The Norris Homes were built by the Philadelphia Housing Authority in 1952. By 2020 they will be replaced by new mixed income housing as part of the federal government’s new Choice Neighborhoods program. Current Norris residents will be able to move into the new units. Some residents may choose to leave the area, but even those who choose to stay will be separated from their community as it currently exists. Norris is the site of many histories. It is where residents spent their youth, or raised their children. People who have lived at Norris identify with it as an element of who they are.
This website is an ever-growing repository of history, images and stories from Norris residents. It tells the story of a relatively small patch of land that has gone through many changes over time. It’s a portrait of a Philadelphia community that has existed for almost 70 years.
This project was initiated through Open Source, a city-wide public art exhibition curated by Pedro Alonzo and sponsored by the City of Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program. As part of Open Source, 14 different artists were asked to work with a community in the way that people in tech work with open source software or codes. Through Open Source, Jennie Shanker, a Philadephia-based artist, and her assistant Andrew Jimenez, began working with the residents of Norris Homes.
The proposal for Open Source had two components, this website being the first. At 10th and Norris Street, images of typical Norris homes were painted on a series of concrete walls across from residents’ houses.
When a city block is knocked down and new construction appears, who would know that at one time there had been something else on that site? When the Norris Homes are gone, the mural will remain. Next to it, there is a sign that points people to this web archive, where they can learn about the history of the site, meet people who lived at Norris Homes, and hear their stories.
This site will never be complete. It will continue to grow as residents approach and pass through the changes in their neighborhood and their community. The documentation comes from many individuals, some from Norris, and others who are not members of the community. There will be new content added every month. If you lived at Norris Homes, if you have a Norris story, or images you would like to share, be sure to contact us.