Save Irving Street
from private ownership!

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Our legal battle to "Save Irving Street" from private ownership has failed, however as private property owners with easement rights, we hope to keep Irving Street as it is today.

April 10, 2014:  The Commonwealth Court of Appeals upheld the lower court's decision which was to grant us our private easement rights, but also to allow the adjacent property owners to claim Irving Street as their private property.  According to the decision, Irving Street may not be blocked or in any way inhibited from use by easement holders.  At least that is good news for us.  Unfortunately, the public can be denied access.(read decision here)

all links below are highlighted in green

  FYI - October 2010 Report: Condition, Assessment, and Recommendation, 200 block of South Jessup Street by Milner + Carr Conservation (Jessup Street was restored in 2012.  Although it looks great, against the report's recommendation of modified aggregate for the foundation, a cement foundation was laid instead.)

History of Irving and Jessup Streets:

From 1813-1960, most of the residents of this neighborhood were African American.  In fact, in 1814 Absalom Jones, the first African-American Episcopal priest in the U.S., purchased 219 S. Jessup Street, one door away from Irving Street.  Absalom Jones never lived there, but as a minister he purchased houses for African-Americans who could not do so for themselves.

FYI: From the Newsletter of the Philadelphia City Archives, # 37 (June 1979) TRACING THE ORIGINS OF MINOR STREETS IN PHILADELPHIA by Susan A. Popkin

Historical Commission:


At this time The Historical Commission is taking "no position" on the subject of Irving Street becoming private property. 


The streets contained within the block bordered by Locust and Spruce, from 11th to 12th, are part of the  Philadelphia Historic Street Paving Thematic District (222 public streets, including Irving Street - only 3 streets are privately owned), (MAP) established on December 9, 1998 and sometimes called the Historic Cartway, it includes the entire stretch of Irving Street.  Both Irving and Jessup Street are rated "high integrity" cartways.  (see Nov 1 & 9th meeting minutes which established the list) and Application with history of Philadelphia streets attached.  Also see: Philadelphia Code: §14-2007. Historic Buildings, Structures, Sites, Objects and Districts


We were told last summer by a staff member that the Historical Commission has authority over only the flat surface of the cartway, but not the curbs or sidewalk, which are the property owners' responsibility. The Historical Commission also informed us that they have no authority over public access, parked cars, or any non-permanent structures that may block the street.  Currently, several planters are blocking vehicular access to Irving Street.  In addition, the curbs on both sides of Irving Street are in disrepair and constitute a tripping hazard, while the sidewalk for 223 S. Jessup was removed, turned into a garden, and blocked with planters. 



Ordinance of 1896 - Officially dedicated the east end of Irving Street.  Note, our lawsuit claims that neither official dedicated not official acceptance is legally necessary for a street to be a public road.  Instead, public use and/or public maintenance are the determinative factors -

Also see book cover  "An Ordinance -- To place upon the City Plan certain streets, alleys, and courts in the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eight Wards, opened and in public use prior to June 6th, 1871. The Select and Common councils of the city of Philadelphia do ordain, That the Department of Public Works be, and the same is hereby authorized to place upon the City Plan the following streets, alleys and courts in the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Wards, of the width as opened and built upon prior to June 6th, 1871:...Essex (now Irving), from Prosperous street (now Jessup) eastward,... Provided, That satisfactory evidence be furnished that the said streets, alleys and courts were opened and in public use prior to June 6th, 1871.  Approved this sixteenth day of December, A.D. 1896.  CHAS. F. WARWICK,  Mayor of Philadelphia"

Note: The City Plans office says that they don't have any evidence on file (to satisfy the above requirement) that the east end of Irving Street was opened and in public use prior to June 6th, 1871, even though it was built in the early 1800's.  However, they don't have any records for the west end of Irving either.

Philadelphia City Maps and documents


NOTE:  A visual inspection reveals that all four of the streets that make up this intersection of Irving and Jessup Streets appear to be constructed at the same time.  Irving is constructed of the same material (grey block) on either side of Jessup Street, and Jessup is composed of the same material (brick) along its entire course.


(All show east end of Irving Street on maps)


Water Mains: Card (Plan described, dated1848) and later Map - East end of Irving Street is on this City of Philadelphia map.


Storm drains and Sewer:  Card, Cover, and Map (1905) - This map shows S. Jessup Street's rounded curbs and angled storms drains (constructed by the City of Philadelphia), leading into the east end of Irving Street and designed to take storm water from both the east end of Irving Street and S. Jessup Street - definitive evidence that the City recognized the east end of Irving as a public street and incorporated it into the City's infrastructure, as such.


The water system for these streets was built in 1848.  But, the most obvious, if not 'de facto', evidence that it was the intent of the City of Philadelphia to include Irving as a “street” on the City Plan and not a “parcel”, is the location of two storm drains and sewers (built in 1905), plus the rounded curbs and sidewalks at the east corners of Irving and Jessup Streets.  It is particularly unlikely that a parcel would have two storm drains and rounded curbs located on either side of a lot in built at an angle and in such a manner.  It is a typical “crossroad” construction, not a “T” intersection.  The clear intention of the City appears to be that Irving Street was meant to cross Jessup and connect with the back alleys and courtyards.



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Several of these properties deeds reference Essex (now Irving) Street.  Our deed (217 S Jessup, Parcel 118) states that we have “free and common use, right, liberty and privilege of the aforesaid Court as and for a passageway and watercourse at all times hereafter, forever”.  The only access to the alleys, brick drainageway, and back courtyard “passageway and watercourse - which drains onto Irving St- is through the east end of Irving Street. There are no other public nor private passageways off of Jessup Street through which that area can be accessed.  Also, if Irving Street was not meant to be a street, why does the brick drainageway (watercourse) in our alley connect to Irving Street's gutters, having no other outlet?

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City Plan Action Request (also see or Legislation before Philadelphia City Council


The east end of Irving Street has been in constant use as a street by the public for almost 200 years. We believe that the solution to Irving Street’s untitled status is to amend or correct the City Plan to include the original and entire course of Irving Street, from Quince Street to the east side of Jessup Street.   We suggest that this might be best accomplished by utilizing the City Plan Action Request Process (Option 3).  Our other option was to ask Councilman Frank DiCicco to put legislation before City Council, but he decided against it.


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Organizers: Cliff and Lynn Landes, 217 S. Jessup Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107  Phone: 215-629-3553