What does that mean exactly? First thing, is to describe what it is not. It is not a trend, it is not a fad. It is not a viral tagline. It is an awakening of motivated, beautiful people living together to make a stronger community today than what existed yesterday. It’s the fruition of our great imagination of what is possible- a neighborhood unified, rich with life, value, compassion and creativity.


Booming means new stores, new homes, and new life. Throwout any notions of an empty slogan. It’s a value placed upon every citizen of Brewerytown to look out for each other when we can. There’s a value placed upon the very streets we walk on, to keep them clean so that children can play in a part of the city that’s not flooded with trash. It’s about the value on the local businesses we support and the lifestyles we create just by virtue of being a tight knit community. Philly might be big and crowded like most East-coast metropolis, but this part of town, is what we claim as our own, and it’s also where we harness the power to transform the way we live in it.


Booming is when we see value in each other, from Millenials, to Baby Boomers. Booming is making good deals, forming good partnerships, creating a new alliance. Booming is raising our children as a village, no, a community. Booming is never going back to any unproductive old ways, old habits, or drift, or neglect. Brewerytown is a reason to have pride when someone asks you, “Is that North Philadelphia?” You bet your suburb, it is!

Look all around you at the many ways Brewerytown is booming. We can also create a great initiative to keep brewerytown booming by focusing on all the things we love about b-town and where we live. This community belongs to us all and we should take great pride in residing here. Many people already know it, but many more are due to find out. hashtag #brewerytownisbooming when you see or are reminded of the many ways our community is growing in a positive direction.

The power to create a community initiative is in our hands, if we should we try and tackle issues as large and perplexing as poverty, growing community gardens, healthy eating, the importance of exercise or the continuing revitalization of our neighborhood, we have the power to do so within us. Brewerytown is booming because we want it to, and we want to see it flourish indefinitely.image





The Rise Of Craft and Micro Brews

imageWhat do you know about craft and micro-brews or what do you think you know?  Chances are that your knowledge is limited.  That’s cool though, no judgment here, but allow me to introduce you to a place and a time where that would not exist.  Boring, bland, innocuous flavors produced by the great three manufacturers are not going to be found in this place, and they are not really the desirable choice to be truthful.  Some people will hold on to the same old relics forever until both they and their precious items disintegrate into the ether from which they came.  Your grandfather might not be able to part with his Old Milwaukee but you and I know that beer has come a long way from its water based, bland appeal to something you can actually enjoy in the first sip.  Behold, the rise in the popularity of craft and microbreweries.  With no offense to Old Milwaukee and your pop-pop.


RyBrew is a place where beer comes in a variety of styles, flavors, and goes through a process to be delivered to your glass as intricate as a fine chef’s preparation of a great meal.  Their sandwiches are also of a great variety and extremely delicious.


Supporting your local brewery is a good move because you’re helping your community with the stuff that ties you all together in the first place.  Seriously, beer is proof that god loves us.  Ben Franklin knows it, and i’m sure he wouldn’t steer you wrong, although I can’t claim to know him personally.  Social problems that could be resolved, are commonly discussed over a beer…or two.  Even as far back as the beginning of the colonization of America, our founding fathers met in bars and other, more strange places.  Clinking pints, discussing the future, the issues of the day and the ideas that would deliver the promise of a Nation of Freedom.


When we identify with specific products that we like to call our own, we also incorporate that product as a part of our identity.  People no longer want to be associated with what is cheap and common.  And if they do, go ahead and help yourself to some more of that Old Milwaukee.  But the future belongs to the bold, and the ones who dare to stand out among the rest.  Our choice in products from the socks that we don and even to the beer we drink, is a reflection of our individuality and strength of character.

Do yourself a favor and find out what good beer actually tastes like if you haven’t already.  The staff at RyBrew are so knowledgeable and could suggest one of their hundreds of selections to fit your individual tastes.  IPAs, Lagers, Wheat beers, and Spices line the racks of the refrigerator galore.  As variety is the spice of life and if “Beer is proof that God loves us”, as told by Benjamin Franklin; it stands to reason that RyBrew is an actual little piece of heaven here on earth.

Are You Forged of Steel?

Strength, power, agility, looking good naked, all of these are the things that most of us desire.  We all want to be the best version of ourselves.  Our culture glorifies athletes for their amazing ability and talents.  We fawn over their physiques, and marvel at their accomplishments.  But if we ever dreamed of making their everyday life even a fragment of our reality, we must first muster the gumption to get off the couch and take action.


