Boasting the largest concentration of original 18th- and early 19th-century residential architecture in the United States, Society Hill wears its pedigree on its sleeve. Graceful Georgian and Federal townhomes bear plaques designating them historic properties. Three story “trinities,” originally featuring one room per floor, anticipated the tiny house movement by a couple of centuries. In fact, the entire neighborhood—loosely bounded by Front and 8th, Walnut and Lombard Streets—is on the National Register of Historic Places.
“It’s first and foremost a historic neighborhood,” says Martha Levine, vice president of the Society Hill Civic Association (SHCA). “Homeowners here feel it’s special for that reason and want to safeguard its provenance.”
Preservation is one of the roles of SHCA, which Levine describes as active in keeping “undesirable development from encroaching on this national treasure. We are stewards aiming to preserve what we are lucky enough to have.” The residents’ association also uses membership dues and contributions to provide services — weekly sidewalk cleaning, upgraded lighting and tree planting, among others — not typically available from the city. “We work to keep [the neighborhood] safe, clean and beautiful,” says Levine.
Jonathan Barach, founder of the Barach Group and a Society Hill resident for more than a decade, admires the neighborhood’s quiet elegance. Unlike the commercial neighborhoods surrounding it, “Society Hill is almost entirely residential,” says Barach, who compares it to New York’s Upper East Side in this regard. It’s “a village within the city,” says Levine. “People say hello on the street. It’s peaceful — a real neighborhood. There’s a feeling of community here.”
Once exclusively inhabited by older, more established residents, Society Hill has begun to attract young professionals looking to start families. With the McCall School Catchment one of the most desirable in the city, and highly regarded private and parochial schools adding value, Society Hill presents an appealing place to raise kids.