Philadelphia Skid Row

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This is a photo by Brian H. Davies. I came across it on his son's Flickr site when I did a Google Image search under "Philadelphia Skid Row".

When I saw the picture, my mouth dropped. Philly's Skid Row has been an obsession for me lately, and when I found it I was trying to piece together what the main drag of Skid Row looked like for an article I was writing for Hidden City Philadelphia. I instantly recognized the location of this photo from the names of the storefronts as being a piece of Vine Street between 8th and 9th Streets, but while I have researched this block extensively, this was the first visual I got of these storefronts. This is also the only color photo of Philadelphia Skid Row that I have come across. It was taken in the summer of 1964, only a few months after I was born. This stretch of Vine Street has long been paved over with the Vine Street Expressway.

I contacted the Flickr account owner, Matt Davies, through the email on the account, and Matt wrote back saying that it was his father who had taken the picture. His father emailed me, and over several emails I learned that he is a physician in Wales, and took the photo while touring the US and visiting a friend in Philly. While they were sightseeing, his friend took Brian down Vine Street so that he could see something that was uniquely American. Brian, who obviously knows what he's doing with a camera, took this photo out of the window of his friend's car.

If I've whetted anyone's interest on finding out more about Philadelphia Skid Row, I invite you to read the article that I mentioned earlier. It should come out at some point in HCP, but in the meantime you can download it here as a pdf. This piece is different for me in that I write for a more general audience, and I got to include various way cool photos and maps (including the one in this entry). This piece is an initial step in what stands to become a much bigger project on Skid Row, and I'm sure I will write more about it in upcoming blog posts.

In the meantime, I love how I made this random connection with a guy in Wales over a photo taken almost 53 years ago.

Stephen MetrauxComment