Tioga River (Pennsylvania)

Nicetown-Tioga, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Nicetown-Tioga is a neighborhood in the North Philadelphia section of the city of Philadelphia, in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. It comprises two smaller, older neighborhoods, Nicetown and Tioga, although the distinction between the two is rarely emphasized today. The name "Nicetown" is often simply used to refer to any part of Nicetown-Tioga.

Geography

Boundaries

Nicetown-Tioga overall

The boundaries of Philadelphia neighborhoods are often not universally agreed. There are no "official" boundaries to the Nicetown-Tioga area, but some possible boundaries are:

  • Wingohocking Street to the northeast (beyond which lies Logan);
  • Roberts Avenue to the northwest (beyond which lies Germantown);
  • Wissahickon Avenue to the west (beyond which lies East Falls);
  • Allegheny Avenue to the south (beyond which lies Allegheny West); and
  • Broad Street to the east (beyond which lies Hunting Park).

This makes Wayne Junction station the northernmost tip of Nicetown-Tioga.

PCPC's definition of Nicetown

The Philadelphia City Planning Commission (PCPC) defines Nicetown itself (not Nicetown-Tioga overall) as a much smaller area bounded by Wingohocking Street, Broad Street, Hunting Park Avenue, and Clarissa Street.

PCPC's definition of Tioga

The Philadelphia City Planning Commission (PCPC) defines Tioga itself (not Nicetown-Tioga overall) as a smaller area bounded by Broad Street, Hunting Park Avenue, the railroads [basically referring to the R8 line], and Allegheny Avenue.

ZIP code

The 19140 ZIP code includes both Nicetown-Tioga and Hunting Park.

History and economy

1700 to 1850

Nicetown began centuries ago as a small town in what was then rural Philadelphia County, outside the City of Philadelphia (which occupied the area known today as Center City). Finkel says that it was "[n]amed for de Neus, Dutch Huguenots who settled there about 1700". Other sources seem to agree that the area was named for a family of early settlers whose surname sounded more or less like /naɪs/. Other spellings seen for the same surname are Neiss, Neisse, and, of course, the Nice seen in the placename Nicetown. There are 19th-century headstones in nearby Germantown marked with the surname Nice. (Regarding the orthographical "correctness" of surnames and placenames, it is important to remember that in the surnames and placenames of past centuries, orthography was often second to pronunciation. Witness the names of the nearby Tookany/Tacony Creek.)

Tioga is a placename used in various places. According to several sources, "Tioga" is a Mohawk and Iroquois word referring to a place where a stream or river current forks or runs swiftly. The name has been used in North Philadelphia since at least the mid-19th century. Perhaps it was inherited from the Lenape Indians of the area (if in fact they used a word tioga that was either a cognate to, or a borrowing of, the Iroquois word), or perhaps it began as the name of the country estate of a Euro-American gentleman farmer inspired by the Tioga placenames of Tioga County, Pennsylvania and Tioga County, New York.

Throughout the period of 1700 to 1850, the general Nicetown-Tioga area of Philadelphia county was rural, dotted with villages such as Nicetown. It contained farms that were a mixture of humble family farms as well as country estates for gentleman farmers. Travelers on the Germantown road between Philadelphia (which was then only the area known today as Center City) and Germantown passed through the area. There were woods and swampy places.

1850 to 1950

Like most of North Philadelphia, the Nicetown area experienced periods of explosive industrial growth during this era. The growth spurts waxed and waned with wars and recessions respectively, as did its ethnic diversity: Irish-Catholics from the famine in Ireland, the Polish-Jewish refugees from eastern Europe after World War II, the influx in the 1960s of African Americans escaping poverty and legal discrimination of the south, and surge of Puerto Rican relocation. All of these influxes were people of the blue collar and working class, which the neighborhood has always been, no matter which culture was largest at any particular time.

Companies with plants in or directly adjacent to Nicetown-Tioga included:

1950 to present

The industrial culture of the area peaked during World War II, but immediately after the war, area industry slowly began to melt away. White flight began in the 1950s and hastened in the 1960s through 1980s. Today there are a number of abandoned structures and a high crime rate in the neighborhood (hence today's North Philadelphia gallows-humor witticism that "there's nothing nice about Nicetown").

The huge turnover population of the Sixties overwhelmed both the ability of the city to provide essential services to its constituents: schooling facility and supply shortages, housing shortages, the outsourcing of the fledgling computer to the suburbs and death of the industrial complex in Nicetown provided joblessness and poverty. All of these components led to the degrading of both public and personal life in Nicetown. Once popular traditional events, like the annual Easter parade on Germantown Avenue, summer concerts at the Hunting Park bandstand, the opening of its wooden carousel, patriotic day parades from the American Legion, May Day celebration at Steele School; the lively door to door street trade vanished with the changeover from coal furnaces to gas, electric iceboxes no longer needing the iceman, milk, butter and eggs in abundance at the store leading to the loss of the milkman. All of this led to the disappearance of a lively public life of the neighborhood. The continued change and impoverishment contributed to the flight of tradesman, and blue collar workers seeking work elsewhere. The death of Martin Luther King, Jr set off riots which created a fear through the neighborhood. Certain discrimination practices began to appear in the area as the racial and economic war took place and laid waste to what was known as Nicetown, as it did to many neighborhoods all across the nation as it faced the advent of the suburbs and the oncoming computer and space race. Philadelphia, like other Rust Belt U.S. cities, slowly started its changeover from an industrial city to a postindustrial city.

However, if economic conditions allow trends of urban gentrification to continue, it is possible that the 1980s and 1990s may eventually be identified as a low point in Nicetown-Tioga's economic and social history. In 2005, the 19140 ZIP code, which contains roughly Hunting Park and Nicetown-Tioga, had a median home sale price of $39,650. Although this price is far lower than the median price for Philadelphia as a whole, this was an increase of 56% over the median price for 2004, the second largest increase of the year of any ZIP code in the City.

Nicetown-Tioga in the news

  • Trump Entertainment Resorts in recent years planned to build a casino on a former Budd Company site on Hunting Park Avenue between Henry Avenue and Fox Street. This site is in East Falls, but in much of the media coverage of the zoning battle, it was often cited as being in Nicetown. The area between Henry and Wissahickon Avenues forms a line of industrial properties with the former Midvale Steel site (now a SEPTA bus depot), which is solidly in Nicetown-Tioga; hence the overlap in neighborhood identities.
  • In May 2007, Tasty Baking Company (maker of the Tastykake brand, and long headquartered in Nicetown) announced that they would move production and office facilities to the former Philadelphia Navy Yard in South Philadelphia.
  • Simon Gratz High School is located in the Nicetown section, and Basketball greats Rasheed Wallace and Aaron Mckie attended school there.

See also

Notes

Bibliography

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