It’s official! Black Doctors’ Row receives historic district designation

The designation is a first-of-its-kind honor for a South Philadelphia neighborhood that was home to prominent Black doctors, business owners and architects.

An area of a South Philadelphia neighborhood that was home to prominent Black doctors, business owners and architects in the early 20th century, has been recognized by the Philadelphia Historical Commission as a historic designation.

As reported by The Philadelphia Inquirer, the designation is a first-of-its-kind honor. The commission voted unanimously Friday to modify the Christian Street Historic District to the Christian Street Black Doctors’ Row Historic District following a yearslong effort by residents to preserve the area.

Philadelphia’s downtown skyline is shown — a neighborhood in South Philly that was home to prominent Black doctors, business owners, and architects in the 20th century has been officially designated Christian Street Black Doctors’ Row Historic District. (Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

The district reportedly boasts 154 homes between South Broad and 20th Street; it is the first in the city to be honored based on the historic contributions of Black Philadelphians. 

“Use some of your abilities to uplift the community and that is exactly what Black Doctor’s Row [will do],” Cheryl Mobley Stimpson, a fourth-generation resident of the area, told members of the commission ahead of the vote during Friday’s meeting, WHYY reports. 

“Please give us our just due and make it Black Doctors’ Row because it’s a very, very important and significant goal for the community and our heritage,” said resident Claudia Smith Girard.

The district encompasses mostly three-story row houses built in the late 1800s and includes a home at 1515 Christian Street in which famed Black architect Julian Abele once lived, theGrio previously reported. Abele designed more than 400 buildings, including Harvard’s Widener Library, the Free Library of Philadephia, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. 

Prior to the vote, per theGrio’s previous report, the committee had “recommended that the area be designated as the Christian Street Historic District. It’s located in a neighborhood in South Philadelphia currently known as Graduate Hospital, which refers to a now-shuttered hospital that was once a staple there. Due to the number of Black doctors and other professionals living in the area, a swath of it was known as Black Doctors Row, similar to Striver’s Row in Harlem, New York.

With this new historic designation, the older homes in the area will be saved from the rapidly advancing gentrification of the area.

“We are happy that this day has come,” said Vincent Thompson, spokesperson for City Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson, NNY360 reports. “Philadelphia is now 340 years old this year, and we have never had a historic district created based mainly on the history of Black Americans.”

Thompson added, “We hope it is not the last historic district based upon the contributions of an ethnic group in Philadelphia.”

“This is a very important, momentous day that I will never forget,” said Robert Thomas, chair of the Historical Commission. “And I’m sure many people will be influenced by this as well in a very positive manner that we heard from so many people.”

Linda Evans, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1997, told the commission during Friday’s meeting that the community was “seeking to protect this Black history and have it for future generations to learn about.”

“This is a part of Black history. We are seeking to not only preserve the house that I live in and that my neighbors live in,” she said, as reported by WHYY.

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The post It’s official! Black Doctors’ Row receives historic district designation appeared first on TheGrio.

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