Brewerytown is a neighborhood in the northwest corner of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania running approximately between the Schuylkill River’s eastern bank and 25th Street, bounded by Cecil B. Moore Avenue to the north and Parrish Street to the south. Brewerytown got its name because of the numerous breweries that were located along the Schuylkill during the late 19th century and early 20th century. It is now primarily a residential neighborhood, with an active commercial sector along Girard Avenue.
The earliest indications of this legacy can be seen on maps from the 1860s, which list several minor brewers and distillation facilities in this region. Proximity to the river and nearby farmland allowed these establishments to flourish, and as demands increased, so did development in Brewerytown. Much of the expansion into the early 20th century was handled by architect Otto Wolf, who oversaw the construction of over 60 buildings in the area, bringing a distinct German texture to the houses, saloons and breweries of the area.
At its peak, 700 breweries operated across Philadelphia, several in a ten-block area of Brewerytown. Unfortunately, with the collapse of local industry later in the 20th century, beginning with the implementation of Prohibition in the United States and beer production moving primarily to the Midwest, every single brewer had vanished by 1987. The industry has slowly returned to the city, but at nowhere near the capacity of its heyday. In 1991, the Brewerytown Historic District was certified by the National Register of Historic Places.
The tall eastern banks of the Schuylkill River give Kelly Drive its curves and contours, picturesquely forming Fairmount Park in the process. A hundred fifty years ago, they also provided a cool cover for the caves and cellars created for the brewing industry forming on the land just east of the river.
The Brewerytown section of Philadelphia takes its name from an industry that, at its peak, saw more than 700 breweries across the city, 20 within just a ten block radius here. Though the brewers are long gone, the German influenced architecture that they contributed still dots the area, from City Park Brewery (now The Brewery condos) to F. A. Poth Brewing Company (most recently Red Bell’s brewery). In 1991, the Brewerytown Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
The Philadelphia Athletics called Brewerytown their home in the early 20th Century, playing their American League baseball games at Columbia Park (at modern day 31st Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue) before moving to Shibe Park and then on to Kansas City and Oakland. The A’s shared the ballpark with the Negro League’s Philadelphia Giants.
Malcolm X lived briefly in Brewerytown in 1954; he’s honored in a mural with Ella Baker, Martin Luther King, and Frederick Douglass at the Veterans Memorial Park and Dream Garden on Girard Avenue at 31st Street. Legendary graffiti artist Cornbread got his start in Brewerytown in the ’60s and still lives nearby.
The neighborhood’s rich heritage coexists with a growing renaissance which has seen the addition of several small businesses and a surge in population, blurring the boundaries with the neighboring Fairmount and Francisville neighborhoods.
Businesses such as Music Box Records, Nagelberg Hardware, Girard Vet Clinic, Best In Show pet grooming, and the Bottom Dollar supermarket provide the neighborhood a crucial component of convenience. Restaurants including Butter’s Soul Food, Shifty’s Taco, Rybrew, Italian Express, and Era bring Brewerytown a local flavor. Organizations like Give and Go Athletics and Marathon Grill’s Urban Farm keep the community active and invested. And with Fairmount Park’s Lemon Hill and Kelly Drive, the Philadelphia Zoo, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Girard College all within a short walk, Brewerytown’s outlook remains poised for continued growth.