Philadelphia’s storied neighborhood of Society Hill has proven to be the perfect place for urban-renewal research by Francesca Russello Ammon.
In the 1950s, many of the properties in that neighborhood of Philly’s Center City had fallen into disrepair. A few shops filled the first floors of buildings—barbers, five-and-dimes, ice cream, candy, laundromats—with rooms for rent above.
The city’s 1958-1961 redevelopment plans emphasized preservation in its effort to transform the neighborhood, known for centuries-old red-brick row houses and historic landmarks.
A newly launched website based on Ammon’s research, “Preserving Society Hill,” tells the stories of more than 1,500 of those properties through an interactive map that combines architectural details, photographs, and oral histories for each site.
“We are trying to preserve the history of Society Hill, while also studying the neighborhood’s history of preservation,” says Ammon, an assistant professor of city and regional planning at PennDesign, who also teaches in the Graduate Program in Historic Preservation.
Ammon will present her research publicly at the September meeting of the Society Hill Civic Association, which in July gave the City Planning Commission its new master plan proposal for the neighborhood, defined during urban renewal as bordered by Walnut, Lombard, Front, and 8th streets.