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Northern Liberties, Philadelphia

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Title: Northern Liberties, Philadelphia  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, Cathedral Park, Philadelphia, Grays Ferry, Philadelphia, Rhawnhurst, Philadelphia, Lower Moyamensing, Philadelphia
Collection: Federal Architecture in Pennsylvania, Historic Districts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Houses Completed in 1791, Houses in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Houses on the National Register of Historic Places in Pennsylvania, Irish-American Neighborhoods, Italianate Architecture in Pennsylvania, Municipalities in Philadelphia County Prior to the Act of Consolidation, 1854, National Register of Historic Places in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Neighborhoods in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Northern Liberties, Philadelphia, Populated Places Established in 1771
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Northern Liberties, Philadelphia

Northern Liberties District
Former District
Country United States
State Pennsylvania
County Philadelphia
Timezone EST (UTC-5)
 - summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
Area code 215
Map of Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania highlighting Northern Liberties District prior to the Act of Consolidation, 1854
Location of Kensington District in Pennsylvania
Location of Pennsylvania in the United States
Northern Liberties Historic District
Houses on North 5th Street
Location Roughly bounded by Brown, Boone & Galloway, Green & Wallace, and Fifth & Sixth Sts.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Area 20.5 acres (8.3 ha)
Built 1791
Architect Unknown
Architectural style Greek Revival, Italianate, Federal
Governing body Private
NRHP Reference # 85003471[1]
Added to NRHP October 31, 1985

Northern Liberties is a neighborhood in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States.


  • Boundaries 1
  • History 2
  • Today 3
  • Economy 4
  • Education 5
    • Primary and Secondary Schools 5.1
    • Public libraries 5.2
  • Religious Life 6
    • Churches and Houses of Worship 6.1
  • See also 7
  • External links 8
  • References 9


Northern Liberties is located north of Center City (specifically, Old City) and is bordered by Girard Avenue to the north; Callowhill Street to the south; North 6th Street to the west; and the Delaware River to the east (from Callowhill Street to Laurel Street; from Laurel Street to Girard Avenue the eastern boundary is North Front Street). The historical boundaries were slightly different, with Vine Street as the southern border and the Cohocksink Creek serving as the northern border. The creek now flows as a storm sewer under the following streets (starting at the Delaware River and running from southeast to northwest): Canal, Laurel, Bodine, Cambridge, and Orkney Streets.


Originally a portion of the Northern Liberties Township, the district first gained limited autonomy from the township by an Act of Assembly on March 9, 1771. The Act provided for the appointment of persons to regulate streets, direction of buildings, etc. By March 30, 1791 a second Act enabled the inhabitants of that portion of the Northern Liberties between Vine Street and Pegg’s Run (Cohoquinoque Creek) and the middle of Fourth Street and the Delaware River to elect three commissioners to lay taxes for the purpose of lighting, watching and establishing pumps within those bounds.

During the Yellow Fever epidemics of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the Northern Liberties district was hard hit, with many fatalities.[2]

On March 28, 1803, the Legislature passed an act to incorporate that part of the township of the Northern Liberties lying between the west side of Sixth Street and the Delaware River and between Vine Street and Cohocksink Creek, thus creating the District of Northern Liberties. Under the Act of Consolidation, 1854, the district ceased to exist, and became a part of Philadelphia.

Early in its history, the location just outside Philadelphia allowed the area to thrive in manufacturing, as mills, breweries, leather tanneries, paints and chemical works, tool making factories, and iron and stove foundries once lined the neighborhood. It also holds the status as a famous red-light district in the United States. Prior to annexation, the township was created as a less densely populated alternative to nearby Philadelphia. Because of this, it was later known colloquially as "Philadelphia's first suburb." However, the Southwark neighborhood claims this distinction as well.

Artisan immigrants from Germany settled in the Northern Liberties in great numbers in the 19th century. In the first decades of the 20th century, the area saw an influx of immigrants from Eastern Europe. Numbers of Slovak and Romanians left the challenges they faced in the waning years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Slovaks established St. Agnes Slovak Roman Catholic Church at the intersection of Fourth and Brown Street. The Romanians who settled in the area established Holy Trinity Romanian Orthodox Church at the intersection of American and Brown Streets, where they and their descendants continue to worship.

From 1860 to 1987, the Christian Schmidt Brewing Company was located in Northern Liberties.

