Toward a clearer definition of “Eraserhood”

When I started this blog, I never really asked myself where the boundaries of the Eraserhood were. For me, it was enough that, “I knew it when I saw it.” It wasn’t until June 20, when I first opened this blog to submissions, that I thought it was important to define the limits of the Eraserhood.

At the time, however, my definition was somewhat soft:

Please focus your submissions on the area outlined here or in nearby blocks with the same, classic industrial tone. (For example, Divine Lorraine is kind of far away from the technical boundaries of the ‘Hood, but still counts. Same goes for Willow Steam. Most of Fairmount and Chinatown, however, have lost the grittiness that makes our ‘Hood unique. Despite the close proximity, these locations aren’t really germane.)

In other words, I was still just guessing.

Earlier today, I had a conversation on Twitter about whether or not a particular business is in the Eraserhood. According to what I am calling “Classical Lynchian Eraserhood,” the business is clearly well north of the boundary. It is not, however, north of my boundary. The outcome of all this is I decided to finally more formally define my boundary, and the borders of the neighborhood I will be [principally] covering in this blog.

I see several good possibilities:

Classical Lynchian Eraserhood

This is probably the easiest to define. It’s the area centered around the location of Lynch’s old apartment at 13th and Wood, and roughly corresponds to the boundaries of the Callowhill Industrial Historic District. The Google map here defines it perfectly.

Unfortunately, a good half of the burgeoning coolness of living in this neighborhood is totally off the grid, using this map. The Trestle Inn is the first casualty. Prohibition Tap is on the outs, but not their sister establishment, Cafe Lift. All of Spring Garden and Green street is blocks outside the boundary.

Using this definition, most of the viaduct is also beyond the pale. We also lose Willow Steam, which I still consider to be a key landmark — and which was clearly alluded to in the first ten minutes of Eraserhead. As much as this solution appeals to my inner Virgo nature, I don’t think it will serve this blog or the overall community. 

“Philebrity” Eraserhood

The map published by Philebrity back on March 18th, 2010 is a tiny bit dated, already, but still captures the essence of the ‘Hood. It includes all the missing elements the first suggestion excluded, as well as legitimizing PhilaMOCA and The Institute as Eraserhood institutions.

We even get to keep the classic Elverson Building (former headquarters of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News), which I think very clearly counts as an Eraserhood landmark every bit as solidly as the Terminal Commerce Building across the street. (This designation also had the advantage of closely resembling the boundaries of the Callowhill Neighborhood Association.)

Extended Eraserhood

The only thing we are missing, in the previous model, is what I will call “The Wedge.” This is the triangle defined by Green Street, Broad Street, and Ridge Avenue. The biggest loss, there, is clearly the Divine Lorraine Hotel. The entire tone of the neighborhood within The Wedge, however, really matches the overall tone of the ‘Hood. For this very arbitrary reason, then, I propose we keep it.

This leaves the Extended Eraserhood with boundaries that look something like:

Please comment with your reactions. I’d love to hear how readers feel about this, admittedly arbitrary, definition.