The Greening of Manayunk

Once, the Indians came here to drink. Now, the yuppies do. And ex-mayor Bill Green is right in the middle of it all, merrily ringing up the register

And if Green happened to be in, overseeing the refinishing or refurbishing or restoration of something that had lain dormant in D.G.’s for many years, he would tell them that Manayunk was hot. In his opinion it was some of the hottest property in the city.

What made Manayunk so hot? The location for one thing — it was convenient. And then there was the geography — the hills and, of course, the river. That was beautiful property, the riverfront. A lot of potential. Green himself bought some property there, nestled between the river and the canal, overlooking what might be the only white water in the city. Quite scenic. A lot of potential.

Yes, Manayunk was hot. And getting hotter. How hot could it get? Very hot, Green would say, hushing in a way that implied great respect for a shrewdly turned profit.

It had happened before, of course. One by one, city neighborhoods took their turn — from Society Hill through Fairmount and all that was in between. All the places where young ambitious types would come in and rearrange things until they looked nice, a sort of interior decorating on a citywide scale.

Most of these places were plain and the new people were forced to fake an old look.

But they had gotten lucky with Manayunk. Most of the old was still there — needing work to be sure, but just waiting for someone with that decorator’s eye to come in and change whatever clashed.

Green would tell the story of that first glimpse of D.G.’ s — how he first noticed the original tin ceiling, the original tile floors, the original water trough running beneath the bar. And the bar itself. Cherry and mahogany. A classic original bar.

It just got better and better. When workmen peeled away the aluminum that had covered the bar’s front for years, finding the original surface intact, an associate placed an urgent, excited call to Green’s law office. "It’s still there!" Green learned, to his deep pleasure.

Not that there wasn’t a lot of work to be done to make things right. Green made sure they cleaned up and took out the bowling machine. He pulled out the glass block windows that John DiGiovanni had installed because sometimes the bad kids threw stones, and he replaced it with picture windows and authentic old-fashioned blinds.

He stopped calling it a bar. It was really more a restaurant — or at least a saloon.

He named it a "hotel" because it was once the bar for a hotel. That was around the turn of the century, and the hotel is no longer there and no one remembers it, but it was a part of history to be preserved, part of what Green would come to call Manayunk — "a diamond that needed polishing."

His enthusiasm for the place spread to friends and associates — eventually to four equal partners in what would become Green’s United States Hotel, Bar & Grill.