‍Olney, a neighborhood located in the North Philadelphia section of the city, is primarily a residential area with pockets serving as commercial centers for various communities. The neighborhood has a rich historical background, a diverse demographic, and a thriving education sector.

Olney lies in the North Philadelphia section of the city. It’s roughly bounded by Roosevelt Boulevard to the South, Tacony Creek to the East, Godfrey Avenue to the North, and the railroad right-of-way west of 7th Street to the West.

Commercial Centers

Although primarily a residential neighborhood, the neighborhood has areas that serve as major commercial centers. At 5th Street and Olney Avenue, there is a Korean-American business district while Hispanic businesses are located in southern Olney.

Fisher Park

One of the notable natural attractions in Olney is Fisher Park, a 23-acre public park. The park was laid out and owned by Joseph Wharton, founder of Swarthmore College and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. With facilities like a football field, basketball and tennis courts, and a wooded hiking area, Fisher Park serves as an ideal spot for recreation and relaxation.

Origin of the Name

The neighborhood gets its name from the estate of Alexander Wilson who resided near Tacony Creek. Wilson named his residence “Olney” due to his admiration for the poet William Cowper, of Olney, England.

Historical Background

19th Century

Until the late 19th century, Olney was primarily farmland. It was home to farmers and wealthy Philadelphians who could afford to live away from the city. However, as Philadelphia continued to grow northwards, the area began to urbanize. People seeking to escape the growing population density towards the center started moving to the area.


20th Century

The 20th century saw significant developments in the area. The construction of the Broad Street subway, with its original terminal at the Olney Transportation Center, led to a population increase. The subway provided easy access to the entire city and beyond.


Public Schools

The neighborhood is home to several public schools, including Olney High School and Samuel Fels High School. There are also six public elementary schools in the area.

Private Schools

The neighborhood boasts several private schools as well, such as Central High School, the Philadelphia High School for Girls, and The Widener Memorial School.

Higher Education

Olney is bordered by La Salle University, which lies in the Nicetown–Tioga and Germantown sections of the city.


Olney is one of the most diverse middle-class neighborhoods in Philadelphia. It has the 2nd largest Mexican population in the city, only behind South Philadelphia. The neighborhood also has large communities of Colombians, Salvadorans, Guatemalans, Cambodians, African Americans, Koreans, Sub-Saharan Africans, West Indians, Hispanics, and Arab Americans.

In Pop Culture

Most of M. K. Asante’s bestselling memoir Buck: A Memoir takes place in Olney.

Olney is a neighborhood with a rich history, diverse population, and thriving education sector. It’s a unique blend of residential and commercial areas and boasts a strong community spirit. Whether you’re looking for a place to call home or just to visit, this great Philadelphia neighborhood offers something for everyone.