkill Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia located at Midvale Avenue and Warden Drive serves East Falls.

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