The block of Grape Street in Manayunk situated between Cresson and Silverwood streets may look deceiving at first. The street is quiet with few pedestrians and an occasional car attempting to maneuver through the narrow road. But spend a few hours there and the true personality of this street easily reveals itself.
Grape Street is full of friendly faces and characters that made this particular block special.
Theda Szczepkowicz soaked up the sun on a bench in front of her row home on a recent Sunday. If anyone has the right to say they know Grape Street and have witnessed change that has occurred over the years, it’s her. She was born in the second floor of the home that she still lives in and has be living in for her entire 99 years of existence.
“I was born in this house on the second story. It was hot then but there was always some kind of history. People were always doing something so you could never go to sleep you had to come out and see all that stuff,” she said.
When Szczephowicz was growing up she says the block consisted of mostly families and elderly people who had moved in from Europe. Today, however, this block is made up of college students and young professionals.
In contrast to the time of Szczephowicz’s youth this block today has no families and a few remaining elders who have lived on the street for decades.
Although Szczephowicz is one of the sparse population of elderly still living on the block she enjoys the company of the young residents who have settled into the homes. “These streets always have something going on. It keeps you going.”
Even on the weekends when the street is full of a college-aged crowd partying and sometimes getting rowdy, Szczepkowicz keeps a positive attitude about it. “It’s alright. I don’t mind it as long as people are having fun,” she said.
Ryan Barnes is a 25 year old Certified Public Accountant who graduated from Rowan University just two years ago. Those two years he has been out of college have been spent living on Grape Street.
“I moved here because it was closer to work and it’s just a better spot. It’s pretty sweet actually because we’re right next to Main Street and there’s a lot to do. There’s a lot of restaurants, bars and a music venue which is on our street that’s pretty awesome,” Barnes said.
The only complaint Barnes really had about residing on Grape Street is the parking.
Another Grape Street inhabitant that fit into the younger demographic is Kathleen Johnson who is a recent graduate of Philadelphia University where she studied fashion merchandising. Johnson has been living on Grape Street for just over a year.
“Grape Street is awesome. I love the energy that everybody has on this street. You see a lot of parties happening and there’s a lot of commotion at night but it’s entertaining. At night you can hear noise from McGillicuddy’s and the bars. Usually I hear fights breaking out at 2 or 3 in the morning but other than that it is pretty calm.”
Addressing the parking issue Johnson said that parking isn’t an issue at the house where she lives because there is a driveway and rented garage space right next door. Johnson and her housemates do, however, heckle others who are careless with following simple parking laws.
“We are known for towing cars around here because they always park in front of our driveway. So one night we towed a car, got it ticketed and the person came back and actually smashed our friends back window, ripped our mailbox and pounded on the door. We were petrified we didn’t know what he was going to do,” Johnson said.
A downfall for Johnson and her housemates is the spurts of crime they’ve noticed within the past year.
“Last spring our house got robbed and my roommate got her car stolen. We don’t know how he got in but everybody was home sleeping when it happened. There have been attempted break-ins the past couple years in this area,” Johnson said.
Johnson attributed the crime to the fact that the area is highly populated by college students and roommate situations where there are multiple people living in a house all with their own computers, televisions and electronics which makes them a prime target for robberies.
This is only a small setback for Johnson considering the fact that she thoroughly enjoys living in Manayunk and particularly on Grape Street
Charles “Charlie” Dickenson had been living on Grape Street for 40 years. He is a friendly fellow who takes daily walks to get out and socialize with his neighbors. Although he is part of the older generation, the neighbors are receptive and friendly to him.
“The only thing I really don’t like is the parking but I’m living with it. I think I’d have to have the Governor come in. I don’t think the Mayor has the power to change what I want. The parking here is just terrible. There is parking on both sides of the street but the street is a two-way. If you are coming up and someone is coming down you don’t have chance to pull in for a space. I can’t understand how it’s been like that all these years and was never changed,” Dickenson said.
Dickenson has noticed the change in demographics of the neighborhood over the years but he doesn’t mind having young neighbors and has never had any problems.
As long as the people are friendly, which is the clear consensus on Grape Street, Dickenson will be perfectly content.
As for Dickenson’s reaction to the adjustment made to the block he said he “started to see the big change when neighbors started to die or move away and that changed the neighborhood some. I don’t think it will ever go back to the way it was.”