Fishtown is a neighborhood in the River Wards section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Located northeast of Center City Philadelphia, PA, its borders are somewhat disputed today due to many factors. Still, they are roughly defined by the triangle created by the Delaware River, Frankford Avenue, and York Street. Some newer residents expand the area to Lehigh Avenue, while some older residents shrink the area to Norris Street. It is served by the Market–Frankford Line rapid transit subway/elevated line of the SEPTA system. Fishtown is a largely working-class Irish Catholic neighborhood, but it has recently seen a large influx of young urban professionals and gentrification.
The name Fishtown derives from one of the original occupations of its residents. Early settlers were fishermen; over time, they controlled the fishing rights to both sides of the Delaware River, from Cape May to the falls in Trenton, NJ. The apocryphal local legend traces the name of Fishtown to Charles Dickens, who purportedly visited the neighborhood in March 1842. Still, records show this to be false, as it was named Fishtown before his visit, at least as early as 1808, as evidenced in a newspaper article in The Tickler, an early 19th Century Philadelphia newspaper.
The area was originally inhabited by members of the Turtle Clan of the Lenape Indian tribe (whom the Europeans named the Delaware Indian Tribe). The first European settlers were six Swedish farming families, later replaced by the British landed gentry, then British shipbuilders, and German fishermen. Fishtown was originally a tiny section of the town of Old Kensington, close to the Delaware River and just a few blocks long, roughly from Palmer Street north to Gunnar’s Run, from the Delaware River to Moyer Street. The original town of Kensington was only 191.5 acres of land and was originally called the Fairman Estate. Today’s Penn Treaty Park sits where the Fairman Mansion once stood (actually, Fairman Mansion sat in the middle of Beach Street, curb to curb, right north of Columbia Avenue). Bed Bug Exterminator Philly
Captain Anthony Palmer, an Englishman from Barbados, founded Kensington. Using proceeds from the sale of the Hope Farm estate (present-day Port Richmond), which included three enslaved people named Abraham, Hannibal, and Phillis, Palmer purchased the Fairman Estate in 1729 and laid out his town and sold parcels to the local fishermen and shipbuilders. Anthony Palmer eventually became active in the provincial council and became acting Governor of Pennsylvania in 1747–1748. Palmer died in 1749 and was buried in Christ Church Cemetery in Philadelphia.
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