Bella Vista, Italian for “beautiful sight”, is a neighborhood in the South Philadelphia section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is bounded by 6th Street, 11th Street, South Street, and Washington Avenue. It currently has a population of 5,898.
Prior to the Act of Consolidation of 1854, Bella Vista was part of the Moyamensing Township. It was sparsely settled until the 1840s and 1850s when it became an impoverished area on the outskirts of the industrializing city. The New York Tribune noted in 1848 that the districts of Moyamensing and nearby Southwark were composed of “the most graceless vagabonds and unmitigated ruffians” as well as “loafers” who were members of various gangs. In addition to Irish immigrants, it was also once home to a large portion of the city’s black population, many of whom were former slaves from the South. In 1852, the Institute for Colored Youth, a school (and later college) for people of African descent, was established at 10th and Bainbridge.
During the late 1800s, Italian immigrants began settling the area in large numbers, which reshaped the neighborhood’s character. One of the earliest immigrants, Antonio Palumbo, opened a boardinghouse (Palumbo’s) on the corner of 9th and Catharine in 1884 that became the social center of the neighborhood’s growing Italian community.