Overbrook: Five Places To See In Will Smith’s Old Neighborhood.

Victorian Home in Overbrook Farms

With so much history behind this West Philadelphia neighborhood, it’s no wonder there are so many hidden treasures. Overbrook possesses interesting locations that are unknown to many people living in the Greater Philadelphia region.

Overbrook Farms

Often considered a sub-section of the Overbrook neighborhood, Overbrook Farms (above) is a suburban area in the city that was developed in the late 19th century. Originally purchased by immigrants from William Penn, the area was one of the first planned communities along the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Main Line. Overbrook Farms is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is protected and preserved by the Overbrook Farms Club, the country’s oldest home owners’ association.

Overbrook High School Student
Overbrook High School

Overbrook High School

On the busy intersection of 59th Street and Lancaster Avenue stands a nearly 90 year old building known as Overbrook High School. The school’s stunning Gothic architecture makes it noticeable. However, it’s who went to OHS that truly makes it noteworthy.

Hanging a long it’s art filled walls are plaques of the famous alumni who once attended OHS. Among these are NBA basketball legend Wilt Chamberlin, R&B group The Delfonics, U.S. Congressman Chaka Fattah and Olympic track gold-medalist Jon Drummond. But the most recognized is actor and rapper Will Smith, who often visits his former school when in town.

At least 11 Overbrook alumni have played in the NBA.

Tustin Recreation Center Basketball Court
Tustin Recreation Center

Tustin Recreation Center

Speaking of the Fresh Prince, it’s safe to say that most of America has sang along to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song at least once.

“In West Philadelphia, born and raised, on the playground is where I spent most of my days. Chillin’ and maxin’ relaxin’ all cool and shootin’ some b-ball outside of the school.”

Have you ever wondered what playground Will actually spent most of his days? Well, Tustin Rec Center’s playground is the exact playground Will Smith is referring to in his popular jingle. As a matter of fact, Will returned to Philly to film a few scenes on the rec center’s basketball court. Now the center caters to the youth, offering after school programs and participating in charitable organizations throughout the Philadelphia area.

 

First Haitian Church of God
First Haitian Church of God

First Haitian Church of God

First Haitian Church of God is unlike many religious facilities. It occupies a building that served as a movie theater, known as Green Hill Theatre, in the 1940s. In the 1970s, it was converted into a community center that provided programs for children and social opportunities for Black, Jewish and Catholic communities. FHCG was established in 2000 and serves a congregation of the Pentecostal religion.

PHL 17 Located Just Outside of Overbrook
PHL 17, located Just outside of Overbrook

PHL 17
Located on the border of Overbrook and Wynnefield, PHL 17 occupies a modest building on Woodbine Avenue. In 1975, PHL 17 relocated from its studio in the suburb of Wyndmoor to its current location.

At one point, the building was an A&P supermarket.

– Text and images by Stacey E. Dusenbury and Reyna C-M Cameron.

2 Comments

  1. It would fair to list all of the graduates of Overbrook Hugh School who played in the NBA including my brother, Walt Hazzard Who Student Body President, a recognized scholar and anice outstanding athlete. Will Smith carried on the tradition of Black young men like Wilt; Walt and Wally Jones who attended ‘the Brook’ of venturing into uncharted territory and proving their excellence in all they did. There is much to be honored about Overbrook and the opportunities provided for these and many other black Students who attended there and reaped the benifits.

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