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New Web site celebrates Philadelphia neighborhoods

Agnes Hatcher talks about growing up in the rough but congenial streets of Northern Liberties, where the smells of brewing malt and rotting animal skins hung heavy and a cookie could be swiped from Kaplan's Bakery in a twinkle.

Adab Ibrahim and Joe Brenman describe creating the Doorways to Peace community mural at the Al Agsa Islamic Sociery on Germantown Avenue.

Vince Maurelli of Colorado Street in South Philadelphia shares photos and memories of his grandfather Vincenzo, who sold fruits and vegetables a century ago from his the 9th Street Market cart.

All this and a great deal more can be found at, a unique Web site to be formally launched Wednesday as a collaboration of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the city Department of Records, the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania School of Design.

More than three years in the making, the site weaves together maps, reminiscences, historical records, thousands of photographs, home movies - all to create a textured and highly personal sense of Philadelphia over time.

Stories are keyed to specific places and viewers can roam across neighborhood maps, pausing wherever interest is piqued. The initial content focuses on Southwark and Northern Liberties, two of the city's oldest immigrant neighborhoods, but the will be in a state of continuous expansion.

Visitors to the site can even add their own content and stories.

"Philaplace takes on the challenge of how to represent the dynamic and layered meanings and experiences of place over time," Joan Saverino, project director, said in a statement. "The site connects diverse audiences capturing the memories of Philadelphia residents who share their own experiences in words and pictures."

Over 400 guests are expected to attend a reception marking the launch Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. in City Council chambers.

Contact culture writer Stephan Salisbury at 215-854-5594 or