neighborhood

Posted by Ellen

There's a new mural in the neighborhood, bolted high on the wall of a new house at the corner of Fitzwater and Smedley. Looks to be a private project, not part of the city's Mural Arts Program, and it's hard to say if it's intended as permanent street art, since it mostly blocks the windows of the house. But it's something to look at, a portrait of Nelson Mandela looming above a scrim of drippy red and black streaks. The painter signed the mural illegibly; we believe that whoever he or she is, he or she got it right, those dark, worldly, heavy-lidded eyes in a brilliant red face.

Posted by Ellen

As leafy as the trees may be, when the summer sun takes aim at bricks and concrete, the light will find a way.

Posted by Ellen

It's t-ball time at Taney Field in Schuylkill River Park.

Posted by Ellen

Pace, Mother Maybelle.

Posted by Ellen

He loves his dog, which we were told weighs 72 pounds. And he loves to ride his dog down the sidewalk on Rodman Street. You got a problem with that? 

Posted by Ellen

When you get a day in November that's t-shirt warm, it just seems right to get up on the roof. There were drainspouts to clear and trees to trim, debris to sweep up and . . . pictures to take.

Today's rooftop picture features our neighbors Carolyn and Frank; Carolyn works the pole trimmer while Frank hooks a finger in her beltloop to keep her safe.

Looking into the treetops, it became obvious that this year's fall weather has mostly been so mild that the leaves are only just now beginning to behave fallishly. But we trimmed the trees back so far that almost all the remaining leaves will eventually drop on the street or the sidewalk, not on top of the houses.

Posted by Ellen

In hot weather, watering all this must be a serious chore. The greenery actually wraps around the corner from 22nd Street, shown here, onto Pine Street. Some of it is edible; all of it is awesome.

Posted by Ellen

The machine that's demolishing Mt. Olive AME Church in the neighborhood is something you can rent in New Jersey. The jaws at the business end of the thing are heavy-duty grapples; you rent a regular excavating machine on caterpillar treads, remove its digging bucket, and pin on the grapple. The two-tined jaw opens and closes against the stationary three-tined jaw, which is reinforced, as seen here, with a rod called, appropriately enough, a stiff arm.

The cultural and economic forces that are demolishing Mt. Olive AME Church and a whole host of other churches in the neighborhood are something else again. These church buildings, many of them built from stone like this one, have sat here for a hundred years or so, sometimes changing denominations as the nearby population changed. The latest wave of immigrants to the neighborhood doesn't seem very churched at all, and so the old buildings get put on the market. Developers snatch them up and tear them down for a chance to build several new houses at once, in a part of the city that's already densely built. New houses--row houses--sell readily here to people who want to walk to work and/or to stores and restaurants. The new residents evidently are not interested in walking to church.

Soon, the excavator and its grapple will be loaded on a truck to go back to the heavy equipment lot in New Jersey, and we'll see five three-story row houses rise up on this lot, with squared-off bay windows and ten-year tax exemptions.

Posted by Ellen

Where this building now almost stands and in the streets around it, back in the day, the neighborhood kids used to be so bold and bad that the parish priest described them as children who'd steal a chain from right out of the devil's pocket. And so this part of the neighborhood got its name, Devil's Pocket, which was home to poor people, of course, mostly Irish immigrants.

A generation or two later, a bunch of the little old houses in Devil's Pocket were torn down to build a parking garage, apparently intended for employees of the old Graduate Hospital. Most of that hospital is long gone, and now, in the spring of 2012, the wrecking ball has come for the derilict parking garage.

It sounds a little cheeky, but by this time next year, there will be fancy new condos right here in the Devil's Pocket. And the wrecking ball will toll for some other something.