Mantua Ride Guide
Just north of University City, in West Philadelphia, is a neighborhood that has a rich history of rejuvenation. Mantua is a neighborhood that is flourishing with public resources like community centers, libraries, and green spaces. Originally inhabited by the native Lenni Lenape Indians until the late 1600s, the area was later purchased by William Warner who was the first European to settle in West Philadelphia. In 1809, the neighborhood was named after a city in Italy and was then developed into a white Lutheran neighborhood. In the 1950s more African American families started relocating to Mantua, shaping it into the predominantly African American neighborhood it is today.
Home to one of the historical stops on Martin Luther King’s "Freedom Now Rally Tour," Mantua is beautifully decorated with many murals and community centers that offer programs and resources for residents. The drive and dedication of local community leaders are felt in each new generation in Mantua, shaping the neighborhood and its future.
Mantua also has easy access to some amazing landmarks and museums such as the Philadelphia Zoo, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Please Touch Museum which can each be reached with a short bike ride. These beautiful new parks and varied community resources make Mantua a great area to reside and revisit time and time again.
Check out the interactive map below for some of the resources and sights that Mantua has to offer, along with suggested bike routes! Click on the various map icons for more information. You can even view it on-the-go using the Google Maps Mobile App.
If you'd like to take this info with you on your ride without needing access to the internet, you can view and save a pdf of the original printed ride guide.
The Schuylkill River Trail Tour
The Schuylkill River Trail is a local gem that was voted the best urban trail by USA Today. The Schuylkill River Park has basketball courts, baseball fields, playgrounds, urban gardens, great views of the city, and connections to the River Trail and Center City.
Route starts at Brown St. & Lancaster Ave. and goes eastward on Brown St. There is an alternate route that goes around the Philadelphia Museum of Art and leads to the Fountain of the Sea Horses. You can grab an Indego bike from the 42nd and Lancaster Station.
Clark Park Tour
Clark Park is home to many local events that happen throughout the year so it is always worth a trip to check out. It also has playgrounds, basketball courts, food vendors, events like the summertime Farmer's Market, the Uhuru Flea Market, theater performances, and live music.
Route starts at the 39th & Mt. Vernon, Mantua Haverford Community Center station and runs southward along 40th St.
Centennial Commons Tour
The Centennial Commons are the new gateway to West Fairmount Park. This portion of Fairmount Park is full of trails, public art, and destinations like the Japanese Tea House, Pavilion in the Trees, The Please Touch Museum, Kelly Pool, and more.
Route starts at N 36th St. & Spring Garden St. and goes northward on N 34th St. You can grab an Indego bike from the Dornsife Center station.
Here are a couple routes we recommend to help you get to University City and Center City from Mantua.
The University City & Center City routes both start from either the Indego station at 39th & Mt. Vernon, Mantua Haverford Community Center or Dornsife Center station and head eastward.
Mantua Haverford Community Center
631 N 39th St.
The Mantua Haverford Community Center is home of the Mount Vernon Manor CDC/NAC. Founded in 1936, the community center was founded on the purpose of providing social services specifically to the Mantua community. Today it still follows the same mission of serving the community with quality educational and human services to not only improve the economic base of the neighborhood but also stimulate personal development from youth to adults.
Community Education Center
3500 Lancaster Ave.
The Community Education Center seeks to celebrate everyone's creativity and offers a diverse cultural offering of dance and martial arts classes including African dance, Flamenco, Capoeira, and more. Originally incorporated as a non-profit organization in 1973, the CEC is now established as a professional arts organization and increased its focus on becoming a support system for artists. They do this by providing a space where artists can rehearse, audition, and create workshops to work with other creatives in an easily accessible environment.
Charles L. Durham Library
3320 Haverford Ave.
Formerly the Mantua Branch, the library was renamed in 1995 to honor Judge Durham. Serving the Mantua and Powelton communities, the library is located near the Drexel University campus and the Philadelphia Zoo.
James L. Wright Recreation Center
3320-50 Haverford Ave.
Originally opened as the Mantua Recration Center in 1978, James Lee Wright became the center's director. For 25 years he dedicated himself to producing some of the most talented basketball players to emerge from Philadelphia. The center was renamed after him in 2004 for his commitment and contributions to the Mantua area during his life.
In January 1984, Tim Spencer, a community organizer created the Anti-Graffiti Network to help address the growing spread of graffiti across the City of Philadelphia. The Network provided space for youth to transform their graffiti tags into expressions of art. Tim Spencer knew the value of mentorship resources; in 1986 Spencer hired artist Jane Golden and the Anti-Graffiti Network gave birth to what is known today as the Mural Arts Program.
