The People's Guide is Curbed Philly's tour of neighborhoods, led by our most loyal readers, favorite bloggers, and other luminaries of our choosing. Have a piece to say? We'll be happy to hand over the megaphone. This time around, we welcome Marco Baker, the photographer behind the Instagram account @genbrewerytown, to tell us everything he knows about Brewerytown.
How long have you lived in Brewerytown?
I just celebrated my one-year anniversary of purchasing a home here. Both of my parents are actually from the neighborhood and grew up around the corner from each other. And my grandmother still lives in the same house that my mother was raised in. She’s lived there for 50 years, so she’s the last long-timer on that block.
Tell us something we don’t know about Brewerytown:
Eleven breweries once operated here, creating an aroma where a newspaper of the day proclaimed, “the air here is like vaporized bread.”
Also, there was a TV show called “American Dreams” set in Philly that centered on a white family and the racial strife of the 1960s. The father had an electronics shop on Girard Avenue in Brewerytown and employed a black man.
Local customs of note:
- Picking up after-church dinner at Butters or Deborah’s Kitchen.
- Block parties with giant speakers, barbecue, and bouncies.
- Parking half-way on the sidewalk on narrow streets like Myrtlewood, Newkirk, and Dover.
- But more recently, gazing somewhat incredulously at newcomers wandering around north of Girard, while speculating on the area’s future.
How do you get around the neighborhood?
It’s definitely a walking neighborhood—that was a big reason I moved there. From my house, I can walk to the art museum in less than 10 minutes. I even walk to the new Whole Foods sometimes.
But Brewerytown has great transit: The 48, 7, 32, all go right downtown, and the 15 connects to the Broad Street subway line. The trolley also takes you over to Fishtown, which is cool that you can go from one cool neighborhood to another.
Most common sight?
Right now, active construction sites and building permits on display juxtaposed against lingering blight. More traditionally, sidewalk planters made from old tires.
Skeptics who lived through the area being down for so many years, that it’s hard to break the psychology. Despite all the change, I think some just don’t believe it will take hold and be permanent, or don’t think it affects them in any positive way.
Good for kids?
I think if you’re up for the challenge of raising kids in the city, Brewerytown is good as any neighborhood. There’s Athletic Square, which is the rec center that has plenty of children programs and a pool. There’s a community partnership school that’s coming to Glenwood and Oxford, right by the Pyramid Electric Supply building. The Vaux High School is set to reopen in the fall, and the Discovery Center is going to open in spring 2018 at 33rd and Oxford.
And then there are plenty of kids from people who have just been there a long time. You’ll often find that people who are related live on the same block: cousins, aunts, uncles, who all grew up together. So it’s very much kind of neighborhood where you form lifetime bonds.
What is a beloved neighborhood joint?
I would definitely say the bar Era. It’s an Ethiopian city dive bar at 28th and Poplar—it’s “Cheers” of Brewerytown if we have one. They have a great Sunday deal: $3 Jameson and $2 beer.
Better for homeowners or renters?
Buyers, definitely. I think that it definitely has more value than, say Fishtown or East Passyunk. So I think you can still get in kind of early, so to speak, because there’s still fair amount of value to be had here.
Inflate the bubble or burst it: What's not-so-swell about your "perfect" neighborhood?
The litter. The corner of 29th and Girard is problematic.
Any hidden gems?
For foodies, Lorenzo’s Famous Rice and Beans at 25th and Thompson. It’s been there forever, and Lorenzo’s always working in the kitchen and taking orders himself. And at 29th and Oxford there’s Diner and Deli, which is a great alternative to Philly Sunnyside Diner, which is usually packed any week day morning.
And then Young’s Candy Shop at 2809 Girard Avenue, which was old candy shop but is closed now. But tile work inside is completely intact, and there are chandeliers. It’s truly amazing and a local artists collective of hipsters hold weekend parties there.
Final word on Brewerytown:
It’s transforming. And whether you believe it’s for better or worse, be prepared, because redevelopment shows no signs of slowing down. Only the opposite.
Because of its location, topography, history, a clearly defined commercial strip with an operational trolley line, and the amount invested here by developers big and small, I think it will shape up to be a more attractive area than Point Breeze, if only trailing Fishtown in terms of a buzzy cool factor.
Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for clarity.