You no longer have to dream about finding the right path to physical fitness or athletic ability.  You can work toward your ideals with the right regimen, and the support of encouraging participants and knowledgeable personnel.

SteelWorks Crossfit provides the perfect atmosphere for winning at health and wellness.  During my meeting with Brian Terpak, owner and founder of SteelWorks CrossFit, I was introduced to a bold and comprehensive athletic training philosophy. You’ll have the opportunity to see for yourself when SteelWorks CrossFit moves to Brewerytown in September. Look for them at 2601 Girard Avenue!

Whether you are reconnecting with your fitness goals, just beginning to focus on health and wellness, or an ultra-fit gym pro, SteelWorks CrossFit can help you maximize your potential.CrossFit has the wide appeal providing everyday people the opportunity to get a great workout, and push themselves to the limit in a communal environment.

SteelWorks offers Group fitness Classes, Olympic Weightlifting Instruction,Personal  training, Nutritional Counseling, and Tailored Training programs to accentuate your fitness capabilities.


Brian preaches the gospel of the old school strength and conditioning program, focusing on the exact combination of exercises to maximize your athletic potential.  He can prepare you for that 10k, or help you compete for the title of World’s Strongest Man; if you are willing to put yourself through such hell.


Brian, a former high school teacher, first began teaching CrossFit to kids in his high school cafeteria.  A lifelong athlete, his fascination with physiology and exercise science continues as he constantly learns new methods and techniques to bring the most value to his clients. When Brian starts instructing, you know you are in good hands.  His passion exudes when he expresses himself, and you want to be the student of the passionate teacher.  His certifications are broad and he is constantly learning how to bring the most value to his students.
More than just a gym, Steelworks CrossFit aims to be a supportive center for the community, offering a personal touch that is hard to come by at larger franchise fitness centers.


Brewerytown Living readers can receive a discounted training package  To learn more, call434.770.6675 or email Brian@steelworkscrossfit.com .


Get inspired at 2940 Thompson Street

imageAny artist fully understands the need for space, and the restrictions that come along with not having enough of it.  For instance, without an art studio, it would be kind of hard to reach your dreams of becoming an influential visual artist.  Where are you going to store your paintings, brushes, and all your ambition?  Your parent’s attic may not suffice, the basement is likely too damp, and you’re running out of space in your bedroom.


Residents, and even visitors of Brewerytown, know a great deal when they see one.  2940 Thompson Street has the amenities necessary to aid you in your journey, facilitating the creative process without worry and limitations.


Fear No Ice makes its home on Thompson Street.  Renowned live ice sculpting performance artist, PeterSlavin, has been turning ice into works of art for more than a decade.  Check out some of his work here, at fearnoice.com.   Slavin has garnered national attention, and operates one of several studios out of Brewerytown.  If you’re interested in throwing an amazing party…with ice, contact Fear No Ice for an incredible live display.


Icy Signs also occupies space on Thompson Street, with a portfolio so large it’s likely you’ve already seen their work.  Erected over large buildings, along the el train stops in West Philadelphia, Icy Signs’ large format artwork is visible for all to see—which is what makes itso hot.  Integral to Brewerytown’s creative hub, Icy Sings is the visual force behind many of the signs you see in Brewerytown, and throughout the city. By giving each design an authentic and unique look and feel, the Icy Signs crew is reviving the lost art form of custom signage that sets great cities apart.


The Districts are a rock band that you may not have heard of yet, but just give it time and they’ll be the next Black Keys.  What?  You don’t know the Black Keys?  Shame on you!  Well, even if their genre is not your forte, believe me when I say that they are a solid group of young musicians with a bright future ahead.  And Rolling Stone agrees, describing their EP as, “impressive” and “imaginative.”Judge for yourself http://thedistricts.bandcamp.com and read more of Rolling Stone’s review here, F.http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/the-districts-are-set-to-go-national-ep-premiere-20140123


As these artists have already figured out, Brewerytown’s Thompson Street is the place to be to chase your creative pursuits.

Can art add to your quality of life?

