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Southstreet Apartments

Southstreet Apartment Listings

South Street is an east-west street in the Center City neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The stretch of South Street between Front Street and Seventh Street is known for its “bohemian” atmosphere and its wide variety of shops and eateries of many different styles. The street is comparable to a large outdoor mall, with the occasional bar and club providing live music. It is one of Philadelphia’s largest tourist attractions, and today is mostly frequented by people from outside the city as well as tourists from other states and/or countries.

Originally named Cedar Street in William Penn’s plan of Philadelphia, South Street was the traditional southern boundary of Philadelphia’s city limits before the townships of Passyunk and Moyamensing were annexed to the city.

Prior to and until the 1950s, South Street was known mainly as a garment district, featuring a number of (mostly Jewish-owned) men’s suit stores and other clothing stores. At approximately that time, city planner Edmund Bacon and others proposed the construction of the “Crosstown Expressway”- a short limited-access expressway connecting the Schuylkill Expressway and I-95 by cutting a swath along South Street. Although that project never got further than the planning stage, the drop in real estate values that resulted from the uncertainty attracted artists and other counterculture-types.

South Street was very different in the 1960s-1970s than it is today. Back then, it was filled with clubs and bars, most of them promoting live local music. It was on South Street that the Philadelphia local music community began. Most people who frequented South Street actually lived in South Philadelphia, unlike today where it is populated by the inhabitants of North/West Philadelphia, suburban Philadelphia and New Jersey.

The 1960s and 1970s saw South Street grow to become a huge clubbing and live music area for Philadelphia. It was not uncommon to see South Philadelphians go “bar-hopping” across the clubs, listening to live bands along the way. It was this time when many artists, including Kenn Kweder, George Thorogood and Robert Hazard got signed because of this community of fans on South Street.

However, towards the 1980s South Street began getting more famous, quickly becoming one of Philly’s tourist attractions. Tourists flocked to the nocturnal community that South Street had accumulated over the years, and the “neighborhood” community aspect was stripped from it. Many of the South Street clubs closed, replaced by chain stores and shops to cater to the tourists who came down.

The Orlons, a music group from Philadelphia, released a 1963 song based on (and entitled) South Street.  Boyz II Men’s debut song and video “Motown Philly” was filmed on location and, in his song “Get Jiggy Wit It”, Philadelphia native Will Smith mentions South Street (in the lyric “…rockin’ South Street to one-two-fifth”)  The HBO comedy special The Diceman Cometh, starring comedian Andrew Dice Clay, was recorded at South Street’s Theater of the Living Arts (and was mentioned in the special by Clay).

During Mardi Gras in 2001, celebrations at South Street restaurant/bar Fat Tuesday got out of hand, eventually resulting in drunken partiers spilling out onto the street. Stores and other businesses, including the Tower Records location, were broken into and looted before Philadelphia police had a chance to quell the ruckus.  Needless to say, the incident painted a negative image of Philadelphia and was the subject of ridicule on many late-night TV talk shows. Subsequent years have seen not only an increased police presence on South Street on Mardi Gras, but also a general avoidance by partiers due to said presence.

Today, the bohemian culture of south street is nearly all but lost. Many small businesses, such as “Zipperhead”, the famous south street punk fashion & accessory store, have moved off of South Street. Economic pressures and a shift to corporate businesses have wiped out most of the independent stores and artesian culture. In many ways, South Street has simply become an outdoor extension of The Gallery, driving away the community feeling that pervaded during the 1980′s & 1990′s, and attracting raucous, consumer-driven crowds who view South St as a fun way to lower human standards of tolerance towards low-class behavior.