Northern Liberties’ boundaries for real estate purposes are Girard Avenue to the North, Callowhill Street to the South, 6th Street to the West; and the Delaware River to the East. Northern Liberties is located just North of Old City in Philadelphia.
Originally a portion of the Northern Liberties Township, the district first gained limited autonomy from the township by an Act of Assembly on March 9, 1771. The Act provided for the appointment of persons to regulate streets, direction of buildings, etc. By March 30, 1791 a second Act enabled the inhabitants of that portion of the Northern Liberties between Vine Street and Pegg’s Run (Cohoquinoque Creek) and the middle of Fourth Street and the Delaware River to elect three commissioners to lay taxes for the purpose of lighting, watching and establishing pumps within those bounds.
On March 28, 1803, the Legislature passed an act to incorporate that part of the township of the Northern Liberties lying between the west side of Sixth Street and the Delaware River and between Vine Street and Cohocksink Creek, thus creating the District of Northern Liberties. Under the Consolidation law the district ceased to exist in 1854, and become a part of Philadelphia.
Early in its history, the location just outside Philadelphia allowed the area to thrive in manufacturing, as mills, breweries, leather tanneries, paints and chemical works, tool making factories, and iron and stove foundries once lined the neighborhood. It also holds the status as a famous red-light district in the United States. Prior to annexation, the township was created as a less densely populated alternative to nearby Philadelphia. Because of this, it was later known colloquially as “Philadelphia’s first suburb.” However, the Southwark neighborhood claims this distinction as well.