FOR MORE THAN 70 years, Anna Henderson witnessed the transitions on her Powelton block, a few of many changes she has seen in her 113 years.
Henderson now lives with her daughter in another section of West Philadelphia, but the few remaining longtime residents of her old block remember her as a stalwart of the community.
Philadelphia's oldest resident, Henderson was one of more than 100 centenarians honored yesterday by Mayor Nutter and others at the 13th annual Mayor's Centenarian Celebration.
Henderson is the sixth-oldest American, and the world's 15th-oldest person, according to the Los Angeles-based Gerontology Research Group.
Henderson was born in Georgia on March 5, 1900, and moved to North Philadelphia in 1922, one of many African-Americans to move up from the South during the Great Migration.
In 1925, she married Rembert Henderson, her Georgia childhood sweetheart. The couple moved to Powelton in 1940.
Speaking with the help of a granddaughter, Toby Fisher, 48, to whom she whispered responses to an interviewer yesterday, Henderson described a mostly white neighborhood that soon became predominantly African-American.
In West Philly yesterday, Monica McDonald, 50, said she has lived a few houses down from Henderson her whole life.
"She was a great ancestor to this community," said McDonald. "She was a very nice lady, always looking out for everybody, never had anything bad to say about anybody."
Henderson's relatives describe her as devoutly religious, one who does not like to miss a service at the Holy Temple of God in Christ Church in West Philadelphia, where she has been a congregant since she arrived in the city.
Mary McKenzie, 57, the secretary at Holy Temple of God, said she has known Henderson all her life as a person who has raised generations of family members in the church, including most recently her great-great-grandson.
Earlier this year, after being unable to attend church for a while due to illness, Henderson returned to a standing ovation from the congregation, McKenzie said.
"It is such an encouraging thing to have someone of her age be here," said McKenzie. "You cannot help but be affected by having her here."
Among the changes Henderson witnessed were the building of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge and, in 1957, the Philadelphia Phillies being the last team in the National League to include black players.
Henderson, an avid baseball fan, supports the Phillies' division rival Atlanta Braves due to her Georgia roots. Fisher said that her grandmother's unpopular baseball allegiance was often a cause of dispute with her husband, Rembert, who died in 1962.
In 2008, Henderson participated in what she said was her favorite moment in 113 years - the election of President Obama. Fisher said her grandmother has long been involved in community politics, and was able to vote for Obama in both the 2008 and 2012 national elections.
Today, the quiet block of Powelton where Henderson lived for seven decades is in transition again. Students from Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania have begun to rent apartments in the subdivided Victorian rowhouses.
McDonald said that only her house and a few others are still owned by those who would remember the days when Henderson spent the summer months sweeping the porch, always with an eye out for the children playing on the street below.