east falls philadelphia

East Falls, Philadelphia: A Neighborhood Rich in History and Culture

‍Located on the east bank of the historic “Falls of the Schuylkill,” East Falls is a neighborhood in Lower Northwest Philadelphia. Known for its rich history, diverse demographics, and vibrant community, East Falls has much to offer both residents and visitors. This article explores the neighborhood’s history, education, government, notable residents, and much more.

An Overview of East Falls

Also known as The Falls or formerly the Falls of Schuylkill, is a thriving neighborhood that boasts of a diverse demographic, scenic views, and a vibrant community. Nestled next to Germantown, Roxborough, and the Nicetown-Tioga neighborhoods, East Falls is an area that has seen significant development in recent years.

The neighborhood’s prime location along Ridge Avenue, overlooking the multi-use recreational path of Fairmount Park along Kelly Drive, makes it a desirable place to live. Its easy commute to Center City and convenient access to major roadways and public transportation, including the East Falls station, adds to its appeal.

The largest center of commerce in the neighborhood is the Falls Center, a hub for over 18 businesses and an apartment complex. This further contributes to the neighborhood’s robust economy and vibrant community life.

A Glimpse into the Past

East Falls got its name from its location on the east side of the Schuylkill Falls along the Schuylkill River. During the colonial and Federalist times, it was the highest point on the river navigable down the river by boats not steered by a skilled pilot. This made the settlement a significant dock and transfer point, with the Indian path later becoming Ridge Avenue and Germantown Avenue.

Before the War of 1812, Josiah White and Erskine Hazard harnessed the water power from the cataracts for a foundry, wire mill, and nail manufactory. This led to a significant increase in industrial activity in the area.

The falls disappeared when the river level was raised by the construction of the dam at the Fairmount Water Works. Still, rocks still visible above the water mark the natural fall line. Before the arrival of European settlers, the Lenni Lenape Indians considered the lower Schuylkill River their home.

east falls philadelphia

Demographics of East Falls

As per the 2000 census data, the racial makeup of East Falls is quite diverse, with 72.06% White, 19.98% African American, 4.79% Asian, and 0.86% from other races. Additionally, 2.58% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

In 2005, the median home sale price in the 19129 ZIP code, which includes this neighborhood, was $184,000. This was an increase of 8% over the median sale price for 2004, indicating a steady growth in the area.

Government Structure

The government structure of East Falls comprises of:

  • 4th Council District (includes Roxborough, Manayunk, Andorra and part of West Philadelphia)
  • 38th ward (becomes 21st Ward west at School House Lane)
  • U.S. Representative District 2 (most of Philadelphia west of Broad Street)
  • State Senator District 7 (similar to 4th Council District)
  • State Representative Districts 194, 197, and 198

Education in East Falls

Colleges and Universities

  1. Thomas Jefferson University: A private university with a 100-acre campus predominantly along School House Lane and Henry Avenue. Offers more than 50 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.
  2. Drexel University College of Medicine: Became the main campus since taking over MCP-Hahnemann University School of Medicine in 2003. It is a consolidation of two medical schools, each with over 150 years of history.

Primary and Secondary Schools

Public Schools

  • The Thomas Mifflin School, a K–8 grade school, currently undergoing an $8 million refurbishment project.

Private Schools

  • William Penn Charter School: A private day school granted its charter to operate by William Penn in 1689.
  • St. Bridget’s Elementary School: Operational since the 1880s, was closed by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 2012.

Public Libraries

The Falls of Schuylkill Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia located at Midvale Avenue and Warden Drive serves the area.

Places of Worship

  • Baptist: Falls of Schuylkill Baptist Church
  • Catholic: St. Bridget’s Roman Catholic Church
  • Episcopal Church in the United States of America: Memorial Church of the Good Shepherd
  • Non-Denominational: METRO Church (formerly Metro Presbyterian Church)
  • Presbyterian: East Falls First Presbyterian Church

Notable People

East Falls has been home to various notable personalities, including Grace Kelly, actress and Princess of Monaco, Thomas Mifflin, the first Governor of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell, former Governor of Pennsylvania and former Mayor of Philadelphia, and Arlen Spector, U.S. Senator.

East Falls is a neighborhood that perfectly blends history, culture, and community spirit. Whether you’re visiting for a day or planning to make it your home, this beautiful neighborhood offers a unique experience that’s hard to find elsewhere.