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Northeast Philadelphia
Penn Treaty Park in Fishtown.
Map of Philadelphia County with Northeast highlighted, which contains the Near Northeast neighborhood. Click for larger image.
Map of Philadelphia County with Northeast highlighted, which contains the Near Northeast neighborhood. Click for larger image.
Country  United States of America
State  Pennsylvania
County Philadelphia
City Philadelphia
 • Total 50.8 sq mi (132 km2)
 • Total 528,810
 • Density 10,455/sq mi (4,037/km2)
ZIP code
19111, 19124, 19135, 19149, 19152, 19114, 19115, 19116, 19136, 19154

Northeast Philadelphia, nicknamed Northeast Philly, the Northeast and the Great Northeast, is a section of the City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. According to the 2000 Census, the Northeast has a sizable percentage of the city's 1.547 million people—a population of between 300,000 and 450,000, depending on how the area is defined. Beginning in the 1980s, many of the Northeast's middle class children graduated from college and settled in suburbs, especially nearby Bucks County. The Northeast is home to a large working class Irish American population, but is also home to Polish, German, Jewish, Italian, and Russian neighborhoods. However, the section has recently had an influx of immigrants, along with young urban professionals and gentrification, especially in the Fishtown, Kensington, and Port Richmond area.


Due to the size of the Northeast, the Philadelphia City Planning Commission divides it into two regions called "Near Northeast" and "Far Northeast", the names being derived from their distance from Center City. The term "Near Northeast" is not used colloquially ("Lower Northeast" is more commonly used), but the term "Far Northeast" is in widespread use. The demarcation line between the two sections is typically given as Cottman Avenue.

Northeast Philadelphia is bounded by the Delaware River on the east, Bucks County on the north, and Montgomery County on the west. The southern limit is given as Frankford/Tacony Creek or Adams Avenue.

The neighborhoods that make up Northeast Philadelphia include Crescentville, Lawndale, Rhawnhurst, Tacony, Frankford, Holme Circle, Holmesburg, Upper Holmesburg, Mayfair, Morrell Park, Oxford Circle, Bustleton, Torresdale, Parkwood, Somerton, Fox Chase, Juniata, Kensington, Pine Valley, Castor Gardens, Northwood, Burholme, Bell's Corner, Normandy, Summerdale, Modena Park, Pennypack Woods, Winchester Park, and others.


The Northeast in 1900, showing the region still to be a collection of towns and farms. Click for larger image.

Early European settlement

The first European settlement in the Northeast was by Swedish farmers, who emigrated there when the area was a part of the New Sweden colony. They were followed by English Quakers, including Thomas Holme, who came to begin the settlement of William Penn's Pennsylvania colony in the late 1680s. In the years to follow, Northeast Philadelphia developed as a scattering of small towns and farms that were a part of Philadelphia County, but not the City of Philadelphia. Before consolidation with the City, what is now the Northeast consisted of the townships of Byberry, Delaware, Lower Dublin, Moreland, and Oxford, (largely rural areas); and the boroughs of Bridesburg, Frankford, and White Hall, which were more urbanized.

Growth in industry and farming

While most of the land in what is now the Northeast was dedicated to farming, the presence of many creeks, along with proximity to Philadelphia proper, made the towns of the Northeast suitable for industrial development. The Northeast's first factory was the Rowland Shovel Works on the Pennypack Creek. In 1802, it produced the first shovel made in the United States. More mills and factories followed along the Pennypack and Frankford Creeks, and traces of the mill races and dams remain to this day. The most famous of these factories was the Disston Saw Works in Tacony, founded by English industrialist Henry Disston, whose saw blades were world-renowned.

Consolidation and population increase

By 1854, the entire County of Philadelphia was incorporated into the City. In spite of the political incorporation, the Northeast retained its old development patterns for a time, and the dense populations and urban style of housing that marked older, more traditional sections of the city had not yet found their way there. In the first three decades of the 20th century, rapid industrialization led to the growth of industrial sections of the northeast and the neighborhoods surrounding them. These demographic changes, along with the building of the Market-Frankford Line train and new arterial highways, such as the Roosevelt Boulevard, brought new middle class populations to the lower half of the Northeast. Vast tracts of row homes were built in that section of the Northeast for new arrivals in the 1920s and 1930s, typically with small, but valued front lawns, which impart a "garden suburb" quality to much of the Northeast, reducing the sense of physical density felt elsewhere in the city. Much of this development occurred east of Roosevelt Boulevard (Mayfair, Torresdale) and in Oxford Circle.

Post-war growth

Frankford Terminal in 1918, before the construction of the Frankford El.

