Society Hill is a neighborhood in the Center City section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. The neighborhood, loosely defined as bounded by Walnut, Lombard, Front and 8th Streets, contains the largest concentration of original 18th- and early 19th-century architecture of any place in the United States. Much like Beacon Hill in Boston, Society Hill is noted as a charming district with cobblestone streets bordered by brick rowhouses in Federal and Georgian style.
The district is named after the 18th century Free Society of Traders, which had its offices at Front Street on the hill above Dock Creek. Located close to both the Delaware River and Philadelphia’s civic buildings, including the Independence Hall, the neighborhood soon became one of the city’s most populous areas.
Several market halls, taverns and churches were built alongside brick houses of Philadelphia’s affluent citizens.
In the 19th century, the city expanded westward and the area lost its appeal. Houses deteriorated until the 1950s, when the city, state and federal governments started one of the first redevelopment programs aimed at the preservation of historic buildings. While most commercial 19th-century buildings were demolished, historically-significant houses were restored by occupants or taken over by the Phildaphia Redevelopment Authority and sold to individuals who agreed to restore the exteriors. Replicas of 18th-century street lights and brick sidewalks were added to enhance the colonial atmosphere. Empty lots and demolished buildings were replaced with parks, walkways, and modern townhouses. The high-rise Society Hill Towers, designed by architect I. M. Pei, were constucted at the site of the old Dock Street market area. Louis Sauer designed dozens of rowhouse projects for the area around Society Hill, including Waverly Court and Penn’s Landing Square.