The final destruction of Goodisville
noir writer David Goodis placed his best writing in a city
that is no more, the place cultural historian Jay A.
Gertzman calls Goodisville. Covering
Skid Row, Society Hill and Southwark, Goodisville ran to
the Delaware River. It is the setting of
Girl (around Dock
Street) and Moon in
the Gutter (Southwark).
The Goodisville waterfront was paved with sunken
cobblestones and crossed by railroad tracks. It was home
to buses converted to diners, ships, tug boats, fire
boats, barges, decaying piers and rotting warehouses.
The death of Goodisville took about 20 years. Beginning in
the 1950's Skid Row was cleared. The food distribution
activities at Dock Street were moved to South Philadelphia
and Society Hill was redeveloped. Delaware Avenue was paved
with asphalt. In the 1960's Southwark was cleared for I-95.
The final destruction came at the time of the Bicentennial,
when Delaware Avenue was rebuilt, new railroad tracks were
laid, and the exciting, living waterfront was converted
into the pretty and boring Penn's Landing.
On a day, probably in the summer of 1975, I walked down
Delaware Avenue to what was become Penn's Landing. I
photographed the rebuilding of Delaware Avenue and the
laying of new railroad tracks. By the 1980's, Goodisville
was finally dead. Delaware Avenue had become Columbus
The parcel of Philly real
estate known as Goodisville is permanently blighted. The
writer heightens the nightmare dangers of the industrial
neighborhoods he describes: menacing gangs, derelicts,
thieves, rapists, tenement buildings, row houses, wooden
"shacks," bars, ratty warehouses, dank alleys,
rubbish-strewn vacant lots, and cobbled streets. It’s an
archetypal asphalt jungle.
Jay A. Gertzman in David Goodis' Hardboiled
I proceeded south of Washington Avenue, where my
greatgrandparents set foot in America, to the setting
of Moon in the
Gutter, to photograph
the surviving waterfront activity.
Around New Year's day, probably 1976, I visited the church
yard of Gloria Dei (Old Swedes' Church) in the heart of
Goodisville. How many Goodis characters lived secret lives
here we will never know.