Neighbors United by Garden Greenery: A Classic Urban Tale

The story of the Crease Street Garden is a classic urban tale. It was once a haven for small drug dealers that turned into something wonderful.

Crease Street Garden Full History

For most of the 19th and 20th centuries, the present location of the Crease Street Garden, 1236-38 Crease Street, was a very narrow alley known as ‘Deans Avenue’ which ran between Crease Street and Day Street. Old maps indicate fourteen houses stood in the area now occupied by the Garden, four typical row homes, and ten small, very shallow houses. In the mid-seventies the City took possession of and demolished all fourteen houses, the leaving the land vacant, simultaneously abolishing the alley.

For approximately 40 years, from the mid-70s through 2009, 1236-38 Crease Street remained in the ownership of the City. Aside from vast quantities of brick associated with the now demolished houses, the lots were completely overgrown with saplings, bushes, weeds, and vines, and additionally served as a dumping ground for construction and household trash, abandoned vehicles (including one vehicle out of which a drug dealer served his customers), and other refuse.

In 2009 – through 2010, the police having successfully addressed the drug trafficker, the residents of the 1200 block of Crease organized to clean-up the lots, accomplishing the following:

  • stripping the lot of the plant overgrowth
  • filling a 30 yard dumpster with masonry construction debris
  • activating the City to remove the two abandoned vehicles
  • obtaining a garden lease agreement with the City
  • designed an ornamental garden, raised the funds to purchase approximately $500 worth of required plants, which the residents planted and nurtured as needed
  • obtaining railroad ties from SEPTA which were fashioned into benches, using discarded curb stones for seating
  • installing a brick walkway, bird bath, raised vegetable bed and edged (approximately) 250 feet of flower beds with brick and/or Belgian block

From 2010-2014, the Garden operated under the parameters of the City’s garden lease agreement that was renewed annually. In 2014 the City sold the lots occupied by the Garden to a resident of Crease Street. At this time the two parcels of land were subdivided into three, two fronting Crease Street, one fronting Day Street. The new owner constructed a house on Day Street, and approached the de facto managers of the Garden suggesting the two parties enter into a dollar lease agreement for the preservation of the Garden, which would continue to occupy the two Crease Street lots. The lease agreement would require the Garden to obtain liability insurance and to pay the real estate taxes.

In response to this proposal the residents formed the Pennsylvania non-profit corporation ‘Friends of the Crease Street Garden’, obtained IRS determination, and in due course obtained the required insurance, as well as paying the real estate taxes. Moving forward, the burden of all costs, management, upkeep, and all aspects of the garden were the responsibility of the Garden, which is managed by a Board of seven volunteers. The Board formally meets six times annually, actively solicits donations to meet the annual budget, undertakes the maintenance of the Garden, and organizes local activities to promote the enjoyment of the Garden.

Initially operating under a year-to-year lease agreement, in 2017 the owners and the Board entered into a ten-year lease agreement which runs through August, 2026.

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