In the late 19th and early 20th century, the intersection of 5th & South was at the heart of an increasingly vibrant Jewish Quarter in Philadelphia. Immigrant families began flowing into Society Hill and lining South Street with their businesses. The building standing at the Southwest corner of 5th Street and bearing the address 500 South St. would be a mainstay of the Jewish neighborhood even as it changed hands numerous times over the decades. The corner in question is shown here below in an image taken from G.W. Bromley’s 1895 Philadelphia Atlas.
At around this time, 500 South St. served as the studio for a popular family portrait photographer named Max Pomeranz, according to the Family Tree Maker. Pomeranz specialized in ‘Art photography’ and claimed to have innovated an “Instantaneous Process used exclusively'” in his studio. The image below, taken from a personal photo collection at Dreamwidth.org, shows one of Pomeranz’s family portraits with his studio’s address etched into the matting.
According to Family Tree Maker, Pomeranz would relocate his studio two blocks away in 1907. Over the course of the next several decades, the building would blend into a street bursting with Jewish fabric and clothier businesses. The photo below, taken from the Philadelphia Department of Records, shows an unidentified clothing retailer on the corner in question.
By the 1940s, the corner was occupied by Al Berman who, according to his sign, sold Ambassador and Austin Leeds Stylized Clothes. Berman’s success here would be fleeting however, as demonstrated by photos taken from the Philadelphia Department of Records. These show the building in 1961, apparently during a liquidation sale.
Pictures of 500 South St. from the following decade are scarce. However, by 1972, it had been transformed into a performance venue called Grendel’s Lair. According to Philly.com, Grendel’s hosted a hodgepodge of “off-Broadway shows, rock and roll, stand-up comedy, jazz, magic, disco dancing, female impersonators, folk music and Yiddish theatre.” Grendel’s is shown here below in a photo taken from Johnnygoodtimes.com.
Grendel’s persisted as a popular cultural draw on South Street for 15 years before dropping its curtains for good in 1987. At that juncture, 500 South once again became a clothing store. The Gap moved in, becoming one of several national chains to set up camp on South Street in the late 1980s. This shift forever changed the face of South Street. Today, with the Gap departed, another national corporation holds the lease. The current T-Mobile outlet is pictured here below.