The "Art Museum" area generally is regard to include the neighborhoods of Fairmount, Spring Garden, and Brewerytown. Strong community associations — combined with the proximity of Fairmount Park and numerous cultural and recreational amenities -- have helped lead the reclamation of this increasingly-popular cityscape.
Private investment is strong. Community involvement is high. Many historic commercial and residential buildings are being reclaimed and renovated.
Fairmount has a wide variety of housing options, building types and other assets including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Fairmount Park, and the historic Eastern State Penitentiary. There are two commercial corridors, Girard and Fairmount Avenues, which are rich with new investment backed by a vibrant community plan.
Girard Avenue Historic District
The Girard Avenue Historic District includes the buildings of Girard Avenue between the two focal points of its development -- Broad Street, the grand avenue of the Nouveau Riche on the east, and Girard College, the principal landmark of the region, on the west (individually listed on the National Register). Great houses, major churches and institutions occupy each end of the district, while the center has the added interest of commerce that marks the point where Ridge Avenue crosses Girard.
In the 1920s when Theodore Dreiser selected an appropriate setting for the 1870s home of the anti-hero of The Financier, Fran Cowperwood, he chose west Girard Avenue. That choice was appropriate, for west of Broad Street, Girard Avenue was one of the principle centers of the nouveau riche, rivalling North Broad Street, and connected to that axis by the great mansions (now demolished) of the Widener and Elkins families. Though initially an English-Scottish village (denoted by a Quaker meeting house and the Presbyterian church) at its height in the 1870s and 1880s, the community included important professionals, industrialists and financiers primarily drawn from German ethnic stock. It was that group that commissioned the principal monuments of the region and as could be expected in an increasingly class conscious society, by architects typically associated with the German community, among them E.F. Durang, Willis Hale, Otto Wolf, and Charles Autenreith. Here their designs show traits derived from nineteenth century brick architecture, which are particularly apparent in the flamboyant brickwork which outlines the windows and doors and cornices without the strident polychromy of the anglophile Ruskinian Gothic. The resulting buildings include monumental townhouse blocks, major churches, and institutions, and several important commercial buildings. Together they are unified by scale, period and patronage and provide an impressive picture of the third center of the middle class German mercantile community, after it had removed to the west from Northern Liberties.
National Register of Historic Places -- Nomination Document; 1985
During the early 1900s, Brewerytown was home to many successful breweries. Revitalization projects along Girard Avenue, return of the Route 15 Trolley, and new residential development proposals all combine to suggest that the neighborhood lifestyle is increasingly appreciated.
Girard College is a private, academic boarding school for grades 1 through 12. All students are from families headed by a single parent or guardian, and each receives a full scholarship. Girard College was formed by an unprecedented act of American philanthropy. The school was constructed and endowed from the fortune of Stephen Girard (1750-1831), a French immigrant who was probably the richest man in America at the time of his death. The money he left to create Girard College was the largest private charitable donation up to that time in American history.
Sources: City of Philadelphia Planning Commission; Girard College.