The Big List of Funny Philadelphia Street Names
[UPDATE] We heard your suggestions and have published an addendum to the original list: Readers Respond:Here Are 12 More Funny Philadelphia Street Names.
Philadelphia has a lot of streets. As a result, Philadelphia also has a lot of street names. Many of them are pretty ordinary. Second. Broad. Main. Yawn.
But many of our street names are funny. Very funny, even. Some of them are funny because they sound silly. Others have amusing origins. And still others make absurd images pop into our heads.
But, you may be wondering, which are Philadelphia’s funniest street names? You’re in luck. After exhaustive analysis — and extensive polling of my Facebook friends — I have compiled the definitive list of the funniest street names in Philadelphia.
What follows is a list of these streets, and some thoughts on what makes their names amusing. Say them aloud as you read along. (Or don’t, really; that’d be weird if you were reading this on the subway, and rude if you were reading it on the quiet car.) These are not listed in any particular order (though I do have a strong opinion for No. 1). Enjoy!
Mole Street, South Philly. This street, which also has a block-long stretch south of Race, is obviously just a cute name. Mole Street! It sounds like the location of a beloved children’s book. The second reason this is funny is that on some street signs it says “MoleSt,” which means this street was somehow named without anyone noticing that.
Shunk Street, South Philly. Shunk Street is named after Francis Rawn Shunk, a Pennsylvania governor struck down in the middle of his term by tuberculosis. Shunk was born to a poor farming family in Trappe, Montgomery County, in 1788. He defended Baltimore during the War of 1812 and, while a clerk in the House of Representatives, married Jane Findlay — the governor’s daughter. When Democratic presidential candidate Henry Muhlenberg died in August, Shunk replaced him and defeated Joseph Markle of the Whig party in the election. According to his state bio, he vetoed bank charters, chartered the Pennsylvania Railroad and sought “greater protection of the poor from the hands of those with concentrated wealth, strong support of public education, and making it more difficult to dissolve marriages.” After winning a second term, he contracted TB in 1848 and resigned. He died 11 days later.
Many South Philly streets are named after Pennsylvania governors, which is why they share names with Penn State dorms (in addition to Shunk, there’s McKean, Snyder, Packer, Geary, Bigler, Ritner, Hartranft, Mifflin, Wolf, Porter — man, Penn State has a lot of dorms).
None of that is particularly funny. Mainly, his name is fun to say. Say it aloud now: “Shunk Street.” Whee!
Shackamaxon Street, River Wards. Shackamaxon was a historic meeting place for the Lenni Lenape people, who signed a historic treaty there with William Penn. Hence Penn Treaty Park. Per the Penn Treaty Museum, some believe it never actually took place — as there is no record of the treaty — and says most historians believe it was more of an entente, “where Penn and the Indians met with mutual and complementary efforts on both sides, establishing a sense of compatible objectives, to come to foundation for a trusting relationship.”
It’s also the namesake of a very funny beer name from Philadelphia Brewing Company, an imperial stout named Shackamaximum.
Phil Ellena Street, Northwest Philly. The street is named after the former Phil-Ellena Mansion in Mt. Airy. The mansion George Carpenter built — he was listed as the lead architect — was named after his wife, Ellen. Yes, the mansion’s name was fake Greek. Ugh, I know, it was funnier before you knew that.
Passyunk Avenue, South Philly. A month ago I asked my Facebook friends for their favorite Philadelphia street names. (I was bored; I didn’t come up with this story idea until about a week later.) Philly comedian Carl Boccuti had this to say about Passyunk Avenue: “It’s the quickest way to tell who’s a native, who’s trying really hard to pretend to be a native, and who’s lost.” It’s “Pash-shunk,” but you might get “Pa-shunk” or “Pass-eee-Yunk.” Passyunk means “in the valley” and not “land of cheesesteaks,” surprisingly. It also goes into Southwest Philly.
First Name Streets: Emily, Sarah, Martha, Albert, Wilt, Michael, etc. Any first name street is fun, because you probably have a friend with one of those names. So when you pass a sign, you can take a photo and send it to them. Or, maybe that’s just what I do.
Flat Rock Road, Northwest Philly. There were flat rocks here. No, really, that’s it. Maybe that makes it less funny.
