Northeast Times

River Wards: Then and Now, Old and New: A lifelong Northern Liberties resident

Bar­bara Gei­ger, who lives on N. Ran­dolph St.

Bar­bara Gei­ger grew up in North­ern Liber­ties when it was a bit like a mini-Ukraine.

“Grow­ing up, this block was mostly Ukrain­i­an,” she said of her N. Ran­dolph St. home, where she’s lived since 1965.

“There were 12 of us kids total, and only four were Amer­ic­an,” she said. “We just played on this street all day long, un­til the street lights came on.”

Back then, she said, she and her friend would walk up and down Gir­ard Av­en­ue, people watch­ing and go­ing in and out of com­ic book and candy stores.

“It wasn’t like it is today. Now, there’s a lot of empty build­ings,” she said.

Still, the new de­vel­op­ment in North­ern Liber­ties, like the Piazza at Schmidt’s and many oth­er busi­nesses and res­id­ences, has giv­en the neigh­bor­hood a new iden­tity.

“Now, it’s like the new South Street, the ‘place to go,’” she said. It’s a com­munity iden­tity Gei­ger said was a little tough to get used to.

“I’ve been to the Piazza, to Darling’s Diner, to Stand­ard Tap and North Bowl,” she said. “I kind of feel like I don’t be­long. Every­one there is so young. It’s a dif­fer­ent world, a dif­fer­ent place. I think, ‘I didn’t grow up here.’”

Though it’s dif­fer­ent, she said, “I like the way the neigh­bor­hood has evolved. The neigh­bor­hood has got­ten bet­ter, there’s more people, more things to do.” 

Now, Gei­ger said, the “con” of the neigh­bor­hood is the over­whelm­ing res­id­en­tial de­vel­op­ment.

“With­in half a block, you have three com­munit­ies of houses, but they are go­ing up real fast, they have no char­ac­ter, they are cook­ie-cut­ter,” she said.

“As a par­ent, I don’t see any­thing here for chil­dren, no play­ground or re­cre­ation cen­ter or bas­ket­ball court.”

As far as her neigh­bors, Gei­ger said, she gets along well with many of the new, young­er res­id­ents.

“I feel the hip and trendy vibe of this neigh­bor­hood,” she said. I like in­ter­act­ing with people here.”

Now, the fifth gen­er­a­tion of the Gei­ger fam­ily is liv­ing in the house, and signs of her long-gone fam­ily mem­bers are every­where.

“My great-grand­fath­er put this wall­pa­per up,” she said, ges­tur­ing to the walls of her liv­ing room. “This house, here, this is just…this is home.” ••

You can reach at mjamison@bsmphilly.com.

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