Good Eye: Italian Bankers Row

Feb 25, 2015 610

by Inga Saffron

In the late 19th century, when thousands of Italian immigrants were pouring into South Philadelphia to make their fortunes, Seventh Street was transformed into a bustling bankers row. By 1897, there were 25 rowhouse-size banks between Bainbridge and Washington Avenues, all competing to provide newcomers with loans, money transfers, even railroad and steamship tickets.

The immigrant bankers soon began erecting more substantial buildings, typically on corners where they would have maximum visibility. Despite their desire to stand out from the competition, the bankers seem to have copied from the same design playbook. All the major corner banks have bull-nose fronts, reminiscent of New York's celebrated Flatiron building.

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