Urbanist darling Jane Jacob’s legacy continues as curious city lovers around the world prepare to take to the sidewalks for Jane’s Walk this weekend to honor the bespectacled activist who died in 2006.
In Philadelphia, a series of 35 volunteer-led groups will traverse the city’s neighborhoods starting Friday and continuing through Sunday May 5 in celebration of Jacobs and her eyes on the street ethos.
Each guided Jane’s Walk comes with a promise of revealing something new about the city around us — everything from the utopian possibilities imagined in the design of a now-shuttered middle school to the unseen black history of one of the city’s poshest areas.
“I love the idea of the community coming together around exploring their neighborhood or unfamiliar neighborhood and looking at Philadelphia in new and different way,” said Kalela Williams, a director for the Free Library of Philadelphia.
She’ll be leading a walk through the section of Center City once known as Seventh Ward. Spanning between Spruce and South from river to river, the area is now one of the city’s most exclusive but at the end of the 19th century, it was where the city’s growing black and immigrant communities built homes, religious and educational institutions and businesses.
The neighborhood was once home to W.E.B. DuBois, as well as the focus of his seminal study, The Philadelphia Negro. Civil rights activist Octavius Catto also lived there. That history and more will be the focus of a walk taking off from Seger Recreation Center at 1020 Lombard St., on Saturday at 10:45 a.m.
If you’re into the city’s train system, Tony Desantis and Bill Ritzler, of Delaware Valley Association of Rail Passengers, will lead a walk through North Philadelphia Station — now being reimagined as linchpin to a major new development.
Walkers can expect an earful about the city’s regional transit system as well as some Philadelphia sports history, since the Phillies used to play nearby before Veterans Stadium was built.
“I want to show you the industry that used to be here,” said Desantis. “The ballparks that used to be here. The trains that used to be here. And what could be.”
PlanPhilly contributor Ashley Hahn has organized the Philly walks for the last five years. On Friday, she will lead a walk through three Center City public spaces — Dilworth Park, Love Park and Paine Plaza. Following on the heels of Dilworth and Love, the dowdy concrete plaza outside the Municipal Services Buildings is next on the list for a makeover, Hahn reported in October. “Let's slow down, look closely, and explore what we might want from these very different and interconnected public spaces,” Hahn wrote in a description of the walk, which will begin at 11:30 a.m. in Dilworth.
For nature-seekers, Tony Croasdale, who works for the city’s parks department, will lead a walk through Cobb’s Creek Park. He promises “peak songbird migration” and spring wildflowers.
Jane’s Walk began in Toronto in 2006, founded by an informal collection of Jane Jacobs’ friends, colleagues and admirers. The idea took off over the span of the next decade, expanding to 225 cities in 37 countries by 2017.
Williams says the walks provide an opportunity to bring people together in a fractious time. People may differ in their civic opinions, but by going for a stroll together, the sidewalk isn’t the only place residents can find common ground.
“We are not talking to each other,” said Williams. “We are yelling at each other. But nobody is hearing what anyone is saying. So I feel like taking a minute to say let’s go for a walk and talk about something that we can all come together around and we can all learn from.”