Delorean Time Machine: Cianfrani Park

The northeast corner of 8th & Fitzwater has played a central part in defining its Bella Vista neighborhood for almost 200 years.  Its story begins in 1832, when, according to Philadelphia Buildings, a school serving both boys and girls was constructed on the spot.  The Ringgold Grammar School is shown here below in an image taken from Samuel L. Smedley’s 1862 Philadelphia Atlas.

The Ringgold Grammar School, 1862

The school enjoyed a fairly decent run, enduring nearly to the end of the century.  Philadelphia Buildings shows the school here below in 1897, just before its demise. 

The Ringgold Grammar School, soon to graduate from existence, 1897

Ringgold was closed to make way for the James Campbell Public School (not named after this guy), which, according to the Free Library of Philadelphia, was built in 1899. The Free Library of Philadelphia also provides the 1913 photo below. 

The James Campbell Public School; school in session, 1913

Temple University Libraries provide a close-up of the Campbell School entrance in 1950.  Date-stones commemorate the opening of the original Ringgold and its successor. 

The James Campbell Public School, 1950

James Campbell was closed and demolished at some point after the mid-60s.  In the mid-80s, the lot was converted into Cianfrani Park.  Maintained casually by caring neighbors, the park lacked any organized oversight in its first decade.  This, according to the Friends of Cianfrani Park, left the grounds to decline into disrepair and garbage dumping.  In the 1990s, the Friends of Cianfrani came together and developed a plan that has since rendered the park a charming and inspired demonstration of how green space can be used to anchor a neighborhood.  In addition to hosting an annual Fall Festival and a summer film series, the Park earned First Prize in the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society 2012 City Gardens Contest.

The lush Cianfrani Park, 2014