Both the Anti-Graffiti Network and the Mural Arts Program have beautified walls throughout the City. 2,500 murals have been created and over 40,000 walls have been cleaned. In 1991 they both received the Innovations in American Government Award.
North 34th street between Mantua and Fairmount Avenue was renamed “Tim Spencer Blvd” by Philadelphia City Council on June 14th, 2018, in recognition of his role in creating the Murals Arts Program in Philadelphia.
James Reaves led the way for African Americans in the city of Philadelphia to join the Philadelphia Police force during a time when Blacks rarely had law enforcement positions. James Reaves’ story starts with his pursuit of education at Lincoln University and La Salle College in the 1930s. Reaves joined the Philadelphia Police force in 1940, where he was the only African American recruit. While working on the force, James Reaves rose through the ranks — first as a sergeant and then as a lieutenant.
In 1954, Officer Reaves made history when he became the department’s first Black Police Captain under the civil service merit system. He was assigned to the 16th District, based at 39th Street and Lancaster Avenue. He served as a captain of three other precincts before being transferred to head the Community Relations Division in 1963. Captain Reaves commanded the 22nd District for a year and then retired in June 1965. In 1991 he wrote Black Cops, a book on the history of African American police officers in Philadelphia.
Rev. Dr. Andrew Jenkins
Rev. Dr. Andrew Jenkins was one of the driving forces in shaping Mantua into what it is today. He is one of the co-founders of programs in the neighborhood such as the Young Great Society and the Mantua Community Planners and has dedicated himself to his community. While at Mantua Community Planners, he fought for housing for lower-income residents and helped make suggestions when Penn and Drexel were planning out their expansions.
He saw the potential in the neighborhood and wanted to become part of the system to try to make changes from within. With his efforts during community meetings, to becoming an essential member of the Redevelopment Authority, to then-Vice President of the Mantua Civic Association, Dr. Jenkins has solidified his position as not only a committed activist in his community but a caring neighbor. Coining the phrase “plan or be planned for,” Dr. Jenkins continues to be a source of inspiration for community leaders in Mantua.
Born in West Virginia in 1939 and later moving to Philadelphia when he was seven, Herman Wrice grew up to be one of the biggest advocates against drug violence in Mantua. When he was in high school, he became involved with a gang but with the guidance of his local church, Herman strove to become an example of change and leadership in the community.
Determined to rid his community of drug violence, Wrice and Dr. Jenkins started the Young Great Society and the Mantua Community Planners. These groups have become pivotal in keeping kids away from the negative influences around them by offering them activities and programs. The programs consist of arts and crafts, choir groups, field trips, and tutoring.
With his experiences growing up, Wrice faced the gang and drug issues in the neighborhood head-on, creating the Wrice Process. The Wrice Process was a method where local residents would directly confront street-level drug dealers in their communities. Mantua Against Drugs (MAD) was organized by Wrice as a way to spread the Wrice Process and help push drug trafficking out of the neighborhood. With all his work and dedication to the community, the stretch of Mantua Ave. between Brown St. and 36th St. was named Herman C. Wrice Way in 2018.
3420 Haverford Av.
The Philadelphia Fire Department was founded on March 15th, 1871. However, the first African American firefighter did not join the force until 1886. African American firefighters in Philadelphia were limited in their ability to work for decades due to segregation.
In 1908, Engine 44 was relocated to 3420 Haverford Avenue and became one of the few firehouses that welcomed Black firefighters. Engine 44 also has the honor of being the station where Lisa Forrest became the first Black female firefighter promoted to the rank of Captain. Engine 44 continues to be a community partner and a vital part of the Mantua community today.
Miles Mack Playground
732 N 36th St.
Miles Mack Playground is a 2.5-acre site located in Philadelphia’s Mantua neighborhood. It’s named in honor of Miles Mack, who founded a basketball league to combat youth violence. The playground recently underwent a renovation project spearheaded by Rebuild to feature beautiful murals by Mural Arts Philadelphia and to overall update the space.
"MLK on Lancaster Avenue" Mural
N 40th St. & W Lancaster Ave.
As part of his "Freedom Now" rally in 1965, Martin Luther King Jr. addressed a crowd of 10,000 people at the intersection of 40th St. and Lancaster Ave. This mural created by Cliff Eubanks beautifully encapsulates that special day in Philadelphia's history. This location is also marked as a historic location by the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission.
Mantua Urban Peace Garden
3700 Brown St.
Previously a vacant lot, the Mantua Urban Peace Garden has become a place for members of the community and local urban farmers to come and grow fresh produce. Established in 2013 with support from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, the Mantua Urban Peace Garden features 52 plots. Along with providing broccoli, cabbage, spinach, and herbs as well as other greens, this community garden also contributes to the overall beauty of the neighborhood.