Manayunk Then and Now

Janine Gasarowski
“Then” photos provided by: The Roxborough Manayunk Wissahickon Historical Society (RMWHS)
and The Manayunk Development Corporation (MDC)
“Now” photos captured by: The Video Content Factory

2024 marks two hundred years since our beloved neighborhood was renamed, “Manayunk.” To commemorate the bicentennial anniversary of Manayunk; below is a collection of photos dating
back to the 1920s, compared to their current day transformations.

The Candy Store/Confectionary Shop, 1920.

The small businesses of Manayunk is what helps the small town vibe thrive in this section of Philadelphia. Main Street has always been a walkable community with boutiques, places to eat, services and more.

4361 Main Street Philadelphia, March 2024.

In the 1920s, inside 4361 Main Street candy shop. Though the name of the shop is unknown, the 1920 census provides a few details on this store. The woman in this photo was most likely Emma Gilbert, a trusted store employee who lived above the shop with her five daughters. The candy shop has transformed multiple times throughout the years till it became the current home of a gift boutique. 100 years later, this space holds The Little Apple Gift Boutique. Pictured in the photo is boutique owner and operator, Brandy Deieso. Brandy opened the doors to her shop in 2010.
The 1926 photo shows pedestrians waiting in line.Within the crowd is a woman holding a shopping basket, and what appears to be sandwiches wrapped in newspapers. What they are waiting for is unknown.This crowding is standing in front of what is now Zesty’s. Zesty’s owner and chef, Tom Konidari, opened the Greek style restaurant in 1993.

Main Street Shops, 4300 block. May 15, 1926.

The Manayunk Bridge officially opened in 1918, and has stood as a symbol of this Philadelphia neighborhood since. Today it stands as a recreation trail connecting pedestrians from Manayunk to Lower Merion. The Cynwyd Heritage Trail and Schuylkill river train connected in 2015. There have been multiple beautification efforts since, including a lighting project in 2022, allowing 24-hour trail access.

Manayunk Bridge under construction. April 14, 1917.

Manayunk Bridge Aerial View, 2024.

Located at Main Street and Cotton, stands one of earliest buildings in Manayunk. Blantyre Mills was constructed in the late 1840s and originally functioned as a cotton mill. This mill represented succession in construction as it became more complex. The photo shown from 1989 shows Blantyre Mill prior to its transformation into apartments. Today this mill stands as the Canal House Apartments, but is also home to office spaces and the Orbit Art Gallery.

Levering Street. Looking North from Main Street, 1910.

Levering Street. Looking North from Main Street, 2024.

These historic photos showcase Levering Street from Main Street. The 1900 photo shows the Kerkeslager Emory Shirt store on the corner. The one looking down Levering shows Cresson Street before the construction of the train tracks. The corner of Levering and Main is now home to Minor Details Philly Boutique on the left hand side.

Rector and Canal, 1898.

Rector and Canal, 2024.

The Canal Towpath in Manayunk was completed in the 1810s and was open for travel and recreation in 1822. 200 years later, it still functions as a gravel path for joggers, cyclists, and nature lovers. The path is just one section of the Schuylkill River Trail, which are the trails that are currently undergoing construction for the Flat Rock Dam , which will connect the canal to the Schuylkill and improve the water quality.

Canal at Lock.

Canal at Lock, 2024.

Across the Canal at Rector today, stands the Venice Island Theater, parking, and the pump station. The old train tracks are still present.

This photo shows the Canal Towpath near Locke Street. In this photo you’ll see the functioning train tracks, an old street lamp post, and a man strolling the path in a suit and hat. The 2024 photo shows the entrance to the path and the Lock Street entrance to Venice Island.

These aerial shots show Manayunk on the left side and Lower Merion on the right side. The Manayunk Bridge connecting the two is visible, as well as the Canal and Schuylkill. The 1915 version was taken via airplane. The current day photo was taken using a drone camera.

Empress Theater on Main Street in September 1926.

The Loring Building, 2024. Photo by JPG photography.

The Empress Theater opened its doors in 1914. The building held everything from live skits, screened movies, music shows, and burlesque. Loring Building Products acquired the space upon the theaters closing in the 1960s and have been there ever since. Structural elements of the previous theater remain.

What was once the Substation is now a beautiful wedding venue by Artesano Iron Works. Their buildings were built in the late 1920s. Couples can tie the knot in the Substation and cross the street for their cocktail party and reception in their venue space nestled under the Manayunk Bridge. Artesano paid homage to their buildings by renovating them and filling them with their beautiful iron sculptures. Shown here is the substation in 1989, when it was occupied by Mike’s California Detailing, who is still local in the neighborhood.