Introduction

Kensington is a neighborhood in the Lower Northeast area of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In researching the Kensington area, our group  was confronted with a neighborhood whose boundaries have been contested from generation to generation, street corner to street corner, and newbie to native. It provided a rich glimpse into a historic part of Philadelphia that has not only evolved but has differentiated within its own borders.

One thing about Kensington that never goes disputed is that it was once a vibrant, bustling industrial center of Philadelphia. The factories and mills were known for their textiles. This is the vein in which Kensington established itself against the backdrop of the city. But it was a reputation that would eventually be diminished as deindustrialization in Philadelphia led to significant population loss, high unemployment rates, rapid economic decline, and neighborhood and housing abandonment. Recent decades, and very recent initatives, have heralded the revitalization of various areas within Kensington. But it has not been a Cinderella story for the whole of Kensington, as some areas have been left behind to deal with the prolonged poverty, declining housing market, lack of development, and absence of impactful initiatives.

In essence, there has been a divide between the smaller communities known as New Kensington and East Kensington and the adjoining Fishtown and Olde Richmond. In establishing our parameters for study, we approached the neighborhood with a somewhat flexible ruler. Where appropriate, we compared the two areas by their postal codes: 19125 serving Fishtown and Olde Richmond; 19134 serving New Kensington and East Kensington. We considered street borders as defined by various sources, including organization and agencies serving the neighborhood. With that in mind, we defined each of the smaller areas by the following boundaries and census tracts:

– New Kensington (census tracts 178, 179, 187, 188): bordered to the east by Castor Avenue, to the north by Kensington Avenue, to the west by Lehigh Avenue, and to the south by Aramingo Avenue.

– East Kensington (census tract 161): bordered to the east by Lehigh Avenue, to the north by Kensington Avenue, to the west by Front Street, and to the south by Trenton Avenue.

– Olde Richmond (census tract 159, 160): bordered to the east by Lehigh Avenue, to the north by Trenton Avenue, and to the west by York Street

– Fishtown (census tracts 143, 158): bordered to the east by York Street, to the north by Trenton Avenue, and to the west by Front Street.

For the purposes of this study, we did not include the area known as Port Richmond, which lies between Lehigh Avenue and Castor Avenue to the south of Aramingo Avenue.

When necessary, we were sure to distinguish the parameter that we were using for the data and/or conclusions that were presented.

Our findings largely centered on the fact that New Kensington/East Kensington and Fishtown/Olde Richmond differ greatly. The latter is predominantly middle class neighborhood with little racial diversity and low crime rates. The Kensington proper neighborhoods are in stark contrast with high levels of poverty, a greater racial diversity, and higher levels of crime. The neighborhood of Kensington is, in fact, a neighborhood divided: a neighborhood stagnant with urban poverty and the social ills it entails yet showing promise with a steady middle class and neighborhood reinvestment. The key issue lies in the fact that they refuse to claim the same home.


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