C. Commerce


From its earliest decades, smaller-scale businesses were remarkably well distributed through the area. The presence of elite residents and consumers created economic opportunities for much of the population immediately to their south, while others provided goods and services for wider markets or for these working communities themselves. Taverns, livery stables, groceries, stores, bakeries, workshops, and factories were a pervasive part of the fabric of the neighborhood, absent only from the elite residential streetscapes during their early heyday. But that day was relatively brief for streets like Chestnut and to a lesser degree Walnut, which were almost completely transformed from elite residential to commercial and recreational use during the third quarter of the 19th century, with vividly styled new storefronts and facades, often of stone, replacing the understated faces of old townhouses and mansions.

Three of the neighborhood's edges soon took on a special character connected with business. Commercial establishments and activities played a central role in the development of Market Street from early in the 19th century. High Street was not renamed Market Street without cause; early on it was the city's literal market place, and later it became synonymous with department stores like Wanamaker's, Snellenburg's, Strawbridge's, and Lit Brothers. Broad Street, less the thoroughfare from hinterland to port, would blossom later, retaining more of an institutional and recreational
character from its earliest years.

In the 1880s, the city's legal and financial centers of gravity shifted toward Broad, and for the next four decades early skyscrapers, built with steel skeletons, repopulated Broad Street with buildings of ten, twenty, and even thirty stories, mostly for offces near City Hall or for luxury hotels to the south. And on the southern boundary of the neighborhood, South Street became a spine of intense streetside commercial and recreational activity for a wide range of social groups, with Eastern European, Italian, African American, and Asian merchants all competing for the smallest bits of frontage.

Section C: [exhibition]
LAst Revision. 30/10/00 eb.