Polish People in the Philadelphia Area

1. During the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, a mini-port of entry, similar to Ellis Island in New York, was located at Delaware and Washington Avenues in South Philadelphia. This port of entry welcomed immigrants from Poland, Italy, Germany, Lithuania, Ireland and other countries. Large numbers of European immigrants settled along Philadelphia’s waterfront. The first Polish American settlement was in what is known as the Fishtown section of Philadelphia. Soon afterward a Polish Catholic church was founded, St. Laurentius, at Berks and Memphis Streets in 1882, to address the needs of the growing Polish community. It was followed by the founding of St. Stanislaus Church in 1891 at 3rd and Fitzwater Streets in South Philadelphia, close to the immigrant port of entry and waterfront employment opportunities.

2. As time passed, the new Polish American communities spanned the waterfront from South Philadelphia to the Northeast section of Philadelphia. They established themselves as a reliable and industrious workforce, especially in waterfront, railroad and manufacturing enterprises. Polish communities continued to grow throughout the City of Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs and migrated across the State of Pennsylvania, where almost two million Pennsylvanians share full or partial Polish heritage.

3. Today, Polish Americans form an important segment of the great mosaic of America, comprising the sixth largest ethnic group in America. More than 20 million live throughout the 50 states. Ten million are of full Polish heritage, while ten million share partial Polish heritage. Their accomplishments contribute greatly to American society in all walks of life, including business, education, science, politics, sports, religion, military service and the arts. Polish Americans continue to celebrate their heritage at Polish churches, schools and organizations and participate in numerous cultural, patriotic and civic events throughout the year. They preserve an old country flavor in many neighborhoods across the country by operating a variety of businesses featuring Polish specialty items, including deli meats, baked goods and imported items from Poland.

In October, 2008, the Polish American community will mark the 400th Anniversary of the First Polish Settlers in America.

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