Pennsylvania 2nd District
Looking out over the Schuylkill River north of Center City Philadelphia, you can still see the landscape painted 100 years ago by Philadelphia artist Thomas Eakins: the tightly-packed but formidable rowhouses, the old fieldstone houses of Germantown, the gray-blue water flowing past boat houses below the small Greek temples of the Water Works and the larger temple of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. On both sides of this romantic scene are some of Philadelphia’s long-established black neighborhoods: West Philadelphia, across the Schuylkill on either side of Market Street; North Philadelphia, on either side of Broad Street; historic Germantown to the northwest, off the narrow diagonal of Germantown Avenue. Pennsylvania never had slavery, thanks to William Penn and his Quaker legacy, and Philadelphia has been home to a large black community since before the Civil War. That heritage is reflected in places like the John Coltrane House on North 33rd Street, designated a national historic landmark in celebration of the jazz innovator’s early years here. Suburban Cheltenham Township includes old, comfortable communities like Cheltenham, Melrose Park, Elkins Park and Glenside. Some neighborhoods continue to suffer from poverty and blight, and the city has 600,000 fewer people today than it did in 1950. In 2006, it fell behind Phoenix to become the sixth-largest city (although as a metropolitan area, it ranks 5th). From 2000 to 2007, it had the biggest population loss of the nation’s 10 largest cities.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 2nd Congressional District of Pennsylvania takes in much of the city of Philadelphia west of Broad Street, plus Cheltenham Township in suburban Montgomery County. It doesn’t include the key colonial landmarks—they’re in the neighboring 1st—but it does include most of the skyscrapers of Center City and well-heeled Rittenhouse Square, the Philadelphia Zoo (America’s first), the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University. It also includes lush Fairmount Park, the largest landscaped urban park in the world, which climaxes at the grand Philadelphia Museum of Art, where a Rocky-like run up the steps became de rigueur for tourists. The district takes in West Oak Lane, Strawberry Mansion and, further west, the distinguished old neighborhoods of Mount Airy, Chestnut Hill and East Falls. The 2nd also covers Roxborough and the old mill area of Manayunk, now an artsy enclave. With a 59% African-American population, it is Pennsylvania’s only black-majority district. From 2000 to 2007, the district suffered a 10% population loss, which could force an expansion in redistricting after the 2010 census. The district is heavily Democratic, and was Republican nominee John McCain’s fifth-worst performing district in the nation in 2008. He got just 10% of the vote. The bottom four were all in New York.