Can art add to your quality of life?  I suppose it matters the quality of the art, and what it means or how it speaks to you.  What it reminds you of, and where it takes you once you’ve been exposed to it.  Was it made in the spirit of love or joy?  Was it thrown together in haste and despair?  This could be the difference between aggressive graffiti, and the lovely murals and visual arts pieces we enjoy in Brewerytown and throughout Philadelphia.  Good art can improve a community’s quality of life as a whole.  When you are looking to have a community with a high quality of life, there need to be high-quality, low-cost, fun things for people to do.  Events as simple as painting a wall, making a mural, are the types of small things that get people active and involved and unifies us as a community. image

Philly is known for a lot of beautiful and awesome things.  Food? We’ve got tons of food, across cultures, all the steak and cheese, soft pretzels, and Italian ices you could ask for.  Our rich history includes but is not limited to the Liberty Bell, which signifies our city as the birthplace of freedom and the US Constitution.  In fact the the entire city is a place of historical reference and happenings, which most people already know.  What we have that often slips under the radar, but also adds to the quality of life in Brewerytown, and beautifies our atmosphere, are murals and visual art pieces.  The walls in our little part of the city are covered in painted artwork often depicting a story, or message, with an array of colors, and textures that appeal to the eye, stimulate the senses and captivate the mind.  And that’s what art is supposed to do, right?  Brewerytown’s rich culture, and history is found in the many murals painted by  artists who lend their talents to organizations like the Mural Arts Program.

imageThere are many different factors which, added together make living in Brewerytown special.  One of which is the budding arts “scene” embraced and cultivated by the young  residents who love B-town so much.  With the influx of creative professionals, and the legacy of residents who have been living in Brewerytown all their lives; the landscape in which we live has become a canvas for self-expression to the benefit of our community.  Brewerytown is no square plain place, with square plain people, ideas, or outlets.  (Not that there’s anything wrong with that….or the burbs, but this just isn’t it.)  Brewerytown is a constantly growing, evolving, colorful part of town that is alive, awake and aware of its maturation in to something increasingly beautiful.  We, the residents, and the people who come to visit, are the ones who make it so.   And evidence of our human spirit is in the artwork.image

Murals help to set the scene for parks, gardens, and gatherings.  They go hand in hand with block parties, barbecue’s, and fireworks.  Murals are the background  pieces to the story of our lives;  the grand play in which we all have a role, however substantial or infinitesimal.  Often, murals  are  as beautiful as nature herself and, when we appreciate our surroundings, it sets the stage for creating more of what we already love about this part of town.

imageSince its bginnings, the City of Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program has created, over 3000 murals city-wide and removed unwanted graffiti from over 40,000 walls.  This explosion of artwork captures the essence of beauty, inspires hope, and facilitates change through its existence and its message.  Murals are literally  a sign that a place is vibrant, cool, and on the cusp of something extraordinary.  Yup, that’s b-town.

The Legend In Our Backyard : Coltrane

imageThese are a few of my favorite things; when you realize your sitting on a musical,  cultural, and historical goldmine.  It doesn’t always happen but if you’re into jazz and you live in Philadelphia; if you’re in Brewerytown, or thinking of visiting or moving, then you may relate to the uniqueness of John Coltrane’s house being located just yards away from Fairmount park.  For those who do not know of Coltrane or the legacy he’s left behind in the realm of “Big Jazz” then hopefully you will be happy to get a brief summary on the man, the myth, and the legend.

Coltrane was not born in Philadelphia as much as we’d like to claim him as our own born and bred son, but he came here to learn under the tutelage of Leo Ornstein at  Granoff Studios.  Out of which were some pretty magnificent artist, notably Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Fortune, and of course the one and only John Coltrane.

Coltrane’s house, where he honed his craft in Philadelphia, has been notably in disrepair but that doesn’t mean it’simage past the brink of revitalization. Like the surrounding community that’s experiencing a surge of vibrancy and life all around, so too will the Coltrane’s house likely be restored to it’s glory and perhaps then some.    Jazz was such a cutting edge art form that it was once considered taboo or too sexy to play in the presence of your straight laced parents.  It passes for meditation now-a-days and with the music that plays on the popular radio stations now; jazz is definitely a welcomed alternative to what most parents are introduced to by their children.

Coltrane was one of the great pioneers of the art form and while there are little traces of his existence in Philadelphia where he stayed and learned to become the musical great that he his; among music heads, people who love jazz and even people who just skim the surface of what jazz is about; the name Coltrane serves to invoke some nostalgic reaction to a time where music was much more expressive,  orchestrated and was the culmination and syncopation of numerous artists all at once.  That’s what jazz music is, and it is still alive to this day in certain areas throughout the city.  John Coltrane’s house is more like imagethe mecca where people could pay homage to a legend, and discover the conditions for which something so beautiful could spring out of conditions that were once so harsh.

