Taking a walk through Powelton Village

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

As an undergraduate at Penn, especially in the early big-classroom years during which no teacher knew my name, nor where I sat, nor if I was in attendance, even, I did my dutiful work, then roamed—across the bridge and east toward the Delaware sometimes, but also north, into Powelton Village.  The streets there were wide and tree-lined; the architecture was broken Victorian.  There were children in school yards and churches that doubled as walking-tour destinations.  There was a raw edge, the percolating possibility, always, of trouble.  Once home to Philadelphia's wealthy, this part of the city became, in time, home to the so-called "bottom gangs" and, years later, the birthing ground of the radical group, MOVE.  Today Powelton merges, not always easily, with Drexel University, which has moved residential buildings and fraternities into the area and shifted the cultural and social dynamics of the place.

Yesterday, before class, I went walking there—remembering the poems I'd write on Powelton street corners, images I stole from laundromats, the names that would rise up, out of kitchen windows, like the steam off of cobbed corn. The skies were gray, and I had an early student appointment, but for a long time I walked.  At last responsibilities called and I headed off toward Penn.  I stopped at this tile installation on the grounds of University City High School and read.  It's worth reading, if you can.


Lilian Nattel said...

I like walking in old parts of a city. The layers of history and inhabitants are so interesting.

Beth F said...

Popping in to let you know I haven't fallen off the edge of the earth. I always wondered where Drexel was.

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