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Inga Saffron is the Architecture critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Given the ice crust encasing our streets right now, this might seem to be a strange moment to ponder what makes a good playground. A kid is lucky to gulp a few breaths of fresh air in the minutes between school and home. It feels as if it will be months before the slides are warm enough to touch again.
In the late 19th century, when thousands of Italian immigrants were pouring into South Philadelphia to make their fortunes, Seventh Street was transformed into a bustling bankers row. By 1897, there were 25 rowhouse-size banks between Bainbridge and Washington Avenues, all competing to provide newcomers with loans, money transfers, even railroad and steamship tickets.