As times are changing and there is new light being brought to Brewerytown, one could only imagine the possibilities and heights one John Coltrane could’ve attained had he been living in Philadelphia in this day and age.  Perhaps he’s reincarnated in one of our youth who only has to discover the rich history that’s right in his or her own backyard that would launch them into the stratosphere of legendary stardom.  But, I could be considered a bit of a dreamer as well.  It’s up to us, the citizens and the community of Brewery town to facilitate the needs of our artists and perhaps encourage them so that they may one day discover the greatness that lies within.  As we collectively appreciate this historic monument, we also by default encourage and inspire many John Coltranes to come both from, and through our neck of the woods.image

Shouldn’t Kids Have A Music Festival?

Is a music festival for kids a great idea?  You better believe it!  The only thing cuter than puppies and kittens are kids.  (This is a scientific fact…i think)  I’ve had dozens of puppies throughout my life and although I currently do not have children, there’s nothing like the look of discovery worn on my little nephew or nieces’ faces.  Or the sense of amazement and wonder that surrounds them on a constant basis.  When everything is new, it all seems  so spectacular.




That may have been a long introduction to announce that Kidchella is coming to Smith Playground, just a walk away from Brewerytown and it’s nearly guaranteed to be a complete fun blast!  Weather permitting, you should definitely bring your kids, or borrow a kid, (you know, like a nephew, niece, or young cousin) seriously, check this thing out.  Now, granted the name “Kidchella” is a resemblance of a weekend of young adult, spring-breaker style madness Coachella, but the acts that are going to perform are solid and fit for all ages!  If your kids love music, and if you are an awesome parent….(you are an awesome parent, you’re reading this aren’t you?) You might want to take a look at Kidchella because here is where the kids get a chance to experience live music (one of the best forms of entertainment in my opinion) under your supervision, and it’s entirely age appropriate.  This could ligitimately be your childs first concert!  How cool could that be?  Visit  <a href=”http://smithplayground.org/kidchella/”>here</a>  and find out.


Kidchella is coming to Smith playground this Friday on the 25th and it will last from 6 – 8 pm.  The bill is highlighted by three bands that are spectacular in their own right.  Brady Rymer, Walter Martin, and The Not-Its will be onstage.  It won’t last for days on end, nor will it be flooded with 20 somethings, without responsibilities and way too much recreational time on their hands.  Kidchella is actually one of those great ideas that you’d love to see more of because it creates an opportunity for children to learn about music, spark their interest about music as an art form, and allows you to give them the experience of a music festival and all the fun that can possibly be had while under the supervision of adults.


Check out this <a href=”http://smithplayground.org/kidchella-press-release/”>press release</a>






You may have seen posters and signs around Brewerytown advertising the music fest for weeks now.  If you can make the time, if you love music, and if you’d like to show your children what rock and roll, and fun are supposed to look like, then guess where you’ll likely be heading to??  Kidchella!  Tickets are only $10 at smithplayground.ticketleap.com/kidchella, however, admission is free for current members of Smith playground.  If you’re not a member, but would like to become one, you can become a member by visiting smithplayground.org/membership.


So who came up with the idea for Kidchella anyway?  I always credit “the genius’ in marketing” whenever my attention is brought to something you previously had no awareness of, but has now become one of those things you know you have to experience for yourself.  Aside from being the type of thing that celebrities are into now-a-days; Kidchella doesn’t have to involve multiple stages, carnival rides, or fire spitting performers to be an authentic music festival experience.  Although, there may be some face painting, and an opportunity for you and the children to hang out with and interact with the band during and after the show, Kidchella, and all music festivals like it are going to soon become the desire of birthday boys and girls everywhere.  Better than a magician, better than a clown (which too often scares the ba-jee-zus out of kids), this is a party for children that you are allowed to enjoy as well.  To be honest, there isn’t much that can compete with a live band on stage, and especially if they are good.


So who is on the bill?  The Not-Its have been rocking and rolling, performing for kids and families for over six years.  They are all about giving children the first rock show experience (head banging should be done with supervision)  They are from Seattle, are the sum of five members and they have released their 5th album to date called “Raise Your Hand”.  You can check out their sound on their bands website (http://wearethenot-its.com/music/).  With songs like “Funniest Cat Video”, “Motorcycle Mom” and “Great Day”, The Not-It’s provide an up beat rock/indie vibe that both adults and children can really jam to.




