Strawberry Mansion is a neighborhood in Philadelphia, PA, located east of the renown Fairmount Park. The neighborhood takes its name from a house known as Strawberry Mansion, at one time housing a restaurant known for strawberries and cream.
In 1930, the Committee of 1926, a group of public-spirited women, restored Historic Strawberry Mansion and opened it to public as an historic house museum the following year. Since its opening, Historic Strawberry Mansion has welcomed over 250,000 visitors through individual visits, park house tours, lectures, events, and community artist exhibitions.
This neighborhood was home to a number of Philadelphia's wealthiest families in the 19th Century. The Jewish community started in the late 1890s; many Jews living in South Philadelphia moved to the then “fresh air” and “beautiful country landscape” of Strawberry Mansion.
At its height, about one-fifth of the Jewish population in the city lived in the enclave between Lehigh and Oxford streets, and 29th and 33rd streets. The Jewish people built a community, but eventually left for Oxford Circle, Overbrook Park, and West Oak Lane-Mt. Airy. There were at least 21 synagogues in the neighborhood, built for the most part in the first quarter of the 20th century. By 2015, six of the buildings remained and had been transformed into churches.
After WWII the neighborhood began to undergo change. In 1959 my family moved to the neighborhood at 26th and Dauphin Streets. The house was a storefront, situated on the corner of 26th and the side street, Dakota Street.
The new house stood out and was right on the corner. It had a wide window onto which Daddy had the name of the store painted, "Graham's Variety Store."
There were porch houses and a business occupied nearly every corner. A deli was across 26th Street and a beauty parlor directly across from us. The corners of 26th and Dauphin housed the deli, a fish market, a funeral home and a bar. The next corner housed a corner store and a tailor/dry cleaner. A little farther up the street was a small corner market, the barber shop and the firehouse. Just another block or so were other stores and the local junior high school. There were thriving business all around us.
This was a special neighborhood because six blocks away was a gateway to the largest city park. What a time that was. My sister, brother and I used to hike up there, with glee, unaccompanied, to explore the park and the playground. The park was like another world and the houses along the street beside the park were very large. They once were the homes of the new industrialists and were practically little mansions. Even though by then, they were not as grand.
This was the neighborhood where I grew up. In the 1960's it was still a neighborhood of close families, businesses and children's laughter on the streets. The neighborhood is largely African American and the general median home sale price in Strawberry Mansion is $48,000. The area suffers from a high crime rate.
Strawberry Mansion requires a significant amount of clean-up including rebuilding dilapidated houses and abandoned lots. Outside of claims to fame, like the John Coltrane house, the former home of the Jazz saxophonist, the neighborhood is still very much struggling. There is a lot of potential in this neighborhood because it does offer some great shopping and nightlife opportunity as well as easy access to Interstate 76.
The block of Dakota Street where I grew up is several blocks away from Fairmount Park and the famous Strawberry Mansion. But we were very much a part of the Mansioners' sphere. My old street has been described as decrepit, run down and the very description of urban decay. That street has history and stories to tell. It means more to me than any place on earth. It is the street where an uneducated black man born in 1910, successfully ran a business and raised his grandchildren; they were highly blessed by his solid work ethic and efforts.
I so enjoy the captivating genre that is memoir. I have decided that I will post recommendations for you to select and enjoy. Each month I'll post two or more memoirs that I think will give us so much insight into this genre.
Memoir is wonderful, but not the only reading we can enjoy. There are other types of work that you may wish to read. You may want to tell us about journals, biographies, fictionalized fact or picture books. It's all good and we want to see them. You may also want to write these types of works (hint, hint)!
You have a book or author that you think we should check out? Contact us with the info and we may post it here for others to enjoy.
In The Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor's Journey in the Saudi Kingdom
Summary: An introduction to a world most readers will never know. Denied a visa to remain in the United States, Quanta Ahmed, a young British Muslim doctor, becomes an outcast in motion. On a whim, she accepts an exciting
position in Saudi Arabia. She thinks that she is entering an exotic land that she understands and where she belongs. But, The Kingdom is a world apart, a land of unparalleled contrasts. She finds rejection and scorn in the places she believed would most embrace her, but also finds humor, honesty, loyalty and love. However, she sees it as a land of opportunity. A place where she discovers what it takes for one woman to recreate herself in the land of invisible women.
Bebe Moore Campbell
Summary: A recount of growing up and the most complex and vital relationship of her life. This is a story of a divided childhood with its family secrets, surprising discoveries, loneliness, and love. The author recalls living on the cusp of the social revolution of the 1960s. It is an achingly honest and beautiful reminder of the universal challenge of growing up and facing ones' parents as an adult. The memoir is a loving tribute to a special man. Campbell breaks through all the stereotypes about black family life.
Summary: Existing while Black, for this author, becomes an extreme sport, sometimes stretched to absurd limits. The angst induced from life in America produces constant questions of how to
react in situations that arise, and always makes him question whether to trust white people. From one of the most read writers on race and culture at work today, a provocative and humorous memoir-in-essays that explores the ever-shifting definitions of what it means to be Black (and male) in America.