Southwark, Philadelphia

Southwark was originally the Southwark District, a colonial-era municipality in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania. Today, it is a neighborhood in the South Philadelphia section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Because of its location south of the early Philadelphia, the name was adopted in allusion to the borough of Southwark in the county of London, England, just south of the city of London.[3]

Southwark District
Corner of 3rd and Queen Streets
Map of Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania highlighting Southwark District prior to the Act of Consolidation, 1854
Coordinates: 39°56′16″N 75°08′52″W
CountryUnited States
Time zoneUTC-5 (EST)
  Summer (DST)UTC-4 (EDT)
Area code(s)215
Southwark District
LocationBounded by Delaware, Washington Aves., 5th, Lombard, Front, and Catherine Sts., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Area720 acres (290 ha)[1]
NRHP reference #72001172[2]
Added to NRHPMay 19, 1972


Historical population

Southwark is one of the oldest English settlements in the County of Philadelphia. It is actually the oldest district founded by settlers in Philadelphia, as a result of its inclusion in the former Swedish colony of New Sweden. Southwark was originally a tract of ground on the fast land of the Neck, lying between Passyunk and Wicaco. Due to the populations of the Swedish settlements of Wicaco and Moyamensing, Southwark grew earlier than other parts of the county apart from the city of Philadelphia.[4]

The General Assembly created the district of Southwark on May 14, 1762, to facilitate cooperation with regards to street-building. Southwark was the location of the shipbuilding complex of Joshua Humphreys, the shipbuilder and naval architect who built the first six ships of the United States Navy and is known as the "Father of the U.S. Navy".[5]

In 1854, when it was incorporated into the city of Philadelphia by the Act of Consolidation, the borough comprised the area bounded on the north by South Street, on the west by Passyunk Avenue from 5th and South to 10th and Reed; the boundary then ran along Reed Street, down 7th, and along Mifflin Street to the river.[1] Today, there are only a few traces of the name "Southwark" in this part of Philadelphia. . These include Southwark restaurant at 4th and Bainbridge, Southwark Paints further south on 4th, Southwark Development Corp., a public-housing project along Washington Avenue from 3rd to 5th, and even "Southwark" painted on a wall as far away as 23rd and Washington. (Southwark Paints no longer exists.)

In 1969, this area of Philadelphia was renamed, and the Northern portion is now commonly known as Queen Village. The neighborhood of Pennsport is the primary southern half of what was Southwark.[6] The area is a diverse community, a multi-racial neighborhood of middle class, working class, and professionals. However, recently, a part of Southwark has been noted as a poor and depressed neighborhood. The intersection of Fifth Street and Carpenter Street was listed number nine in a 2007 list of the city's top ten recreational drug corners, according to an article by Philadelphia Weekly reporter Steve Volk.[7]

The historic district, as defined by the National Register of Historic Places,[8] is bounded by 5th Street on the west, Lombard Street on the north, Washington Avenue on the south, and Front, Catharine, and Queen Streets and Columbus Boulevard (formerly Delaware Avenue) on the east.


Residents are within the School District of Philadelphia.

Residents are zoned to Southwark School (K-8) and South Philadelphia High School.[9][10]

The Vare-Washington School, which occupies the former George Washington School, is in proximity to Southwark.[11] Persons zoned to Vare-Washington are also zoned to Furness High School.[12] and residents of the former Abigail Vare School zone, are also zoned to Furness High School.[13]

See also


  1. "Incorporated District, Boroughs, and Townships in the County of Philadelphia, 1854". Retrieved 2 January 2019.
  2. "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. January 23, 2007.
  3. Espenshade, A. Howry (1925). Pennsylvania Place Names. Harrisburg, PA: The Evangelical Press. p. 33.
  4. Where Pennsylvania History Began (by Henry D. Paxon. The Swedish Colonial Society. 1926)
  5. Proceedings of the Delaware County Historical Society, Volume 1. Chester, Pennsylvania: Delaware County Historical Society. 1902. p. 67. Retrieved 15 April 2018.
  6. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-12-07. Retrieved 2009-11-24.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. Top 10 Drug Corners(by Steve Volk. Philadelphia Weekly. May 2, 2007. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-09-07. Retrieved 2009-01-20.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. "Philadelphia City Code". Philadelphia. Retrieved 7 August 2016.
  9. "Southwark Elementary School Geographic Boundaries Archived 2012-05-07 at the Wayback Machine." School District of Philadelphia. Retrieved on October 4, 2011.
  10. "South Philadelphia High School Geographic Boundaries Archived 2012-03-13 at the Wayback Machine." School District of Philadelphia. Retrieved on October 4, 2011.
  11. Medina, Regina. "Philly union challenges teacher-dump decision." Philadelphia Inquirer. May 24, 2013. Retrieved on November 30, 2015.
  12. "School Finder." School District of Philadelphia. Retrieved on November 30, 2015.
  13. "Horace Furness High School Geographic Boundaries" (Archive). School District of Philadelphia. Retrieved on October 4, 2011.
  • Johnson, Amandus (1927) The Swedes on the Delaware (International Printing Company, Philadelphia)
  • Weslager, C. A. (1988) New Sweden on the Delaware 1638-1655 (The Middle Atlantic Press, Wilmington ) ISBN 0-912608-65-X
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