Brady Rymer and the Little Band that Could :  Brady Rymer is a musician who’s been recording and touring with RCA records for 13 years.  He’s been on stage with names like Bob Dylan, Dave Matthews, The Grateful Dead before, so he’s no amateur when it comes to putting on a show that all people can enjoy.  Lucky for us, he’s decided to create children’s music and give the little tykes an opportunity to hear music that’s not only age appropriate, but contains a positive, upbeat message along with a catchy tune that may be hard to get out of your head.  All the great songs are like that.  You may just find yourself singing “Just say Hi” on your way to work or during your coffee break.  He’s a great songwriter, and backed by an energetic, talented band, Brady Rymer and the Little Band that Could will likely be there to make a wonderful impressionable mark on your children and yourself as well.


Walter Martin is the third man on the bill and his sound helps to round out the collective experience of the music festival as his songs are a bit slower in tempo, feature animal noises and sound effects, all playing the back track to his rural draw and the slight southern twang of Walter Martin’s voice and pitch of guitar.  This isn’t just kids music, no, this is music for all ages.  True and true, Walter Martin writes beautiful songs, plays a beautiful melody and just makes you want to place the world on time out, stop your children from growing for a moment, and enjoy the moment that’s created the moment he starts strumming his guitar and spreading  his vocals through the P.A. system.


So this Friday, with all the wonderful things going on in Brewery town and around the city as a whole.  Under the summer sun, and through the atmosphere of fun, if you’re going to create memories with your little tykes, think about creating some with good music and good fun at Smith Playground with Kidchella.  Oh, to be a kid again.

Brewerytown: Gateway to Hiking Megalopolis

Hiking Megalopolis

by Shelby Smith

Many don’t realize that they can dive into nature, right from their urban dwelling in North Philadelphia.

Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 10.10.32 AMThere’s a harmony about Philadelphia in terms of the manmade and organic cohabiting. You can start a jog next to a skyscraper, and end in the woods in less than a mile. I’ve always preferred outdoor exercise to working out in a gym, but my move to Philly has piqued my interest for urban/park exploration. Runners and bikers line Kelly Drive all day, but there is so much more space in Fairmount Park and beyond that is untapped. Philly’s best kept secret might just be its vast network of trails, so here is a guide to information on hikes that are off the beaten path.

No stranger to Philly, Brian Schwarz moved to Brewerytown with express intent on getting the neighborhood involved in his hikes. Certified by the Delaware Valley chapter of the Appalachian Trail Club, Brian- under organization name Hiking Megalopolis, knows the best spots to sneak in a hike just a stone’s throw from the city’s central hubs. The advent of his hiking initiative is his personal health journey, a journey he is adamant about sharing with those around him.

Weighing in at 420lbs in 2008, Brian made a career and lifestyle change by moving from North Philly to Miami so he could spend time outdoors getting active year round. Meal consciousness and a new interest in walking and swimming afforded him a 165lb weight loss that he maintained when he subsequently moved to Boston. As a man with a history of making excuses not to work out- to avoid the intimidation of the gym, and to evade potentially awkward or uncomfortable situations- Brian frequented the two mile loop circling Walden Pond in the 80 Acre Woods. Nervous to push his limits and feel vulnerable out there in the elements, one day Brian climbed Cat Rock and despite his hesitation, proved to himself that he could hike, and that he was capable. From that point on, he rode the high of that first great climb as motivation to pursue bigger and tougher ranges.

No longer at risk of critical medical conditions due to obesity, Brian made a move to Albuquerque, where a childhood dream of his came true. Having associated Sandia Mountain with his Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 10.09.26 AMgrandfather his whole life, Brian hiked all seven miles and 4000 feet of elevation to the top of “Grandfather Mountain”, as he affectionately called it, to show respect for the recent passing of his grandparents. This particular hike carried a sentimental value that brought a spirit of family and community into his inspiration for getting in shape, and ultimately giving others the confidence to have a similar experience.

Returning to Philadelphia in 2013, Brian found what the city lacked in mountainous terrain, it more than made up for in watershed parks and gorges, such as the Wissahickon. Philadelphia proper also offered a historical value that was unparalleled elsewhere. The nationally registered properties of Strawberry Mansion, Sedgley Woods, and East Fairmount have a deeply specific American tradition to share, but they sit out there on the famous Boxer’s Trail largely unacknowledged. Sharing this history with people who have lived here their whole life is important because many people focus on developing their family history alone and miss the nuance of the landmarks around them since they’ve grown familiar with their environment, and if there was any sense of novelty about the attractions nearby, it’s worn off.

