Philadelphia, Fairmount

Fairmount is a neighborhood within the Center City District of Philadelphia. It is also referred to as the "Art Museum Area," for its proximity to and association with the Art Museum.The name "Fairmount" comes from the hill that the Philadelphia Museum of Art now sits. Later, the name was given to the street that runs from the foot of Fairmount hill through the heart of the neighborhood. It was outside Philadelphia's city limits until the mid 1800's.

Expansion began in the early 19th century when the Fairmount Dam and Water Works was built by the Schuylkill River.It's buildings, which still include a restaurant are well known attractions. Land was purchased around the facility that would become part of  Fairmount Park, one of the world's largest city parks systems. Eastern State Penitentiary, on Fairmount Avenue opened in 1829In 1831, Girard College was opened by Stephen Girard, himself an orphan, he wanted to create a model institution for educating poor orphaned white boys.The United States Supreme Court altered Girard's will by striking the words "poor, male, white, orphan" and set a major precedent for equal access to education for all Americans. 

The Baldwin Locomotive Works, was located on the southeastern edge of the neighborhood and was a major factor in development of the neighborhood south of Fairmount Avenue in the 1800's.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art, with it's now famous “Rocky Steps” is located at one end of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway(a broad 1.5-mile tree- and flag-lined avenue) and ends a City Hall. This stretch is known as the “Museum District”. Most of the city’s cultural attractions and museums are located here. They include the Rodin Museum, Philadelphia’s Central Library, the Franklin Institute of Science, the Academy of Natural Sciences and the Barnes Museum. Most of Philadelphia’s large outdoor events, parades, concerts, and races are held here. Eastern State Penitentiary has become another main draw for the neighborhood. Tours of this historic 1829 facility, now abandoned, are offered and very popular during the Halloween season. Because of its resemblance to the Bastille, it is part of Philadelphia’s Bastille Day celebration. It is a wonderful part of the city that attracts visitors from all over.

Fairmount Avenue is the dividing line between Fairmount and the Spring Garden neighborhoods. Spring Garden has many large houses built for the managers of the Baldwin Locomotive Works, other professionals, and brewery owners which date back to the 1840s.Fairmount’s homes were generally smaller row or town houses and the residents were generally working class. Row houses were interspersed with lumber yards, coal yards, lime yards, iron foundries, bakeries, dry goods stores, as well as several wagon works and stables. Many of these were built in the second half of the 19th century to support small factories and later the large breweries that were opened.

Fairmount enjoys a multiethnic mix from all socioeconomic strata. Its southern half has become increasingly gentrified in recent years, with newcomers to the city settling in the neighborhood for its proximity to Center City.


Fairmount is zoned to schools in the School District of Philadelphia.

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