After World War II, newer arrivals, armed with the mortgage benefits of the GI Bill, brought the baby boom to the Northeast. This newer population was heavily Jewish or ethnic Catholic (including Irish-, Italian-, Polish-, and German-Americans) and completed the development of the region, filling in undeveloped areas of Rhawnhurst and Bell's Corner and developing the previously rural Far Northeast. As older sections of the city lost populations of young families, the Northeast's school-age population swelled, requiring rapid expansion of schools, libraries, cinemas, shopping, transportation, restaurants and other needed amenities.

The period from 1945 through the 1970s was marked in many American cities by urban decline in older, more industrial areas. This was especially true in Philadelphia, in which much of the city's North, West and South sections lost population, factories, jobs and commerce, especially associated with "white flight." During the postwar period, the Northeast experienced a heavy influx of growing middle-class families, and had become an almost exclusively white community. This aroused controversy in the 1960s and '70s, as passions for and against school busing were focused on the Northeast, to address racial imbalances, especially in the city's public schools. That racial imbalance was ultimately addressed by the upward mobility enjoyed by many of the graduates of the Northeast's excellent public and parochial school systems, who made their way out of the Northeast and into the suburbs from the 1980s onward, making room for new arrivals from the city's Latino, African American and Asian populations.

A separate identity

Frankford and Cottman Avenues, a central location in the Northeast

In the 1980s, the Northeast developed along a separate path from much of the rest of the city. In addition to the racial differences mentioned above, the political climate in the Northeast was balanced evenly between Republicans and Democrats, while the rest of the city almost uniformly voted for the latter party. As a result, many Northeasters became more and more discontented with the high city taxes and a perceived imbalance in the services they received for them. This discontent grew to give rise to a secessionist movement, led by State Senator Frank "Hank" Salvatore, among others. Salvatore introduced a bill in the State Senate to allow the Northeast to become a separate county called Liberty County, but the bill failed to progress beyond this stage. As the Philadelphia economy grew stronger, and most discontented people fled to the suburbs, and a new, more popular mayor, Ed Rendell, was elected, the call for secession waned, and the section settled back into life as a part of the city.

Today, the Northeast enjoys greater racial balance and relative stability. The region is uniformly developed, but like many American urban communities, it has witnessed the loss of manufacturing, factory conversions to marginal retail "outlets," and growing vacancies along shopping avenues, especially in the southern part of the region. During the housing boom of the first decade of the 21st century, property tax advantages granted to new construction within the city limits led to a growth in residential units and an escalation of existing home prices in the Northeast.

Certain neighborhoods, such as Fishtown, have experienced an influx of young urban professionals which has led to gentrification, characterized by significant rises in housing prices and the opening of upscale art, entertainment, and dining establishments. An influx of artists and professionals has joined the ranks of police officers, fire fighters, nurses, carpenters, electricians, stonemasons, plumbers, sheet-metal workers, and teamsters.


According to the 2010 census, 432,073 people live in the Northeast section of Philadelphia. (Map)

Racial demographics

  • Non-Hispanic White: 252,022 (58.3%)
  • Non-Hispanic Black: 77,681 (18.0%)
  • Hispanic or Latino of any race: 60,020 (13.9%)
  • Asian: 31,658 (7.3%)
  • Mixed or Other: 10,692 (2.5%)
  • Native American: 7,777 (1.8%)

Irish Americans

See also: History of the Irish Americans in Philadelphia and Philadelphia nativist riots

The Irish have been in the city of Philadelphia since the pre-American Revolution period. The spur of the Irish Famine drew many Irish immigrants to the city, especially in the Kensington area of the Northeast. Kensington, along with Southwark in South Philadelphia, was the home of the Philadelphia nativist riots. The Philadelphia nativist riots were a series of riots that took place between May 6 and 8 and July 6 and 7, 1844 as a result of rising anti-Catholic sentiment at the growing population of Irish Catholic immigrants.

A nativist rally in Kensington erupted in violence on May 6 and started a deadly riot that would result in the destruction of two Catholic churches and numerous other buildings. Approximately one year later, a rumor was circulated that Hugh Clark, a Kensington school director who was Catholic, was visiting a girls school, where he demanded that the principal stop Bible reading in school. The story also claimed that the principal refused and that she would rather lose her job. Clark denied this version of events and claimed that after finding out several students had left a Bible reading to read a different version of the Bible, he commented that if reading the Bible caused this kind of confusion, that it would be better if it were not to be read in school. Protestants claimed that Catholics, with direct influence from the Pope, were trying to remove the Bible from schools.

On May 3, 1844, the American Republican Party (a proto version of the American "Know-Nothing" Party, a Protestant nativist group, and not to be confused with the modern Republican Party) held a meeting in a predominantly Irish part of the Kensington District, then a suburb of Philadelphia. A group of Irish residents attacked the platform where the speakers were standing, and the nativists retreated. This would lead to more violence that would last until July, and the riots would receive national attention and condemnation.