I went on one of Brian’s hikes on a Saturday morning where I met Melony Burnom, a Brewerytown resident of five years. We started at the Sedgley Woods disc golf lot, and walked the Boxer’s trail all the way up through the Strawberry Mansion steps and back to the lot by way of 33rd.  Along the way, Brian shared insight about the Smith Playground, trail erosion, and hike etiquette. This was Melony’s third hike, having originally found out about his free hikes through Nextdoor- a local resource connection app. On the first two hikes, she brought her mother and sister-in-law, and all three of them loved their experience. Melony commented on how Brian is very knowledgeable and takes hiking very seriously, but that he also offers a sense of inclusion and encouragement for those of all fitness levels. Melony said, “It’s a very good form of exercise that isn’t typical and mixes things up with learning history. Brian brings a learning aspect about a territory that no one in this generation in this neighborhood has explored—the real Fairmount Park.” She said that it’s a shame people don’t seem to know about the intricacies in their own backyard. She went on to say that she would recommend the hikes to anyone and that friends and family are responding very positively to pictures and posts about her adventures.

Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 10.10.03 AMThe biggest platforms of Hiking Megalopolis are accessibility, acceptance, and education. “The mission is to learn, educate, lead, and rise up new leaders from within communities,” shares Brian. The accessibility piece comes into play because Brian feels strongly about residents getting to hikes by public transportation. These hikes should be available to all who are willing, not just those who have access to a car. These hikes are also free. Acceptance is at the very crux of Brian’s initiative because he doesn’t want anyone to be afraid of fitness the way he was for so many years. He spent formative years feeling ostracized and discouraged from trying to become athletic, and he doesn’t want anyone to feel like they can’t work toward a healthy lifestyle. Even down to the gear, there is a clear-cut push to welcome all who sign up for hikes as long as they are dressed appropriately and with safety in mind. In almost every case, plain sneakers are just fine and there is no need to turn someone away who doesn’t have boots or specialty hiking shoes. To stay hydrated, you should always have water, but a bottle is just fine. There is no need to run out and buy a Camelbak hydration unit. Acceptance also applies to age. While certain hikes pose a particular liability to children because of conditions or elevations, all are welcome. People of all ages and walks of life are invited to get outdoors and explore. Education is what propels the future of hiking in Brewerytown and beyond. Brian, a self-proclaimed nomad, moves often but not before teaching his students to become leaders. He stresses the importance of adults teaching their children the value of exercise and obesity prevention. The hope is that the people who call Brewerytown home will get entrenched in the most natural aspect of their local culture.

Signing up for a hike is simple. The Hiking Megalopolis Facebook page is active and consistently updated with the week’s hikes and activities. That is the simplest way to find out what’s coming up. Google searching Hiking Megalopolis will also bring up info about past hikes and what can be expected for future hikes. Information is also shared via Nextdoor, which is essentially a facebook for the neighborhood. You can download the free Nextdoor app on your smart phone, like Melony did, to see the most recent news as well. Reach out on Instagram @fitlifechronicles to see pictures and connect with Brian more personally.

Though he has a penchant for changing his scenery more often than not, Brian Schwarz has made it clear that he will be calling Brewerytown home for a good while, and who could blame him? There are 100 reasons not to get up and get out into the woods, but once you discover the reasons why you should, it transforms your city and makes all the difference.

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Keep it real and keep it clean B-town!

“Real people do real things. A collective of a whole bunch of people who do things in their own locale, in their own neighborhoods – the sum is bigger than the parts, and the parts will grow.”

– Chuck D

Organization_002Now that winter comatose is officially over and annual spring block cleaning has occurred on many city blocks across Brewerytown, let’s begin with a huge and phenomenal thank you to all the block captains out there that hang onto that motivational vision of a pristine sidewalk to walk, and a lovely street to drive on. The organized cleanings lend themselves to the idea that one day maybe there could be no more having to maneuver around broken glass, and hop scotch your way around, for lack of a better term, poop! These people are troopers in the battle against the constant flow of litter, that unfortunately has given this city the nickname “filthadelphia”.

As someone who grew up out west, where people at one time staked their claims, and where land is still a much sought after commodity, most people owned their homes in my neighborhood. trash-534x350People had yards, and lawns were for the most part kept up. Sure, you had your one guy on the block who only mowed once in a blue moon, but as a whole, things like recycling were not just a concept, but a routine habit, and there were heavy fines for littering. To be fair, the only other cities our children have spent any time in are all vastly smaller in comparison to Philadelphia. So upon coming to Brewerytown about five years ago, it was our children who were most shocked about how “garbage-y” our new neighborhood was.

