10 Things You Didn’t Know About Manayunk

Manayunk has made a name for itself in Philadelphia as a hotspot for millennials, young families, and post grads. With a close-knit community, easy access to Center City via train and bus, and the proximity to local nature trails, this neighborhood is great place to both live and play.

Even locals are surprised to hear these little known historical facts about Manayunk. Read on to learn the hidden secrets of this quaint Philadelphia neighborhood.Manayunk Bridge | Chew Philly Food Tours

Marchiano’s Bakery has some famous clientele. In addition to having some of the best tomato pie in Philly, their fans include Frank Sinatra, The Temptations, The Four Tops, and even Alyson Hannigan of How I Met Your Mother fame. Philadelphia 76ers’ Marc Jackson is not only a fan of the location, but worked at Marchiano’s as a teen and even had owner Frank Marchiano stand up in his wedding. The next time you’re in, check out the photographs of numerous celebrity patrons hanging behind their counter. Marchiano's Bakery Tomato Pie | Chew Philly Food Tours

Manayunk was once a city. Beginning in 1840, this neighborhood was its own entity rather than a section of Philadelphia as it is today. The area was absorbed back into Philadelphia after 14 years due to the Act of Consolidation in 1854, as the city hoped to bring in much-needed tax revenues by including the booming Manayunk businesses within city limits. The city also sought to provide infrastructure and law enforcement for Manayunk, which was struggling to execute these, and by dissolving governmental structure and bringing municipal authorities the city was able to improve the quality of life for residents and businesses. However, Manayunk has retained its individuality as a self-contained area of Philly ever since.

Famous Movie Scenes: M Night Shyamalan is known for filming many of his movies in Philadelphia, and his film Unbreakable was filmed in Manayunk’s Pretzel Park. A scene with Bruce Willis is shown here, with St. Josaphat’s Church and Silverwood St as a backdrop.Bruce Willis Unbreakable Manayunk Scene

The Loring Construction Building History – This Main Street location was formerly the Empress Theater. It opened in 1914 as a mixed-use vaudeville/motion picture theater, providing local mill workers with an “escape” to movies and shows. The theater seated 1,500 people and was rumored to have hosted the acts of the 3 Stooges. Loring Construction Building | Empress Theater

The Manayunk Canal was the first canal ever began in the United States, (although not the first to be completed due budget issues and complications experienced with the turbulent waters of the Schuylkill River). It was entirely hand-dug by immigrant workers. And the “towpath”, as the locals refer to the Manayunk section of the Schuylkill River Trail? Its name refers to the mules that towed boats along the canal…long before the invention of automobiles. Manayunk Tow Path | Chew Philly Food Tours

Cresson St was the original commercial district in Manayunk. While today Cresson is home to primarily residential houses and only a few small businesses, in the early 1800s Main St was the offices of the bankers and mill owners, and Cresson St was where the locals shopped and dined. Shown here is how Cresson looked prior to the railroad tracks being raised in 1931.Cresson St, Manayunk | Philadelphia History

Street Names – Many of the street names in Manayunk are named after either the type of Mill that was located nearest, (Cotton Street is a great example), or after a Mill owner or prominent Manayunk family. John Towers was a pioneer of Manayunk and one of its earliest inhabitants. The Levering family was one of the first 3 families to settle in Manayunk, and built the first house on Green Lane – and streets Levering, Leverington, Jacob, and Washington Street were named in homage of their clan, (Washington Levering lost his street when it was renamed Umbria St, paying homage to the immigrant Italians who had settled in that area of Manayunk). Lyceum was named as the location of the “lyceum movement” in Manayunk in the mid 1800s. An alternative to a 4-year university that was popular in mid-19th century Northeastern cities, lyceums were a place of adult education that featured lectures, dramatic performances, class instructions, and debates.

While the industrial era of Manayunk as the “Manchester of America” is long past, there is one champion – GJ Littlewood and Sons Textile Mill, which has been in operation continuously for over 130 years. In their 5th generation of ownership and still going strong, they have even been commemorated with a dedicated mural here in Manayunk.
Philadelphia's own Mat Tomezsko chose Wally Littlewood as a subject of one of his Manayunk Murals.
Philadelphia’s own Mat Tomezsko chose Wally Littlewood as a subject of one of his Manayunk Murals.

The rest of those Murals lining Main St? The subject of each is either a current or former Manayunk resident, or someone who was influential on Manayunk’s development. Mat Tomezsko told us that this painting, Catfish, is his favorite of his mural work in Manayunk, and was inspired by a photograph from the first canal day. Manayunk Murals | Chew Philly Food Tours

Famed author Edgar Allen Poe loved fishing in Manayunk, and was quoted as calling it “one of the real Edens of the land”, and “the most beautiful”.

So if you’re a Yunker, this gives you even more reason to love your Philadelphia neighborhood. And if you’ve never been, we hope this gives you reason to visit this beautiful & historic gem.

Philadelphia Food Tours What Is Chew Philly Food Tours? We offer food tours of the Manayunk and Chestnut Hill neighborhoods of Philadelphia, featuring the best local eats paired with historical and cultural facts on Philly’s most delicious neighborhood. Learn more history, and taste Manayunk’s best food on our Authentic Philly Food Tour, (sign up for our email list to receive an exclusive subscriber discount!)

12 Comments on “10 Things You Didn’t Know About Manayunk

  1. Seville St. was named for Seville Schofield who owned one of the wool mills in Manayunk . The Dobsons and Schofields owned a few mills there.

  2. I have lived in Myk/Rox all my life and so has both my parents , my mother’s mom came here to Manayunk when she was 10yrs old on a boat from Hungary she came here alone to meet her mother and father who came here when my grandmother was still a little baby and she married when she was 20 yrs old and had 13 kids 11 who made it to ault hood . My grandmother was born in April 1812 and is now 102 yrs old and still doing well .

  3. This is very enlightening to me. I was originally born and raised in Manayunk. I was told by my mother that it was originally Indian territory, reason for Manayunk name an Indian name something to do with water. She told me it was strictly a mill town and all the houses on Umbria Street were built for the mill workers. There also were many churches close by one another, one predominately Irish parishoners, St. John’s; St. Josephat was for Polish and one I’m not sure for German(?) St. Lucy’s was Italian. I lived on Jamestown and Cresson Sts. My grandmother who lived with us told us about the train tracks running along Cresson St. She lost a child being killed by one of those trains at age 7. Of course this would be of no interest to anyone but my family. Can’t remember a whole lot at my age now. Neighbors watched out for each others kids. You couldn’t get away with anything on my block.

  4. My family on my mother’s side emigrated from England in 1849. They were weavers and built the Leech mill at Pechin and Shurs Lane. Their first home was near St. Davids church which they attended. There was a street named Leech. That name was later changed.

  5. Manayunk also was a “sectioned” town. There was a Polish section, German section, Italian section, Irish section…etc. each with its own church. Thats why there are so many churches in yunk. You could tell who lived where just by the location of the church. St. Mary’s for the Germans, St. Josephat’s for the Polish, St. Lucy’s for the Italians, St. John’s for the Irish, to name a few. My family went to St. Mary’s since we were German. My great grandfather came to America around 1900 and settled here. Sadly, St. Mary’s church and school were closed by the Archdiocese. I would love to get in to them to see them one last time before they are gone forever.

  6. Hello would someone know how Cresson street got its name ?
    I know Pierre Cresson lived in Philadelphia a long time ago.

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