University City Historical Society is pleased to add two new initiatives to our work in West Philadelphia. 

Founder Dawud Hakim in the doorway of his bookstore in West Philadelphia.

Pennsylvania Historical Marker

For the first time in our existence, UCHS will be applying to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission for a state historical marker. Pursuant to our statement on Black Lives Matter in the summer of 2020 and our wish to expand the stories of our neighborhood to include more diverse history, UCHS is partnering with The Enterprise Center to sponsor the application of Hakim’s Bookstore & Gift Shop to receive a marker.

To receive a PA state historical marker, the applicant (UCHS & Enterprise) must prove significance of the resource (Hakim’s) throughout the Commonwealth. It is not enough that Hakim’s is the oldest Black-owned bookstore on the East Coast; we need to make the case that Pennsylvanians knew and used Hakim’s as a resource. UCHS has engaged with Penn grad Corey Loftus on the application package. Corey has thoroughly researched Hakim’s importance as a statewide resource for Black books, authors, and learning. 

Hakim’s Bookstore was opened in 1959 by Dawud Hakim and has been a mainstay of the historic 52nd Street commercial corridor since the 1960s. As managers of that corridor, The Enterprise Center nominated Hakim’s when UCHS approached them in late 2020. Yvonne Blake is Dawud Hakim’s daughter and the current store owner. She said of the application: “it’s really overwhelming to read my dad’s story. I appreciate the time and effort [UCHS] has put into this great honor.” 

UCHS hopes that the future will include other applications for a PA historical marker. What history is in our neighborhood that we should celebrate?

Construction Resources

The longevity of our residential building inventory depends on good maintenance. Additionally, restoration work to bring our homes back to period beauty requires knowledgeable resources. UCHS is pleased to soon release a database of design and construction resources.

We have gathered names and companies of those who do work on houses and buildings in our neighborhoods. While we cannot guarantee work or pricing, we are happy to provide a clearinghouse to those who are seeking information and resources for home maintenance or restoration help. Even historians who could help you understand the specific history of your house will be included.

This new database will be unveiled on the new UCHS website re-design in April 2022.

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