On one hand, this was good, meaning that “not littering” was deeply ingrained in their little minds. On the other hand, it took awhile to help them to see they did not have to accept the litter passively, but they had to be able to see past it to embrace our new block. Fortunately, we were renting on a block consisting mostly of long term homeowners. We were first introduced to block cleanings by receiving a flyer in our mailbox. Participation in our first official block cleaning gave our children the opportunity to connect with other caring neighbors, and over the years has kept them from being desensitized to their daily surroundings. I really give credit to those people who have turned empty lots into green spaces and gardens. The neighbors who always turn up for the several organized block cleanings, and don’t let the frustration of the seemingly endless barrage of garbage to keep them from picking it up, and putting it in a garbage can.

litterlg1-956x620These are the real people doing real things. Right here in Brewerytown there is a small revival happening. An energy that occurs when transition happens. The shuffle of new people coming in. Block cleaning helps connect those people born and raised on the block to those people looking to make the block their new home. What can, and has emerged on our block, is a place where our children have learned to appreciate different backgrounds, and take pride in keeping their space picked up. We need more people that are willing to take ownership and pride in these spaces in a way that has a wet napkin effect so to speak. If enough people are taking the time to show that litter and garbage are not something they are willing to cope with, that energy will spread from block to block. While organized block cleanings are great, it will take even more to truly alleviate the garbage issues. Brewerytown’s baseball field and basketball courts at 31st and Jefferson, as well as the Recreation center at 27th and Master, are essentially meant to be public parks. It is sad to see these spaces continually bombarded with trash. There are not efficient garbage cans, and you can see on a daily basis, litter scattered carelessly around spaces that are supposed to be green and clean, spaces for kids.

If our environment is a reflection of us, this means that we are not caring for our community sufficiently. It is true that the streets and public spaces are certainly lacking sufficient public trash 3ee7b5cf-6d25-449e-805c-8443e916ff3fcans, and I am sure we’d all love to see some of those solar powered receptacles that scatter Center City, but until that day comes, we must take it upon ourselves to keep our community clean. We must not allow these factors to deter neighbors from taking initiative to keep spaces clean. I urge people to take action, and be determined to keep blocks clean, not just on block cleaning days, but everyday. Brewerytown needs more people to actively participate in making this “up and coming” urban space clean, after all, that is a reflection of taking pride in our community. There may not be a quick solution, but if enough people are determined to be proactive, that energy will spread. So thank you again to all the block captains who take time to keep it real, and this is an open invitation for everybody to do their part as well!!! Keep it clean Brewerytown, keep it clean!

Want to organize your own block cleaning? Contact your block captain, or follow the instructions from Philly 311 here

The College on the Ave

New Brewerytown resident Shelby Smith, shares her thoughts and some history about the famous Girard Avenue architectural icon – Girard College.


Brewerytown Literally Dead Ends into the History of Philadelphian Academia, Forcing the Neighborhood to Pay Attention to its Past.

Having once lived in Fishtown, I go back to visit my old roommates and my boyfriend on Fankford, meaning I take Girard- (meaning I take Girard, and S. College, and N. College, because Girard just disappears). When I first moved to Brewerytown, I was confused by the intersecting angular routes I was expected to take, when I knew that Girard should take me all the way down to where I needed to be. What was this strange interruption, this natural detour that everyone else seemed to understand with no skin off their teeth? Once the cardinal College streets meet back up with Girard, to the left drivers can see some seemingly out of place Greek Revival Architecture that looks more like it belongs in Fairmount Park, but is in fact breaching the intersection of Broad and Girard. Those who have been North Philly residents for longer than I have, know this to be Girard College.


It looks like it’s closed for business, like it’s no longer in operation; perhaps because of the style, perhaps because of the slight-of-hand/misdirection sense of seclusion and distance from the city. However, my inclination to think that Girard College is a mere landmark, rich with history and nothing else, is wholly false. Girard College is a boarding  school in full operation for grades one through 12, the sentinel of its contribution to the community being its academic scholarship program that supports the entirety of every single students’ tuition, room and board.

