Debating neighborhood names and boundaries in Philadelphia is a longtime tradition. And it isn't always pretty.
When the Inquirer sought to create a map of the city in the 1980s, one staffer stormed out of the room amid a disagreement over which neighborhood he was born in. As journalist James Smart, who recalled that incident, said recently: "Everybody disagreed about everything."
The boundaries and neighborhoods they eventually agreed to, in 1988, are still used by the Inquirer and Daily News today, with only a handful of minor changes.
Through Curious Philly, a platform where readers can ask our journalists questions, many people asked about the names, borders, and histories of the city's neighborhoods. It's a complicated topic: Gentrification, real estate developers, and even what pops up on Google Maps can influence how people define where they live. The city doesn't keep an official count of neighborhoods or get involved in drawing boundaries. There are police and Council districts, but those aren't neighborhoods.
To put it another way, as Smart wrote in 1988: "There are no absolute and official boundaries to any neighborhood." They are often, he said, in the eye of the beholder.
So how did we come up with our map?
Smart started working on a version of the map in the early 1970s, when he was writing columns at the now-defunct Philadelphia Bulletin. He talked to neighborhood civic groups, police officers, and "all kinds of people," he said. After the Bulletin folded in 1982, a staffer brought the map to the Inquirer. Several years later, Smart was asked to help the newsroom develop an official map, using his as the groundwork.
They deemed some neighborhoods "large," believing these areas were widely known. Other neighborhoods were deemed less-widely known (our map identifies them as "small neighborhoods" and "lesser-known neighborhoods"). Why some neighborhoods made the cut as "large" and others didn't isn't clear in every case. Smart, now 88 and living in West Mount Airy, said some staffers raised objections, leading to diplomatic changes, but he doesn't remember the details of every dispute.
Here is a full breakdown of the large, small, and lesser-known neighborhoods on our map (each category is in alphabetical order). If you don't see the name you use to identify your neighborhood, email email@example.com, or search for your address on the interactive map above and submit a response to us through there.
B: Bridesburg, Burholme, Bustleton, Byberry
C: Center City, Chestnut Hill, Chinatown, Crescentville
E: East Falls, East Germantown, East Mount Airy, East Oak Lane, Eastwick
F: Fern Rock, Fishtown, Fox Chase, Frankford
H: Holme Circle, Holmesburg, Hunting Park
J: Juniata Park
K: Kensington, Kingsessing
L: Lawndale, Logan
M: Manayunk, Mantua, Mayfair
N: Nicetown, North Philadelphia, Northeast Philadelphia, Northern Liberties
O: Oak Lane, Ogontz, Old City, Olney, Overbrook, Overbrook Park, Oxford Circle
P: Point Breeze, Port Richmond, Powelton
R: Rhawnhurst, Roxborough
S: Schuylkill, Society Hill, Somerton, South Philadelphia, Southwest Center City, Southwest Philadelphia, Spring Garden, Strawberry Mansion
T: Tacony, Tioga, Torresdale
U: University City, Upper Roxborough
W: West Mount Airy, West Oak Lane, West Philadelphia, Wissahickon, Wissinoming, Wynnefield
A: Academy Gardens, Andorra
B: Bell's Corner, Bella Vista, Brewerytown
C: Castor Gardens, Cedarbrook
D: Devil's Pocket
E: East Frankford, East Torresdale, Elmwood
F: Fairhill, Fairmount, Feltonville, Francisville, Franklintown
G: Germany Hill, Grays Ferry
I: Ivy Hill
L: Lexington Park, Ludlow
M: The Meadows, Mill Creek, Modena Park, Morrell Park, Mount Moriah
N: Normandy Village, Northwood
O: Overbrook Farms
P: Packer Park, Parkside, Parkwood Manor, Pennsport, Pennypack Woods, Pleasant Hill
Q: Queen Village
R: River Park
S: Shawmont, Southwark, Stenton, Summerdale, Swampoodle
U: Upper Holmesburg
W: West Park, Whitman, Whitman Park, Winchester Park, Wister, Wynnefield Heights
B: Belfield, Belmont
C: Carroll Park, Cedar Park, Clearview
D: Dearnley Park, Dunlap
F: Fernhill, Frankford Valley, Franklinville
G: Garden Court, Girard Park
H: Haddington, Hartranft, Hawthorne
K: King Village
L: Lovely, Lower Tioga
M: Midwest Oak Lane
P: Paschall, Pelham, Penn Area, Penn-Knox
S: Saunders Park, Southbrook Park, Spruce Hill, Squirrel Hill
T: Taney, Thouron
W: Walnut Hill, West Powelton, West Shore
While our neighborhood map has remained largely unchanged since 1988, we found a few discrepancies. The following "lesser known" neighborhoods were listed in 1988 but are not currently: Girard Estate (in South Philly), Lawncrest (in Northeast Philly), Greenwich (in South Philly), The Neck (in South Philly), and West Kensington (in Kensington). It's unclear when or why these neighborhoods were removed from the map.