How Philadelphia's Queen Village Neighborhood Got Its Name

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How Philadelphia's Queen Village Neighborhood Got Its Name
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Third and Bainbridge in Philadelphia's Queen Village neighborhood. (Photo courtesy of flickr.com …

Ask the average Philadelphian who doesn't live in the Queen Village neighborhood about the area, and they'll most likely be able to tell you where the neighborhood is in general terms, but not much else -- including how and when it became known as Queen Village.

Location

Queen Village is the area in Philadelphia bordered by the Delaware River on the east side, Sixth Street on the west border, South Street to the north, and Washington Avenue to the south. According to City-Data.com, the neighborhood is just 0.313 square miles. This is a densely populated neighborhood, with over 19,000 people per square mile, as compared to the average Philadelphia neighborhood of just over 11,000 people per square mile.

Early Years

Queen Village was originally settled by the Lenni Lenape Native Americans, who called the area "Wiccaco." By the 1600s, the Swedish began to settle in America, first building a settlement in what would eventually become Wilmington, Delaware. In the following years, the Swedish claimed much of the land from Maryland up to New York, including the land along the Delaware River.

The area that we now call Queen Village was settled by the Swedish, who named several of the streets of their village after Queen Christina Alexandra. In 1682, political control of the land changed hands from the Swedish to the English with William Penn's charter for Pennsylvania. Although Queen Village is now a part of Philadelphia, in William Penn's time, the area was a separate village. He named it Southwark. Southwark remained a village separate from Philadelphia until 1854, when it was officially incorporated into Philadelphia. The oldest church in Pennsylvania, Gloria Dei (Old Swedes' Church), is in this neighborhood.

Move to Modern Times

The area has enjoyed moderate affluence over the years. In the early 1900s, Queen Village was known as the home of "Fabric Row" -- a mecca for seamstresses and the textile industry. However, the development of I-95 launched a period of decline for the neighborhood, as all of the homes in I-95's path were destroyed.

In 1962, concerned residents, businesses, and organizations, including Gloria Dei Church, began planning to rehabilitate a section of Southwark -- the section that would become Queen Village. They created Queen Village Inc., referring back to Queen Christina of Sweden.

Local historian Jeff Baker referred to an article in The Sunday Bulletin from 1966, which profiled the rehabilitation of the Queen Village neighborhood and clearly shows that the area was already well-known as Queen Village by the mid-1960s. This same article also points out several streets -- most notably, Catherine, Christian, and Queen streets -- that were named to honor the queen of Sweden, Christina Alexandra, and her foster mother, Princess Catherine. Viewing a historical map of the area in 1864, one can clearly see that Queen, Christian, and Catherine streets already existed on the map. At the time of the Bulletin's profile of the Queen Village rehabilitation, Queen Village Inc. had already had purchased 30 homes for rehabilitation; of those, 22 were historically certified as dating to the early 19th century or earlier.

Pride in the neighborhood grew. In November 1969, the Queen Village Neighbors Association was created, and in April 1970, the Queen Village Civic Association was created, further supporting that this section of old Southwark had been embraced as Queen Village during the rehabilitation that began in the mid-'60s. Some websites claim that the area was still Southwark until the late 1970s, but the article from the Bulletin proves otherwise.

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