Roxborough: Manayunk Avenue, More Than Just A Street

Manayunk Ave. residents enjoyed their porch before watching the Eagles game.]

On the 3800 block of Manayunk Avenue, between Salignac and Ridge, lay dozens of rowhomes inhabited by people who share the same sense of culture, tradition and closeness that some of the first settlers of the Manayunk-Roxborough area cherished.

The 3800 block is the quintessential close-knit community, made obvious through everything from the neighborly relationships to the very structure of the homes themselves.

As a community deeply rooted in familial prosperity, Roxborough’s fame exists mainly in its “everyone knows each other” atmosphere.

Mary and Ronnie talked on the porch for over an hour.
Mary and Ronnie talked on the porch for over an hour.

Thomas Michael Kerr, 54, a resident of the 3800 block of Manayunk Avenue in Roxborough, explained his roots in Roxborough and how, in his life-long residency there, his feelings for the town have not changed.

“This is our family home and I just love the are,” Kerr said. “There are maybe three or four families that are the original families that were here when I was growing up.”

Veronica “Ronnie” Sablosky is another resident of the 3800 block and one of the “originals” that Kerr had mentioned.

“We moved back here and stayed here because we loved it so much on this street,” said Sablosky, who was born only two doors down from where she currently lives. “When I moved here, everyone was married and had families so, since I was an only child, I got to play with a lot of the kids.”

More recently, however, as homeowners of past generations die out, more of the older houses have disappeared and newer buildings have sprung up. Homes are being replaced with apartments and condominiums as opposed to the traditional row-homes that many people say is what keeps them connected.

When asked about the negative aspects of where they live, a few people mentioned the foundations of the houses. Many of the rowhomes on Manayunk Avenue are older and are structurally not very sound.

“The buses running over the street,” Sablosky said in response to her least favorite part of living on her block. “When they hit, all the houses start shaking.”

Debbie Conway watered her plants on her porch.
Debbie Conway watered her plants on her porch.

Still, residents are fond of their street because it gives them a sense of comfort to be so familiar with and used to the people and surroundings. Even with the changes that have happened in the neighborhood over the years, residents of Manayunk Avenue have little to complain about aside from structural issues.

Particularly because parking can be a big issue, most of the Manayunk Avenue dwellers mentioned that the proximity of public transportation was a large factor in how much they liked where they live.

“I really like that there’s easy access to the buses. I take public transportation to work, “ said Kerr.

When it comes to their favorite part of the 3800 block though, a sense of community was at the top of the list. Many of the residents of Manayunk Avenue view the abundant front porches and connected houses as the most important means of socialization. A few homeowners mentioned that many of the conversations that they have with their neighbors take place on their front porches. Others mentioned that porches are the main way many locals decorate for the holidays, although décor has been dwindling as of late.

Residents also put a lot of emphasis on their yards, both front and back. One woman mentioned that she takes much pride in the bushes and other plant life that adorn her front yard, gushing about everything from her tiny white, fragrant Japanese Jasmines to her unique “burning bush.”

Two of the homes on the 3800 block have a joint backyard, a characteristic unique to those two houses. Mary Mara, a resident of Roxborough for 53 years, and Deborah Conway, her next-door neighbor, are the owners of the joint backyard and just so happen to be mother and daughter. Both recollected many family events in the backyard. Particularly for these two residents, backyards and front porches serve as a social hub for the community.

Manayunk Ave. residents enjoyed their porch before watching the Eagles game.
Manayunk Ave. residents enjoyed their porch before watching the Eagles game.

The communal ideas present in the neighborhood are solidified not just by the physical closeness and intimate porch-talk but by get-togethers as well. Every Sunday, Mary Mara welcomes everyone on the block to enjoy Italian food at her home, a part of living on her street that she listed as one of her favorites.

While the development of new residences and other factors continue to change the landscape of Manayunk Avenue, many locals do not appear to be worried that these changes will affect their block’s intimate sense of community. Many feel that while the structure of the historic row homes plays a pivotal role in their relationships with neighbors, the neighbors themselves are the real reason people stick around.

Conway explained, “Your neighbors are there if you need them…I love everybody on this street.”

[vimeo 77375321]

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