The school has been met with a wide variety of criticism and praise since its inception in 1833, and official door opening in 1848. The city of Philadelphia, having been the recipient of the largest private philanthropic donation to date, was torn between the last will and testament of founder Stephen Girard, and the ever-changing sociopolitical climate, culminating in the American Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. Philadelphia was no stranger to pushing the boundaries of state vs. independent business, in many positive ways, including the Eastern State Penitentiary’s ethical philosophy on imprisonment, the Franklin Institute’s commitment to advanced and complex scientific research, and Penn Hospital’s humane treatment of mental illness at a time when lobotomies and electro-shock therapy were the only practice.


Stephen Girard came to Philadelphia from Bordeaux in 1776, fresh off of a 12-year stint at sea where he served a nontraditional apprenticeship in mercantilism, acquiring unique business acumen that poised him to be the first independent banker, and subsequently wealthiest man in America by the time he died. His will very specifically outlined the explicit intentions for the sizable fortune he had built over his 55 years in the states. He wanted a boarding school to be built for the admission of white boys who were fatherless and poor. He wanted a national contest to determine which architect to commission for the planning of all academic and campus buildings. He wanted to steer away from Greek and Latin curricula in favor of French and Spanish and the practical real world application of those romance languages as opposed to the classical. First admitting boys between the ages of six and ten from Philadelphia, enrollment spread to Schuylkill and Luzerne counties, as many children were orphaned due to an increase in the mining trade and the inevitable accidents that unfortunately accompany such a profession.

While the institution served many struggling families at its advent, the parameters for acceptance into the school grew increasingly ostracizing to the growing neighborhood surrounding the property walls. Though North Philly had become home to a substantial population of black residents, the statute on which the school was founded still outlined exclusive admittance to white boys. Prominent Philadelphian black physician, Dr. Nathan Mossell, challenged Girard College in 1944 and was soon backed by the NAACP in what would be a long battle to integration. Appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, and led by Cecil B. Moore, figurehead of the Philly chapter of the NAACP, Girard’s tax exemption and educational licensure was challenged through picketing and standing firm ground against a prominent police presence to see the first male minority students welcomed on September 11, 1968. Female students began enrollment in the ‘80s.

While the history of Girard College has elicited controversy, much like most government or independently-owned institutions of the time when segregation was the rule, the mission and core values of the boarding school reflect an evolutionary loose grip on the once firmly affixed specifications of Stephen Girard’s will. The present state of the Girard College website beautifully details this evolution under the History section. In terms of the Evolving Curriculum, and Girard Today, “The ways Girard College has changed over the years reflects the ways America has changed. In its first century, for example, the school prepared boys for the trades and professions of their era with academic, mechanical-trades and apprenticeship training. Today we prepare boys and girls for college and to lead successful adult lives.” Also, “Stephen Girard, born more than 250 years ago, could not have imagined the ways that our country, its citizens and their roles would change over time. He couldn’t imagine a female justice of the Supreme Court or an African-American U. S. president. The great triumph of Girard College today has been its adaptation to changes in American society while maintaining Stephen Girard’s original mission to educate children to become productive citizens.” All constitutions need amending.


Today, over 22,000 boys and girls turned young adults have matriculated from Girard College, having received a phenomenal and comprehensive education featuring advanced placement and honors courses, with an impressive 95 percent college placement rate. Even more remarkable, is that students are granted the opportunity to study and live there through academic merit alone, since no one can buy their way into the program. Students come from single-parent low-income families and are bestowed with all of the essentials including their books, supplies, and uniforms after successfully interviewing and testing adequately on the entrance exam. Students whose families live in Philadelphia proper often visit them on weekends, but field trips, community service and sporting events are planned every weekend as well for those who stay on campus.


While sitting at Rybrew yesterday, an acquaintance of mine compared the 3000 to 2700 blocks of Girard to Sesame Street. Experiencing the diverse neighborhoods and boroughs of Philadelphia makes the strengths and weaknesses of each region clear, and an undeniable strength of Brewerytown is its family-style bond. When walking down the street, a friendly greeting is always appreciated and I can’t go half a block without a friend, shop owner, or person I met once three weeks ago saying “Hi” and asking how I’m doing. It’s been interesting to see how genuine the connection between people is and how deeply the ties are knotted. Girard College is an abrupt rerouting of Girard Ave. on the way to Northern Liberties or Fishtown from Brewerytown, but really it was an abrupt rerouting of the American ideal of education at the turn of the 20th century, as it tested the limits until they broke in terms of racial, religious and gender equality. Its location only strengthens the deep pride of Brewerytown as a staple in the continuing cultural evolution of our city.


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