At Union and Wallace streets, there is a community garden owned and maintained by Mantua resident Dallas Scott.
Scott was born in 1963 in the same home his grandfather owned before he died.
“Originally, there was a house right next to ours,” Scott said. “These were two twin houses right here and the one house was abandoned for a long time and had a lot of drug activity. I had to call down to City Hall a lot and they would have to keep boarding up the windows. Of course, the drug users kept coming back in and taking the boards off.”
After Scott’s persistent effort to have the abandoned house issue taken care of, he would eventually see his hard work pay off.
“After constant calling with [The Department of] Licensing and Inspection, they finally did come out, but at that time the house had no roof and there was a tree growing out of the middle of it. They had to end up tearing it down, which concerned me a little bit because these were twin houses and I was concerned about the structure of my house,” Scott said.
Aside from Scott’s worries about the structure of his own home, the situation was finally taken care of after many complaints and phone calls.
“Once we got them to take the house down I went to the sheriff sale and I purchased this lot from the Sheriff sale, that was in 2008. I’ve been working on it ever since basically, just turning grass over and planting the trees,” Scott said.
Once Scott had purchased the land for himself, he had the opportunity to transform it into whatever he wanted. His eventual goal was to create something that his entire neighborhood could enjoy.
“Once I fixed up the lot it was a big choice about putting a gate up around it, but I didn’t want to put up a gate. I wanted to have open space and I wanted it to try and blend in with the neighborhood just so it could seem open. You can fix it all up and put a gate around it and then it seems like it’s somebodies property as opposed to without the gate, people could just walk by,” Scott said.
Fairmount Park is located minutes from Scott’s residence. While traveling, he said he enjoys driving through this area to find inspiration from the variety of landscapes.
“One morning I got up on my bike, I was barely awoken, and I rode straight down 40th street and in less than five minutes I’m in the middle of Fairmount Park,” Scott said. “I’m standing right in front of the Japanese house and I’m looking at this beautiful Japanese house, with the pond and the different foliage and stuff. It occurred to me at that point I’m only five minutes away from here, so whatever they’re growing there, I can grow right in my backyard.”
It would be detrimental to the block’s environment and atmosphere without the consistent support from Scott. The city periodically comes through the neighborhood to help tidy up, but issues still remain.
“The city has been trying to help us,” Paul Benson, 52, a resident of the block, said. “But they’re still missing major lots. And you see there, we thought about trying to put a garden there, then we considered what the cost will be.”
Preserving the area cannot be accomplished when the city fails to clean only certain parts of the street. The trash scattered around the area builds up daily. The burden of these costs is being forced upon the residents.
Abandoned houses plague this street. Block captain Shari Gilyar, grew up on this street and is now raising her own family here.
“We’ve lived here for 20-something-years,” Gilyard said. “We don’t have $50,000 to just take out of our bank accounts like some of these developers have, so why not give us a payment plan or why not work something out so we can have the opportunity to do it.”
The liens on these properties are far too expensive for any average income household to take over. With Drexel University minutes away, it is easy for large developers to come in and purchase these lots. Residents who have occupied this area for years want the opportunity to take these abandoned houses on and fix them up.
For now, the residents of this block will continue to uphold the block atmosphere.
“I’ve noticed that when you live in an area where it’s not necessarily a good neighborhood, I noticed that if you keep your house a certain way the neighbors respect it, so it’s like you kind of start something, when you do that,” said Scott.