A LOVE LETTER TO ROXBOROUGH

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Give this woman a Pulitzer Prize! Oh, Inga Saffron already won one ? Excellent. Isn’t her writing beautiful? And it’s true.

High above the Schuylkill, in the Ridge Park section of Roxborough, old millworker houses sit side by side with wood-trimmed Victorian mansions. The little houses are jammed together as tightly as crayons in a box, but they typically sit back from the street, often behind postage-stamp gardens, and many have snug porches or high stoops. The streets, still paved in red and yellow brick, rise steeply, and thick woods carpet the slopes behind the houses. It’s just 10 miles from Center City, but it might be a small town in Pennsylvania.

That village-in-the-city quality is what locals love about the quirky Philadelphia neighborhoods that hug the long ridge that follows the river. From high points like Germany Hill, Center City’s skyline glistens like a distant Oz. It’s not unusual to spot a deer or fox in someone’s yard.

But now, the same housing boom that took Philadelphia’s flatlands by storm is blowing into this quiet corner of the city, and it is threatening to turn the compact village into something more like a suburban subdivision.

I read that when I was 250 miles from home and it made me homesick. To help Inga with the story, I had walked her around the Ridge Park area (roughly Ridge to Fowler, Hermitage to Lemonte) for almost two hours as she stopped to take numerous smartphone pictures. She asked lots of interesting questions about the history of buildings here and the evolution of the neighborhood. She liked our brick cartways and posted pictures of them on her Facebook page. In her Philadelphia Inquirer work since 1999, she has always seen what Robert Campbell, another Pulitzer Prize winner, calls “the whole architecture” of a place – not just the buildings but also the spaces between them and the way they meet the public street. The character of the public street is what we’re trying to address with the Neighborhood Conservation Kit and our two adopted NCOs. Here’s hoping their pedestrian-friendly rules make a difference. Thank you Inga Saffron for telling our story.

Read the full story Fighting the Suburbanizing Tide in Roxborough