Fitler Square – Fitler Square is a 0.5 acre (0.20 ha) public park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, bounded on the east by 23rd Street, on the west by 24th Street, on the north by Panama Street, and on the south by Pine Street. It is in the southwestern part of Philadelphia’s Center City on land owned by City of Philadelphia via the Department of Parks and Recreation.Fitler Square was named for late 19th century Philadelphia mayor Edwin Henry Fitler shortly after his death in 1896. The Square is cared for through a public private partnership between the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Fitler Square Improvement Association.
The name “Fitler Square” is also used to describe the neighborhood surrounding the square, bounded roughly by 21st Street on the east, the Schuylkill River on the west, Locust Street on the north, and South Street on the south. To the east of this neighborhood is the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood; to the west is the University City neighborhood, home to the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University; to the south is Southwest Center City (also known as “South of South” or the “Graduate Hospital Area”). The portion of Center City surrounding Fitler Square and nearby Rittenhouse Square is sometimes referred to as “Rit-Fit” after the two parks. A second nickname, “Fittenhouse Square”, was coined by local comedian NirajShanbhag during the 1990s.
Before the 1950s the neighborhood was a prime example of the urban blight that had overcome much of the city. The park itself was described as a “mudhole inhabited by drunks and empty bottles”. In the mid-1950s, The Center City Residents’ Association successfully petitioned Mayor Clark to do something about the decline of the neighborhood. Working together, they freed up mortgage money for the construction of new homes and rehabilitation of the neighborhood. Also threatening the neighborhood was the proposed Crosstown Expressway. The threat of its construction, which would demolish much of the neighborhood, was enough to reduce property values and add to the neighborhood’s blight. The Residents’ Association was successful in changing these plans and in the following years the neighborhood drastically improved largely due to efforts of the Center City Residents’ Association and the Fitler Square Improvement Association.
Today the neighborhood is mostly residential, composed of single-family homes, and within a short walk of the commercial areas of Center City. On the television show Philly, Kim Delaney’s character “Kathleen” was portrayed as living in a small apartment overlooking the park. Hojun Li, co-editor of the film The Sixth Sense, claims to have been inspired by children in Fitler Square.
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