Bound by the greens of Lemon Hill, the sprawling walls of Girard College and the parthenon-inspired Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia’s historic Fairmount neighborhood is full of character. Stretching from Fairmount Avenue up to Parrish Street, the tight-knit community is a healthy mix of locals and transplants, families and free agents, all enjoying what feels like an oasis in the urban sprawl, a neighborhood where old and new seamlessly blend together to create a timeless charm that never goes out of style.
Perched on a hill overlooking Center City and the Schuylkill River, the brick-built neighborhood was the site where William Penn envisioned putting his homestead (hence the name), settlements in the area date back to the seventeenth century. As Philadelphia grew inland from the Delaware River, Fairmount became a popular spot for laborers and workers, especially those working in the thriving lumber yards and breweries in the early 20th century. Largely an Irish and Polish working class neighborhood, Fairmount offered an oasis from the bustle of industrial city life while serving as a bedroom community with close proximity to both work and play.
As the blue-collar industry and identity declined in the later part of the twentieth century, Fairmount, like much of Lower North Philadelphia, faced a crisis. Blighted areas and the exodus of families to suburban communities left the once-bustling neighborhood more vacant than ever. It was only with the help of city and state initiatives that Fairmount saw revitalization efforts in the late 1980s. Today, these efforts have paid off more than anyone thought possible.
Walking down Fairmount Avenue today, it is easy to get lost in the sights and smells of the neighborhood. Home to many homegrown restaurants serving cuisines from all over the world, Fairmount has turned into one of the main hubs for restaurants in the city. Try the wonderful Mexican food at La Calaca Feliz, dip into Zorba’s for authentic homespun Greek food, or dig into some American barbecue at Jack’s Firehouse, right across the street from Eastern State Penitentiary.
The towering stone walls give the neighborhood its iconic landmark; just down the street lies a strip of bars that could only be considered a beer lover’s dream. Grab a drink at Bar Hygge, try the endless stream of imports and domestics between The Bishop’s Collar and the newly established Fairview, and if it’s a Sunday, Urban Saloon is the place to be to watch the Eagles.
Food and drink aside, Fairmount has a rich cultural history. Dip down below Fairmount Avenue and you’ll come face to face with the Philadelphia Museum of Art; walk up a little further and you’ll find the Barnes Foundation, the Rodin Museum, home to unrivaled collections of their respective namesakes. And if you’re ready for something more, it’s just a quick jaunt down the Parkway to find the rest of the city, ready to be explored.