“South Street is an east-west street forming the southern border of the Center City neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the northern border for the neighborhoods of South Philadelphia. The stretch of South Street between Front Street and Seventh Street is known for its “bohemian” atmosphere and its diverse and urban mix of shops, bars, and eateries. It is one of Philadelphia’s largest tourist attractions.
“Named Cedar Street in William Penn‘s plan of Philadelphia, South Street was the traditional southern boundary of Philadelphia’s city limits before the city annexed the townships of Passyunk, Moyamensing and Southwark.
“Until the 1950s, South Street was known mainly as a garment district, with stores for men’s suits and other clothing. Real estate values plummeted after city planner Edmund Bacon and others proposed the Crosstown Expressway, a short limited-access expressway connecting the Schuylkill Expressway and I-95 that would have required the demolition of many buildings on South Street and Bainbridge Street (an east-west street one block south of South Street). The newly cheap property attracted artists and counterculture-types. The proposed expressway was never built.
“In the 1960s and 1970s, South Street was filled with clubs and bars that fostered a live local music community. It was not uncommon for South Philadelphians to “bar-hop” across the clubs, listening to live bands along the way. This community of fans helped attract recording contracts for many artists, including Kenn Kweder, the “bard of South Street”; George Thorogood; and Robert Hazard.
“In the 1980s, South Street became one of the city’s main tourist attractions. Tourists flocked to the nightlife that South Street had accumulated over the years, and the “neighborhood” community aspect was stripped from it. Many of the South Street clubs closed, replaced by chain stores and shops to cater to tourists.
“Today, the name “South Street” is popularly attached to an eight-block stretch of South extending after 8th street (and a few adjacent streets). It remains a popular hangout area for teens, college students, and twentysomethings with its assortment of bars, take out eateries, sex shops, gift shops, and retailers catering to hip hop fashion, punk fashion, and/or urban culture. A few restaurants and independent boutiques targeting a slightly more mature clientele are interpersed with these businesses.”
When I first got to South Street, I had a feeling I had been there before. The youthful, offbeat energy was palpable and I was anxious to explore its nooks and crannies. Each person I passed, I made sure to look closely at his or her face and allow that moment to imprint itself on my brain. With that said, I’m pleased to present two of my favorite captures from my first visit to Philadelphia’s famed South Street in early April. Click on each image below to view the full-sized version of each photo and an accompanying description. Feel free to leave your comments and feedback as well.