“Excuse me, but is this area Kensington or Fishtown?”
The convenience store cashier’s eyes widened just enough for me to realize it was a mistake, possibly even an insult, to ask her that. She pointed north.
“It’s like way more ghetto, you know,” she said. “Yeah, if you say that to someone around here they’ll get mad.”
The U.S. Postal Service has designated the 19125 zip code to Kensington. However, that zip includes the neighboring Fishtown area where I made my directional blunder with the cashier.
While it’s never been truly clear where the northern border of Kensington exists, Frankford Avenue is a definite southern border.
In general, the easiest way to find Kensington is to follow the Elevated portion of the Market-Frankford Line. Getting off at Girard Station will land you right on the borders between Fishtown and Northern Liberties. But just a few stops north, around Huntingdon station, the neighborhood breaks down. It’s here that Kensington Avenue begins to run directly below the El.
The center of Kensington really revolves around the El, fanning outward, and running as far north as the Tioga stop. Cutting perpendicularly through the center of it all is Somerset Street. In May 2007, the corner where Somerset and Kensington Ave. intersect was named the number one corner for recreational drugs in Philadelphia.
Still, the parade of dealers and customers moves continuously up and down Kensington Avenue. When four police officers post themselves outside the stairs to the El, the rest move a few blocks over.
And so each day the rotation continues.