In 1985, the Northern Liberties Historic District was created, dedicated to preserving the Italianate architecture, Greek revival, and Federal style buildings which characterizes the area. The historic district is bounded by Brown, Boone and Galloway, Green and Wallace, and Fifth and Sixth Streets. The district encompasses 209 contributing buildings.[3] It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.[1] Also located in Northern Liberties and listed on the National Register of Historic Places are the Daniel Boone School, Burk Brothers and Company, Integrity Title Insurance, Trust and Safe Deposit Company, Thomas Jefferson School, Mifflin School, and St. John's Church.


In recent years, Northern Liberties has become a major enclave of young professionals, students, artists, and design professionals. Large improvement and revitalization projects have also been undertaken recently, causing a large jump in property values. The neighborhood's proximity to Center City has made it one of the city's most desirable development districts, both for commercial and residential real estate. Like most Philadelphia neighborhoods, the housing stock is primarily made up of rowhouses, although new development in recent times has brought apartment and condominium complexes.

Northern Liberties contains two privately owned but public parks, both established and owned by non-profits run by the neighbors. Orianna Hill Park is known as an off-leash area for dogs; the other, Liberty Lands, is a 2-acre (8,100 m2) park and playground.

Northern Liberties is served by SEPTA's Market–Frankford El with stops at Spring Garden and Girard. The station at Spring Garden is unique for being in the median of I-95. The elevated line's tracks then break away from the expressway's right-of-way to tower over Front Street through the neighborhood as it heads north away from Center City.

In 2005, service resumed on SEPTA's long-delayed Girard Avenue trolley at the northern boundary of the neighborhood.

The doughboy statue, erected in memory of ward residents who served in World War I, is a long-honored landmark of Northern Liberties.[4]


The area is home to numerous boutique stores and small bars and restaurants.

A Superfresh supermarket opened in August, 2011 on 2nd Street between Girard and Germantown Avenues, near a large mixed use development called The Piazza at Schmidts.

Yards Brewing Company is located in Northern Liberties.[5] The SEER Interactive headquarters are also located in the neighborhood.[6]


The Daniel Boone School at Hancock and Wildey

Primary and Secondary Schools

Northern Liberties residents are assigned to schools in the School District of Philadelphia.

Residents south of Poplar Street are zoned to the General Philip Kearny School for grades Kindergarten through 8.

Residents north of Poplar Street are zoned to James R. Ludlow School for grades Kindergarten through 8[7] and Kensington High School for grades 9 through 12.[8]

Other schools in Northern Liberties consist of:

Laboratory Charter School - Walter D. Palmer Leadership Academy - Bodine High School of International Affairs

Public libraries

Residents are served by the Ramonita de Rodriguez Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia, which is located at 600 West Girard Avenue. The branch was known as the Girard Avenue Branch prior to the 1977 rename.[9]

Religious Life

Churches and Houses of Worship

See also

External links

  • - Created in 2001 - Home of the Northern Liberties Message Board, a bulletin board open to all.
  • Northern Liberties Neighbors Association (NLNA)
  • Friends of Orianna Hill Park
  • Chronology of the Political Subdivisions of the County of Philadelphia, 1683-1854
  • Information courtesy of
  • Incorporated District, Boroughs, and Townships in the County of Philadelphia, 1854 By Rudolph J. Walther - excerpted from the book at the website
  • Historic Photographs of Northern Liberties,
  • Northern Liberties: The Story of a Philadelphia River Ward (2012), by Harry Kyriakodis, published by the History Press.


  1. ^ a b "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places.  
  2. ^ R. La Roche, Yellow Fever, Considered in its Historical, Pathological, Etiological, and Therapeutical Relations, Philadelphia, 1855, 525.
  3. ^ "National Historic Landmarks & National Register of Historic Places in Pennsylvania" (Searchable database). CRGIS: Cultural Resources Geographic Information System.  Note: This includes George E. Thomas (July 1985). "National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form: Northern Liberties Historic District" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-06-16. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Contact". Yards Brewing Company. Retrieved March 14, 2010. 901 N. Delaware Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19123 
  6. ^ "Contact Us". SEER Interactive. Retrieved September 28, 2013. 1028 N. 3rd Street Philadelphia, PA 19123 United States 
  7. ^ "K-8 Public Schools Boundary Map." Center City Schools. Retrieved on November 7, 2008.
  8. ^ "Where the Graduates Go." James R. Ludlow School. Retrieved on November 7, 2008.
  9. ^ "Ramonita de Rodriguez Branch." Free Library of Philadelphia. Retrieved on November 7, 2008.
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