Philadelphia Neighborhoods: Take a Look at Society Hill

Every Philly neighborhood is slightly different from the next, in terms of housing and things to do. Society Hill is one of the older neighborhoods in the city. Today, it’s home to historic houses, plenty of restaurants, and historical things to do.

Philadelphia might be one large city, but it’s also made up of hundreds of smaller neighborhoods. Each area of the city has its own personality and feel, as well as its own history. Society Hill, which stretches from Walnut Street to Lombard Street and from Seventh Street to Front Street in Center City, is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Philly.

Although people tend to think the area got its name from the wealthy, “high society” people who lived there, the name actually comes from the Free Society of Traders. Back in 1683, William Penn gave the Free Society the land, allowing them easy access to the Delaware River waterfront. After a period of decline in the 1800s and early 1900s, the neighborhood saw new development in the 1950s. Today, it’s an in-demand, centrally located area of Philly.

Housing

Slightly more than 6,200 people live in Society Hill, according to statistics from the Center City District. Many people who live in the area own their home, and just 38 percent of residents rent.

Homes and apartments in Society Hill are a mix of historic buildings, notably rowhomes in the Federal style, and more modern construction. Society Hill Towers, a trio of high-rise apartment buildings designed by the architect I.M. Pei in the middle of the twentieth century, rise above the neighborhood on a hill along 2nd Street. The towers were built in the 1950s and 1960s as part of an attempt to redevelop and revitalize the area. The revitalization worked, as today the neighborhood is one of the most expensive in the city, with the average condo selling for $933,561.

Head House Square

Along with the Society Hill Towers, one of the focal points of the neighborhood is the market building and shambles of Head House Square. Located on 2nd Street just north of Lombard Street, Head House Square is home to a farmers’ market in the spring, summer, and fall and also hosts a number of craft fairs, movie nights, and several festivals throughout the year.

Restaurants

Society Hill has a bustling restaurant scene, like much of the rest of Philly. It’s home to Zahav, which serves Israeli cuisine under the direction of Michael Solomonov, who received the 2011 James Beard Award for “Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic.” The restaurant is highly regarded for its mezze plates and for its hummus.

The block along Head House Square is lined with several notable restaurants, as well. It is home to Pizzeria Stella, which is owned by restaurateur Stephen Starr and to Xochitl, a small, upscale Mexican restaurant.

Parks

Washington Square, one of the five public parks designed by William Penn, is located in the northwest corner of Society Hill. Highlights of the park include the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and a fountain in the middle of it.

Society Hill also has a newer park, built along the waterfront. Open only during the summer, Spruce Harbor Park attracts people from across the city and surrounding areas. Highlights of the park include a selection of oversized games, hammocks, and a beer garden.

You don’t have to live in Society Hill to enjoy all that it has to offer. Whether you’re looking for a new area of Philly to call home or simply want to visit, it’s worth taking the time to check out Society Hill.


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