Last week, Philadelphia’s Historical Commission’s Committee on Historic Designation shared plans to preserve an area of the city known as Black Doctors Row. In the early nineteen-hundreds, the area (located on Christian Street) was home to Black professionals. In recent years, the city has begun demolition to put up condos and other gentrifying buildings.
In 2021, Philadelphia Councilman Kenyatta Johnson proposed a bill that would temporarily pause demolitions for a year. The neighborhood’s original residents include Julian Abele, who lived at 1515 Christian Street, the first Black man to finish from the University of Pennsylvania and receive a degree in architecture. He reportedly designed hundreds of structures which include buildings at Duke University, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Free Library of Philadelphia.
Sources say the moratorium on demolition ends on July 1. The next meeting for the Historical Commission is on July 8. One-hundred-and-fifty-four properties are included in the proposed historic district. If approved, the area will become known as the Christian Street Historic District.
Linda Evans, a current resident and advocate of the neighborhood, spoke with The Inquirer and said, “Christian Street was a bustling African American neighborhood. Blacks met the systemic racism in this city and the country at large by establishing their own community here.”
In last week’s meeting, Patrick Grossi (advocacy director of the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia) recognized the “five-decade period of Black success and Black continuity in South Philadelphia” that was Black Doctors Row. He added, “We think it is a compelling model for how local historic districts can be considered more holistically moving forward.”
For those interested in learing more or possibly joining the fight to preserve history, the South of South Neighbors Association regularly posts updates and resources to their website, including meeting dates and links to virtually participate.