West Philadelphia: A Close Look at 4800 Osage Avenue

George and Sarita Holliday sit on their deck surrounded by George's garden.

A city block is a home, a small community and a bond that can mean so many different things to different people.

Janet Dubinsky moved to the 4800 block of Osage avenue with her family in 1951 when she was just 8 years old. She remembers spending nights sitting on the front patio with her parents, talking with all of their neighbors who were also enjoying the night on their patios.

Dubinsky has been a resident of the block longer than anyone else, except for one woman. She has seen the transition from a block of primarily Jewish and white Christian families to a block full of diversity.

“There’s a lot of diversity,” Dubinsky said “When I was a child, not so much.”

A neighbor walks her dogs on the 4800 block of Osage avenue.

The block isn’t just racially and ethnically diverse, but there are also an array of different professions. When Dubinsky was growing up on the block, it was mostly professionals and small business people. Now the block is home to professors, retirees, entrepreneurs, lawyers and social workers.

The residents on the little block of Osage avenue make it a point to get acquainted with their neighbors. However, it’s not the same experience Dubinsky experienced growing up.

“People just liked each other and cared for each other,” Dubinsky said “Now it’s just kind of insular.”

As former president of the Garden Court Community Association, Dubinsky used to be avidly involved with block and community activities. She has been unable to participate in recent years and believes those who are physically and mentally able don’t do enough to create the sense of community Dubinsky experienced as an adolescent.

“[It’s] hard to watch something you love crumble away and nobody knows how to fix it,” Dubinsky said. “It is sad.”

Patricia Peterson has lived in her home for about 20 years. She is a block captain and works with one other person to address any issues and concerns block residents may have. She loves her block and neighbors.

“For me, the main thing is really the diversity” Peterson said. “And the people are really approachable.”

Peterson is close with some of her neighbors. She and at least one of her neighbors have even exchanged house keys in case of an emergency. However, she said there are no problems with neighbors infringing on each other’s privacy.

She said the block is very cohesive and that there is very little police activity.

“It’s just a great place to live,” Peterson said, “I mean, I really enjoy it. I didn’t grow up in the city, I’m not a Philadelphian, but I’ve lived here for 20 years, so I feel like I am a Philadelphian now.”

George and Sarita Holliday sit on their deck surrounded by George's garden.

George and Sarita Holliday moved to the block almost 17 years ago because they were looking for a safe, diverse area to raise their daughter.

“It’s diverse, I guess eclectic is the best way to describe it” Sarita Holliday said.

Both George and Sarita are legally blind, so not only does the diversity appeal to the couple, but also the strong sense of neighborliness on the block.

“[Neighbors] don’t just walk by you, so they give you a chance of knowing your neighbors and feeling comfortable when I’m out walking” George Holliday said.

The block is also a convenient spot for the couple to reside. It is within walking distance to the trolley, a bus and even the Market-Frankford line.

In recent years, many new people have moved to the block. Ms. Holliday said it’s not because of the economic pool, as much as people just want to live on the block because it’s a good place to live. Not only does the couple feel safe living on the block, but they feel very included in the community.

“The neighbors also mirror what I experienced growing up as a kid,” said Ms. Holliday, a Philadelphia native “Where the neighbors had regard for one another. On a first-name basis and really care about each other and we watch out to make sure everyone’s O.K. I think that’s how we ended up being included in this.”

Jai Abbott, Miriam Oppenheimer's daughter, holds a photo of her and her sibling playing in the snow.

Miriam Oppenheimer and her family moved to the block five years ago. They liked the area because of its proximity to the Clark Park community and Baltimore Avenue. Like her other neighbors, Oppenheimer likes the diversity block offers. Her immediate neighbors are from the Ivory Coast, so she enjoys speaking French with the mother and English with the daughter.

“We like diversity a lot,” Oppenheimer said. “We’ve been to 22 other countries and we lived in Miami for 5 years, so the diversity is important to us.”

Oppenheimer said many people are constantly walking around on the block and that her family is friendly with many of them. When Oppenheimer goes on vacation she tells her next door neighbors and they tell her when they’re going.

The block has certainly gone through some transitions from when went Dubinsky was a child. It has become a more ethnically and culturally diverse place. The idea of neighborliness has also changed, but overall residents love their block.

As Peterson said, “[It’s] one of the best blocks in the city.”

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  1. It’s a great block although it’s less diverse now in 2020 than it was when this article was written. Gentrification is real.

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