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Philadelphia'a North and Northeast Neighborhoods

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The zones described so far comprise less than a quarter of the 130 square miles of contemporary Philadelphia. A very nearly as complete a history could be constructed of the regions and buildings left out of this volume. The vast tract of industrial neighborhoods toward the Delaware River can be toured swiftly by two modern automobile roads, Roosevelt Boulevard (1903–1914) and the modern superhighway I-95 (1962–1985), which together denote the rising impact of the automobile in shaping the twentieth-century city. Roosevelt Boulevard (U.S. 1) was part of the early-twentieth-century transformation of the city by the Regional Planning Association that laid out a complex system of parkways and boulevards that were to span the city, some for recreational driving and some for moving the first automobile commuters. Though most of the new roads were not constructed, portions were built in every corner of the city: Cobb's Creek Parkway in the southwest, Henry Avenue in the northwest, and Pennypack Parkway as well as Roosevelt Boulevard in the northeast. Each of these highways became the focus of new housing and institutions, serving areas that had been missed by the networks of rails and trolleys, most of which had been aimed at the historic downtown.

Roosevelt Boulevard does a complex pirouette with the urban fabric by slicing through with high-speed center lanes, often ducking under cross streets on underpasses, while its side lanes connect to the urban fabric. It remains an important part of the region's commuter traffic system. Unlike that largely grade-level boulevard, I-95 flies over the urban fabric for most of its route, providing an unflattering view of urban rooftops but permitting a surprisingly clear high-speed analysis of the urban structure. Heading north, the interstate passes a district of warehouses and the port before quickly giving way to the small brick foundries and factories that mark the industrial villages of Kensington and Frankford. The spires of large Catholic churches and smaller brick warehouselike Methodist, Baptist, and Lutheran churches depict the mixture of religious and ethnic groups that characterized industrial Philadelphia in its heyday. Nevertheless, there are important architectural clusters that warrant visiting.

Writing Credits

George E. Thomas

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