Freedom of arts in Northern Liberties

Northern Liberties is an often overlooked mecca of art, music and construction. In this up-and-coming neighborhood, everyone knows your name and every corner is bursting at the seams with an array of things to do

Northern Liberties is an often overlooked mecca of art, music and construction. In this up-and-coming neighborhood, everyone knows your name and every corner is bursting at the seams with an array of things to do and see.

Not many realize that Northern Liberties is one of the most hip and diverse sections in Philadelphia, spanning from Callowhill Street north to Girard Avenue, and between the Delaware River west to 6th Street.

Historical buildings in Northern Liberties do not rest in decay. They have been renovated into lofts, condominiums, restaurants and bars.

Local U.S. postwoman Renee sees the area’s renovations as positive changes to the neighborhood, as she lived in the area 10 years ago.

“Even though the price to live in Northern
Liberties has risen drastically since I was here, I think the change is good,” she said. “The people are so friendly around here and everyone seems to be happy with all the new places and activities there are to get into.”

Ortlieb’s Jazzhaus, at 847 N. 3rd St., is one of the area’s most well known establishments. Located on Liberties Walk, the jazz restaurant is home to local and international musicians every night.

“At the Jazzhaus there’s always something
special going on,” said new owner Kevin Mayberry. Mayberry is right. Visitors can enjoy the Sunday and Tuesday night jam sessions where audience members have the chance to jam with the performing band. Or they can wet their whistles at happy hour every weeknight.

“I appreciate the liveliness of Northern Liberties,” Mayberry said. “Ever since there’s been a turnaround, people have been paying more attention to this place and that’s always good for business.”

Around the corner from Ortlieb’s is a different kind of scene. Philadelphia Glass Works, at 908A N. 3rd St., is one of the neighborhood’s many trendy art galleries. The eclectic art is produced by residents of Northern Liberties, which Glass Works Coordinator Victoria Chan described as an art lover’s haven. With seasonal classes ranging from beadmaking to lampworking and glassblowing, there’s no excuse for boredom.

“People love to come to the gallery and Northern Liberties in general because the art scene is so amazing [and] there’s something for everyone,” Chan said. “Northern Liberties is like an urban suburbia, there’s an odd but great mix of people of all races living in a tight knit, supportive community.”

To ensure the continuing vivacity and preservation of historical Northern Liberties, the Neighbor’s Association works to promote the preservation of the neighborhood’s historic character. According to Mary Dankanis, former director of the Neighbor’s Association, Northern Liberties has experienced positive changes like major site improvements and housing rehabilitations in the past 30 years.

“Northern Liberties experienced growing pains, but [residents] are proud of our past accomplishments and the goals we set for the future,” Dankanis said. “Our excellent transportation and continuous improvement in the quality of life makes Northern Liberties a great place to live and work.”

According to NLNA President Jennifer Lewis, Northern Liberties is a neighborhood with resources for its residents and an assortment of things to do for visitors, too. From the Seedy Acres garden on Lithgow Street to the 1-year-old Northern Liberties Community Center, at 321 Fairmount Ave., Lewis knew from the time she first moved to the neighborhood five years ago that it was special.

Lewis said residents inspire her to help improve the neighborhood.

“The selfless dedication of so many long-time residents and new neighbors who give their time, money and considerable expertise to helping this neighborhood continue to thrive and grow [inspires me],” she said. “Their ongoing enthusiasm and farsightedness are truly phenomenal.”

Northern Liberties is the melting pot of the city, said Marcus [last name], a bartender at The Fire at 412 W. Girard Ave. “It’s the real flavor of Philadelphia,” Marcus said. “There’s always a good blend of people and that’s always a good thing.”

Kendra Howard can be reached at

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