As the 21st annual Tacony History Day approaches, a couple of longtime community leaders believe the neighborhood’s future can be as good as its past.
Lou Iatarola — an appraiser, Realtor and member of the Historical Society of Tacony and Tacony Civic Association’s zoning committee — is especially enthusiastic about the effort to designate a portion of the neighborhood as a historic district.
The specific area is a residential one created by Henry Disston, who founded a company in the early 1870s that became the world’s leading manufacturer of saws. Disston acquired almost 400 acres of land and created a residential area where his workers could affordably buy or rent a home close to the factory, which was located along the Delaware River at Unruh Avenue.
Neighborhood folks have been receptive to outreach efforts about the historic designation. Fifteen plaques have been placed on homes within the Disston Estate, listing the date of construction and name of the person for whom the house was built. There’s a waiting list for more plaques.
Soon, a professional consultant will be hired to handle the nomination forms in hopes of earning historic designation.
“It will help us carve out a niche we could build on,” Iatarola said. “It will open up the door for additional funding, especially for businesses along the commercial corridor.”
Tony Naccarato — an engineer and board member of the Delaware River City Corporation who handles transportation and traffic issues for the Tacony Civic Association — points to action along the Delaware River.
While private developers have been hesitant to move forward because of the weak economy, the DCCC earlier this year unveiled Lardner’s Point Park, just south of the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge.
Naccarato sees the new park and pending extension of the K&T trail as “game-changers” among residents.
“Lardner’s Point Park has been a big hit,” he said.
Naccarato is also monitoring the progress of the various construction projects geared to improving access to and from I-95. Converting Princeton Avenue from a mini, one-way speedway from Torresdale Avenue to State Road to a two-way street with slower moving traffic gets high marks.
For now, the traffic heading to the southbound ramp at State Road and Longshore Avenue is heavy. Naccarato, Iatarola and others are looking forward to the future opening of a southbound ramp at Cottman Avenue.
“When the whole project is done, it will be a huge improvement for the neighborhood,” Naccarato said.
The opening of that heavily used southbound ramp at Longshore Avenue happened only after the closing of the Engine 38 firehouse in February 2009. More than three and a half years later, construction of a new firehouse has not been completed. It’ll be located at Keystone Street and Magee Avenue and could open by the end of this year or as late as spring 2013.
Tacony cannot make a complete turnaround without a flourishing Torresdale Avenue, which is the neighborhood’s prime commercial corridor but also the site of many residences.
The avenue has its strong points, Iatarola argues. He cites the Free Library branch and its manager, David Payne; a popular facade grant program; a new district office that will soon be opened by City Councilman Bobby Henon; and the cleanups, flower plantings, designs, business recruitment and other initiatives of the Tacony Community Development Corporation’s commercial corridor program and its manager, Alexander Balloon.
“Alex is doing a heckuva job. He always has something cooking,” Iatarola said.
The neighborhood will show off its past and present during Tacony History Day, scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 15. It’s coordinated by the Historical Society of Tacony, the Tacony Civic Association and the Tacony CDC.
The day begins with a parade at 11 a.m. The route begins at Torresdale Avenue and Hellerman Street and ends at Disston Recreation Center.
Rock ’n’ roll legend Charlie Gracie will be the grand marshal. The parade will feature string bands, veterans groups, classic fire engines and military vehicles, Boy Scouts and youth sports organizations.
The festival will run from noon to 4 p.m. There will be live musical entertainment by Tommy Conwell and others, dancers, rides, games of chance, giveaways, egg toss and pie eating contests, sand art, spin art, face-painting, history exhibits, guided trolley tours, food and refreshments.
“It’s a very well-rounded day for everybody,” Iatarola said. “People look forward to it.” ••
To make a reservation for a trolley tour, to become a volunteer or sponsor or for more information, call 215-338-8790.EndFragment