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East Oak Lane is a neighborhood at the northern end of the North Philadelphia planning district of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. Many of the houses in the neighborhood are large single homes or twins built at a later period than much of central North Philadelphia. There is also a significant number of typical Philadelphia rowhouses.
East Oak Lane is currently defined by the borders of Cheltenham Avenue at the north (the border between Philadelphia and Cheltenham Township), Broad Street on the west, Godfrey Avenue at the south, and the Tacony Creek to the east.
This area of Philadelphia was first settled in 1683 as William Penn's first neighborhood. In 1695, a Welshman named Griffith Miles bought 250 acres of land and built a log home along a dirt road that would later be known as Oak Lane. The area became known as Milestown in 1711, and as farming began to flourish, water-powered mills were built. The road that came to define the neighborhood, initially called Martin's Mill Road, was renamed Oak Lane by a landowner in 1860, in remembrance of an ancient oak tree that had blown down in a storm.
East Oak Lane is known for "large, elaborate houses of various styles" and "grand churches." Numerous architectural styles are visible, for example, in the area between 65th and 69th Avenues, with homes that have been the subjects of paintings by artist Chuck Connelly. Across the railroad tracks, a row of shops, most built in the second half of the 20th century, gives the impression of a small town Main Street.
At 12th and Oak Lane is Ellwood School, an "L"-shaped elementary school building built in 1957 on the site of a previous 1875 schoolhouse, which succeeded an octagonal schoolhouse erected in 1818. The original 1745 building on this site, a one-story schoolhouse, was donated in 1761 by Joseph Armitage to the trustees of what was then the Milestown School. Ornithologists Alexander Wilson and John Bachman were among the teachers there.
At the same intersection, the Oak Lane Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia still operates in its historic 1910 building, renovated in 1958 and 1999.
In addition to its architectural diversity, East Oak Lane has long been known for being racially and ethnically diverse.
Notable past residents have included:
Noam Chomsky, linguist and political theorist who grew up in East Oak Lane on Fairhill Street. While Chomsky described his family as being, in the 1930s and 1940s, "the only Jewish family in a mostly Irish and German Catholic neighborhood", he attended the nearby Oak Lane Country Day School, a "progressive and lively K-8 private school [whose] students were for the most part Jewish".
Leslie Odom Jr., Tony Award-winning actor who originated the role of Aaron Burr in the 2015 Broadway musical Hamilton
Hugh Panaro, actor who played the title role in The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway for over eight years between 1999 and 2014 - source: Wikipedia
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