“Tioga centers around 20th and Tioga Streets. The area was originally called Kenderton when it was subdivided around 1820 by Kenderton Smith. When the Reading Railroad station was built at Tioga Street in 1854, the neighborhood’s name changed.” (from the website of the Nicetown-Tioga Branch, Free Library of Philadelphia).
Tioga was home to various ethnic groups during the 1900s, including Irish, Polish and Jewish residents. Around 1960, larger numbers of African-Americans began to move into the neighborhood and today they comprise more than 90% of the population. Also during the 1960s, nearby manufacturing companies such as Budd Company and Midvale Steel started to reduce their workforce as industrial activity began a steep decline throughout the city. Tioga fell victim to urban decay and disinvestment, along with many other inner-city neighborhoods. The Tioga, Nicetown, and Westmoreland train stations were closed, trolleys were replaced by buses on Erie and Germantown Avenues, manufacturers disappeared and neighborhood population declined by an estimated 40% from 1950 through the 2000 Census.
Meanwhile another neighborhood employer, Temple University Health System, experienced tremendous growth in recent decades. Temple Health has more than 5,500 employees at this location. Today, Tioga’s community leaders are striving to keep the neighborhood stable so that revitalization can take hold in a neighborhood that boasts unparalleled transportation access within the region.
About Tioga United
Tioga United grew out of Tioga Residents’ efforts to organize a neighborhood festival called Unity Day back in 1996. This festival offered neighbors, businesses, clergy and people out of all ages and races to get together, celebrate and share information. The successful event has been repeated every year, and now attracts as many as 1000 people.
After hosting five very successful consecutive Unity Days, the volunteers involved in organizing the event began to recognize the need for more than a festival. Residents began to approach them for help with various needs, so in 2001 the volunteers formed a 501C3 under the name of Tioga United with the slogan “Rebuilding Our Community One Step at a Time.” As Tioga United, members continued hosting annual Unity Day festivals and started Tioga Seniors in Action (TSA), also began holding the monthly community planning meetings. In these meetings, open to all residents, the group focuses on issues that have plagued the community such as vacant lots, safety, youth, lack of recreation, etc. As a result of the meetings, the need for many sub-committees became evident and sub-committees such as Economic Development, Community Enhancement, Youth and Recreation, Zoning and others were established. Each committee is assigned to take on various projects. As the organization grew, the board and membership also grew, with greater numbers of residents recognizing the importance of having an organization working to achieve the needs of the community. Through Tioga United, residents are starting to feel as though they are a part of the regrowth of their own community.
Tioga has been recertified by the Philadelphia City Planning Commissions as a blighted neighborhood in need of transformation. To address this situation, Tioga United partnered with the City of Philadelphia’s neighborhood transformation Initiative (NTI) program and began to help get rid of some of the blight in the community be cleaning alleys, cleaning vacant lots, painting graffiti, posting signs about dumping and hosting greening projects. This was very successful along with vacant, blighted property demolitions and the City’s removal of abandoned cars. From this initiative, Tioga United developed more relationships with various agencies, community groups, public officials and city agencies.
Tioga United has received several small grants for a number of successful projects. For example, in October 2004, through funding from KaBOOM! and Home Depot, Tioga United was able to hold a one day build for the only recreation space for neighborhood youth. Many residents took part in this one day build and the playground has been restored to a beautiful, safe place for area children.
Tioga United has also sponsored community newsletters to enable the residents to keep updated on the area happenings and have established a mailing list of hundreds of residents, local businesses and clergy. Tioga United uses its mailing list to spread information about upcoming events, zoning issues, new development and other much needed information.
Tioga United’s vision is to “Rebuild Our Community One Step at a Time” with the help of all, neighbors, businesses, and clergy, elected officials and dedicated friends and family. The community also has several strong community organizations, service organizations and strong Block Clubs that are all striving for the betterment of Tioga. Area organizations and stakeholders with which Tioga United partners include:
PNC Bank, New Courtland Elder Services, Temple University Center for social Policy and Community Development, Councilwoman Donna Reed Miller, Mercy Neighborhood Ministries of Philadelphia, Allegheny West Foundation, Congressman Chaka Fattah, State Senator Shirley Kitchen, State Representative Jewell Williams, LP Group, Hunting Park Business Association, Preferred Realty, Tasty Baking Co., Body of Christ Ministry, Gaudenzia Inc., Office of Housing & Community Development, Department of Licenses & Inspections, Department of Recreation, North 22nd Street Business Association, Salvation Army, Nicetown CDC, COLT Coalition, Kenderton Elementary School, Grover Cleveland Elementary School, Elizabeth Gillespie Middle School, Simon Gratz High School, Murrell Dobbins High School, Randolph Technical High School, Mercy Vocational High School, 39th Police District.