History of Society Hill

The Society Hill Civic Association was established in 1965 as the result of a merger of two pre-existing civic associations. The older of those two was the Society Hill Area Residents Association (SHARA). It was primarily the organization of those who lived in Society Hill before the redevelopment programs of the late 1950s and early 1960s had taken place. Its membership was restricted to persons who owned and occupied single-family houses. The younger of the two associations was the Home Owners and Residents Association (HORA). It was primarily the organization of those who came to live in Society Hill as a result of the redevelopment programs and was created in part so that renters could become members.

In late 1964 and early 1965, growing sentiment in the neighborhood looked with favor upon the merger of the two associations. The members of the two groups were coming to know each other better and to recognize that they faced common issues. A committee was formed to effectuate the merger, and its work proceeded smoothly, including drafting new by-laws, which were adopted by both organizations. On April 22, 1965, a joint general meeting of the members of the two organizations was held and the Society Hill Civic Association (SHCA) was born.

A decision was soon made to incorporate the new association. Articles of incorporation were filed with the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court and the decree granting the requested charter was issued on January 10, 1967.

From the start there were the issues that threatened Society Hill, and SHCA was there to advocate for the neighborhood. In 1965, when plans were revealed for construction of Interstate 95, with off ramps proposed to cut into the neighborhood, and the Crosstown Expressway, which would have leveled South Street, SHCA joined others in successfully opposing the off ramps and expressway.

In 1971, the Society Hill Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places; however, that honorary designation offered no protection to prevent inappropriate exterior alterations or unnecessary demolitions. Under the leadership of the SHCA, Society Hill was designated a historic district by the Philadelphia Historical Commission in 1999. This designation helps guard the district’s historic character by requiring review of projects according to zoning and historic preservation standards. Over the past fifty years, the SHCA has responded to challenges facing our community with a commitment to enhance the quality of life enjoyed by those who live and work here. Today, the organization represents over 5,000 families, individuals, and businesses.

Are you interested in the history of our neighborhood?

A recent essay in the online Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia provides a useful history of Society Hill from 1682 to the present, complete with photographs, a map, related readings, and suggestions for places to visit.

Guide to Historic Society Hill

Recently, SHCA published the 20th anniversary edition of the Guide to Historic Society Hill. This beautifully produced, 68-page, spiral-bound booklet takes residents and visitors on a walking tour of Society Hill, highlighting many historic properties that often are overlooked in the typical visitor’s guide to the city. The handbook includes a color photo of every building, and descriptions of new buldings have been added.