Today, the Irish in Philadelphia make up 14.2% of the city's population, the largest ethnicity in the city. Although there are Irish in almost every area of the city, they still are predominantly located within Northeast Philadelphia, especially in neighborhoods such as Kensington, Fishtown, and Mayfair.

Political representation and government

Unlike the rest of Philadelphia (a solidly Democratic city) there is consistent competition between Republicans and Democrats in some parts of the Northeast. Republicans currently hold one of the State House seats in the Northeast and one non at-large Philadelphia City Council seat. As of 2011, no Republican represents any part of the Northeast in the United States Congress, with the exception of the small portion within the 8th district.

U.S. House of Representatives

Almost all of Northeast Philadelphia is in the 13th Congressional District of Pennsylvania, and is currently represented by Brendan Boyle. Some small parts of the section fall into the 1st, 2nd, or 8th districts.

Pennsylvania legislature


In the Pennsylvania State Senate, most of the Northeast is in the 5th district, represented by John P. Sabatina, Jr., while smaller parts are represented by Shirley Kitchen (the 3rd district), and Tina Tartaglione (the 2nd district) All are Democrats.

House of Representatives

The Northeast is split among several State House districts, including those of Democrats Ed Neilson, Kevin Boyle, Michael Driscoll, Mark Cohen, Jason Dawkins, and Dwight Evans, and Republican Martina White. Republicans John Taylor and Tom Murt also represents part of the Northeast.

Philadelphia City Council

In the Philadelphia City Council, the Far Northeast is represented by the 10th district councilman and Council Minority (Republican) Leader, Brian O'Neill. The Lower Northeast is divided among five other council districts, all represented by Democrats, including the 1st, represented by Mark Squilla, the 5th, represented by Council President Darrell Clarke, the 6th, represented by Bobby Henon, the 7th, represented by Maria Quiñones-Sanchez, and the 9th, represented by Marian Tasco. Republican Denny O'Brien, who represented parts of the Northeast for several decades in the State House, now holds one of the Council's at-large seats.

Mayor of Philadelphia

The Republican candidate for mayor of Philadelphia in 2007, Al Taubenberger, resides in the Northeast.

Economy and attractions

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Friends Hospital, Founded in 1813 by Quakers

Northeast Philadelphia is home to Philadelphia Mills, formerly known as Franklin Mills, a shopping mall that was built on what was once Liberty Bell Park Racetrack, and is one of the most visited attractions in the state. The lower sections of the Northeast still boast pleasant shopping avenues lined by stores and restaurants, such as Castor Avenue. Major shopping centers along Cottman Avenue include, the Cottman-Bustleton Center, and the Roosevelt Mall which opened in 1964 at Cottman Avenue and the Roosevelt Boulevard.

Also present in the Northeast are two nationally recognized medical establishments, Friends Hospital and Fox Chase Cancer Center.

Prior to its disestablishment, Ransome Airlines had its headquarters on the grounds of Northeast Philadelphia Airport.


Pennypack Park in Fox Chase

A prominent geographic feature and recreation destination in Northeast Philadelphia is Pennypack Creek, which runs through Pennypack Park. The park's 1,600 acres (6.5 km2) of woodlands span the width of the Northeast, and serve as a natural oasis amid urban development. The park is home to the oldest stone arch bridge still in use in the United States, built in 1697 on what is now Frankford Avenue. The section is also home to many playgrounds and smaller parks, including Burholme Park.


The Tacony-Palmyra bridge connects the Northeast with New Jersey.

The Northeast's main highways are Interstate 95 (Delaware Expressway). and Roosevelt Boulevard (U.S. 1) Secondary major arteries include Cottman Avenue (PA 73), Frankford Avenue (US 13), Woodhaven Road (PA 63), Grant Avenue, Oxford Avenue (PA-232), State Road, Bustleton Avenue (PA-532), Bridge Street, Harbison Avenue, and Academy Road.

The Tacony-Palmyra Bridge, the only Delaware River crossing in Philadelphia not operated by the Delaware River Port Authority (thus resulting in a cheaper toll), allows one to drive between the Tacony section of the city and Palmyra, New Jersey.

The Northeast is also served by SEPTA's Market-Frankford Line, often called the "Frankford El" or "the El" because portions of the rail line are elevated above streets below, including Frankford and Kensington avenues. The northernmost and easternmost terminus of the line is at the Frankford Transportation Center, Frankford Avenue and Bridge Street. Three commuter rail lines also serve the Northeast. An extension of the Broad Street Line along Roosevelt Boulevard has been proposed. Many SEPTA bus routes and all three of its trackless trolley routes run through the Northeast, although north-south buses run more frequently than west-east ones. Most north-south routes terminate at the Frankford Transportation Center.

One of two airports that serve Philadelphia, Northeast Philadelphia Airport (PNE), is located in this section of the city. PNE is the sixth busiest airport in Pennsylvania.

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