We Found Another Hidden Block in Bella Vista

Cianfrani Park is great, isn’t it? As we told you previously, two different stately school buildings once stood on this property at the northeast corner of 8th & Fitzwater, and while it would have been ideal for either to have been preserved, this little community park is a pretty terrific alternative. We checked out a free concert in the park last month and discovered a public space teeming with families enjoying their community in this neighborhood amenity. So check out the park the next time you’re in the neighborhood.

Cianfrani Park, viewed from Pemberton Street

And if you happen to visit the park, might we also recommend a brief visit to a neighborhood curiosity, the courtyard that was originally known as Harkens Place. The 700 block of Pemberton Street runs along the northern side of the park, and as you get close to the park’s eastern side, you’ll notice an open iron gate. Behind that gate is a small courtyard with five little trinity homes on its western side.

Looking east on the 700 block of Pemberton
Looking up into Harkens Place
Closer look

You may recall, we’ve brought similar courtyards to your attention over the years, most recently pointing out Bainbridge Court on the 400 block of Bainbridge Street. Small homes surrounding hidden courtyards were a much more common phenomenon a century ago, when a population explosion resulted in an effort to squeeze homes into tight empty spaces. On this square block alone, there were two other such courtyards, as you can see in this GW Bromley Philadelphia Atlas map from 1895.

Map from 1895 shows similar courtyards

You can also see from this map that Harkens Place once had a row of five homes on its eastern side, which must have been demolished somewhere along the line. Remember, Bainbridge Court was in poor condition back in the 1970s and we wonder whether the same was true for Harkens Court, resulting in the demolition of half the homes. Thankfully, five of the homes are still around, allowing five more families to easily enjoy Cianfrani Park while at the same time reminding us of a bygone era in Philadelphia neighborhood history.