Axe Factory Road, Northeast Philly. Obviously, this road originally led to an axe factory. (This may be the retaining wall.) But “it became a carpet-yarn mill by the time of the Civil War,” according to William Bucke Campbell’s Old Towns and Districts of Philadelphia, published in 1942 by the City History Society of Philadelphia. Another good name for a street would be Carpet-Yarn Mill Road.
Mermaid Lane, Northwest Philadelphia. Mermaid Lane! According to historian Robert Alotta, who wrote Mermaids, Monasteries, Cherokees and Custer: The Stories Behind Philadelphia Street Names, the Mermaid Hotel stood on the street in 1795. It was a popular spot to chill after a turkey shoot. Another good name for a street would be Turkey Shoot Lane.
Woodstock Street, North and South Philly. Do you picture the Peanuts character or the 1969 music festival?
Camac Street, Center City. It’s a palindrome! Well, the Camac part is (an actual palindrome street name would be Teert Street). This street also exists in North Philly. It’s notable in Center City for being paved with wooden clubs between Walnut and Locust.
Skidoo Street, Northwest Philly. Sadly, there is only a 3400 block of Skidoo Street, so no one can live at 23 Skidoo.
Battersby Street, Northeast Philly. I just think this one is fun to say, too. A “batter’s bee” sounds like a piece of baseball equipment.
Dunks Ferry Road, Far Northeast Philly. Dunks Ferry was a ferry that ran from Bristol to New Jersey. The road now stretches into Bensalem where it becomes Dunksferry Road, one word. Dunks Ferry Road is near the site of the city’s last potters’ field, where Parkwood Youth Organization stands today.
Moyamensing Avenue, South Philly. This is the funniest street name in Philadelphia. Sure, this street is fun to say, but it’s more than that: It comes from a Lenni Lenape word meaning “pigeon droppings.” That’s right: Moyamensing Street is Pigeon Shit Street. Quibble with any other ranking on this list that you want, but this one has to be number one.
Uber Street, South and North Philly. This street is an outstanding, supreme example of a funny Philadelphia street name.
Race Street, Center City. Originally called Sassafras, this street became known as Race in common parlance because it was used into the 19th century as a race track (again, per Robert Alotta).
The Streets That Have Pop-Cultural Significance: Wallace, Grove. If you’re a fan of The Wire, no doubt you’ve yelled out “Where’s Wallace, String?” And Grove Street is the name of your crew in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Uh, the real Grove Street — in the Forgotten Bottom section of Grays Ferry — is much less violent than the one in that video game.
Rising Sun Avenue, Northeast Philly. Wouldn’t you like to live on a street with a name this happy? (Note: Your mileage may vary. Actual Rising Sun Avenue may not be that happy for you.)
Indian Queen Lane, Northwest Philly. The Indian Queen was a tavern at 4th and Chestnut in colonial times. But the East Falls road was on maps before then, in 1692, and is now among one of the most architecturally diverse in the city.
Pelle Circle and Pelle Road, Far Northeast Philly. These two streets were named after Pelle Lindbergh, the young Flyers goaltender who died in a car crash in 1985, in a development built not long after his death. Lindbergh was legally intoxicated at the time, which Alotta says led to another developer naming a street Joseph Kelly Terrace, after a police officer who died in the line of duty in 1971.
Narcissus Road, Far Northeast Philadelphia. This is in the Far Northeast’s Normandy section, a development built in the ’50s by former Levitt & Sons vice president Norman Denny. (“Longtime city planner Edmund Bacon said Denny’s work influenced later builders in the Philadelphia area, particularly by moving garages in front of homes and using playgrounds to connect open spaces in the middle of the block,” the Inquirer’s Steve Goldstein reported in 1991.) Like a Levittown section, all the street names in Normandy begin with N. And for some reason one of them is named after Narcissus, the mythological figure who fell in love with his own reflection and drowned. What a great name for a street.
Unruh Avenue, Northeast Philadelphia. It’s fun to hear people pronounce this. Even people who know it sometimes aren’t sure if it’s Un-RUH or Un-ROO. (I once covered a community meeting in Tacony that devolved into a debate on whether it was TA-cony or TUH-cony.)
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