The Curbed Cup, our annual award to the Philadelphia neighborhood of the year, kicks off with 16 'hoods vying for the prestigious fake trophy. This week we'll have two matchups per day, and all the results and the full tourney bracket will be reviewed on Friday. Polls for each pairing stay open for 24 hours. Let the eliminations commence!
Pennsport may be a sentimental favorite today. This morning there was a fire at Second and Wharton, at the garage where the Fralinger String Band was keeping its props, scenery and all other necessities for the Mummers Parade. So far, the news is that most of what they've been working on so hard was lost. The reaction from members (we'll still march) and neighbors (we'll do anything to help) tells a lot of what you need to know about this neighborhood: It's tight-knit and fiercely dedicated to Philadelphia traditions—above all, the Mummers, and more recently, donuts and chicken. Unpretentious both in residents and architecture, the neighborhood—generally agreed to be bounded by Fourth Street to the Delaware, Snyder to Washington—was the boyhood home of Rob McIEhenney, the creator of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Enough said.
In the other corner we have the leafy, Victorian-home-studded frat swath that is University City, so called because of the six schools within its boundaries (the river to 50th, Spring Garden to Woodland). Here and there, you still see stickers that say "University City is a marketing scheme," but the concept is pretty well accepted. The liveliness of this West Philly area is due to in large part to the work of the University City District—whose board is composed of university, small-business and neighborhood representatives—which is relentlessly busy with improvements and activities. If they're not cleaning, they're greening. If they're not greening, they're putting pianos all over the place. The mini-neighborhoods within University City—Cedar Park and Spruce Hill, among others—tend to be diverse in age and race, while the streets closer to schools are predictably student-heavy. Either way, there's plenty of retail and good eats to walk to.