Washington Square West
Washington Square West is a neighborhood in Center City which roughly corresponds to the area between 7th and Broad Streets and between Chestnut and South Streets, bordering on the Independence Mall tourist area directly northeast, Market East to the northwest, Old City and Society Hill to the East, Bella Vista directly south, Hawthorne to the southwest, and mid-town Philadelphia and Rittenhouse Square to the west.
The name “Washington Square West” came into official use in the late 1950s and early 1960s as part of Edmund Bacon’s comprehensive plan for Center City. In addition to being a desirable residential community, it is considered a hip, trendy neighborhood that offers a diverse array of shops, restaurants, and coffee houses. The area takes its name from Washington Square, a historic urban park in the northeastern corner of the neighborhood.
Philadelphia’s Antique Row lies in the area as does the nation’s oldest hospital, Pennsylvania Hospital. Educational and medical facilities associated with, Thomas Jefferson University, a leading regional medical university and health care center, are located within the neighborhood. The one-time headquarters of the former Curtis Publishing Company and the University of the Arts lie at the edges of the neighborhood. Washington West’s real estate is mixed commercial, residential and service industries, characterized by two, three, and four-story rowhouses interspersed with condominiums, mid-rise apartments, hospitals and offices with ground-floor retail. The neighborhood follows William Penn’s original grid layout for the city, with many one-lane and pedestrian side streets added later as the population became more dense. In addition to the block sized Washington Square Park to the East, the neighborhood contains the smaller Kahn Park, named after the Philadelphia architect Louis Kahn.
The area approximately bounded by Chestnut, Pine, Juniper and 11th Streets within Washington Square West is known affectionately as The Gayborhood. It is so-named because of its large concentration of gay and lesbian-friendly small businesses, services, restaurants, and bars. In April 2007, the city of Philadelphia officially recognized the area by adding 36 gay pride rainbow flag symbols to street signs bordering the Gayborhood area. 32 additional signs were added in June of 2010. Some have attempted to re-brand the neighborhood as “Midtown Village” but the name has been met with ambivalence by locals.
The Washington Square West Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. The 61-acre area encompasses 450 contributing buildings. Located in the district and separately listed are the Clinton Street Historic District, Roberts-Quay House, and Portico Row.