Southwark - Three Centuries of History

Once just outside the Philadelphia city limits, Southwark, or Weccacoe, is one of the oldest parts of the city, being situated along the Delaware River below South Street. Originally a suburban district, Southwark was annexed by Philadelphia in the early 1850's. In recent years it has come to be known as Queen Village or, more broadly, South Philadelphia. In October 1961, Margaret Tinkcom documented her thoughts on the area in an essay titled South Front Street. She reported that many homes in Queen Village dated to the earliest humble beginnings of the city and were part of the important story of those who had passed through the area over the centuries.

Though much of the landscape there has changed today with the introduction of Interstate 95, an examination of the people and built environment along one of the neighborhood's historic streets can give a sense of life in Southwark and its role in the history of Philadelphia. Almond Street, whose name was changed to Kenilworth Street by the turn of the 20th century, was typical of the streets in Southwark. It ran east to west for two blocks between the Delaware River and 2nd Street and was situated just two blocks below South Street.

Image reproduced from Philadelphia and its Environs (Philadelphia, P.G. Varle, 1796) 1926 reproduction by the Colonial Trust Company, Philadelphia.

The one block stretch that remains of Kenilworth today is situated between Front and 2nd Streets and is one of the earliest streets in Philadelphia. According to Margaret Tinkcom, more than a dozen of its homes date prior to 1765. The restored façades below show Kenilworth street today.

Photo by author.

NOTE: Material presented here was prepared by C Rossetti as part of graduate courses in Historic Preservation (HSPV 600 - Documentation) and City Planning (CPLN 667 - Applications in GIS) at the University of Pennsylvania. All materials and images are intended for educational use only.