The Welcome to Fishtown mural is so appropriate. Three tabby cats are sprawled around the huge letters in a whimsical tease. It’s trendy and quirky, a bit like its neighborhood.
It’s eye-catching, even among Hollywood decor. He took center stage in Jason Segel’s AMC series Shipments from elsewhere. Segel and his co-star Eve Lindley are filmed standing in front of the felines on Frankford Avenue, just below Girard. He is featured in season five of Netflix’s Queer Eye and in various commercials.
In a few months, this will no longer be the case. In its place is a brand new apartment building with store fronts on the vacant land it borders, and many residents say they will miss the icon that made them smile.
“I will be disappointed to see it go,” said Elizabeth Burdett, who lived in Fishtown for years and now views the mural every day from a seat on the Route 15 bus when she travels from Port. Richmond to Center City for his work in Government Relations.
“It’s one of my favorite murals because I have a few cats myself and I think it’s smart to have cats and Fishtown,” she said. “I think it’s really funny. It’s part of my daily commute. So it’s something I see every day and I’ve always really enjoyed it.
A green tractor sat in the dirt on Saturday, ahead of the first cat looking around the F in Fishtown. The classification had begun.
Burdett, 28, said she recognizes the need more housing. “It’s a good thing to have the development of the district. Part of the double-edged sword of being a city of murals is that many of them can be a bit fleeting or temporary. You never really know when one of them will disappear or be rebuilt.
Muralist Evan Lovett said it took him and New Jersey artist Jimmy Glossblack two days to paint it in 2017.
“I wanted it to be kind of punny, like if I was a cat, I would want to live in a place called Fishtown,” Lovett told The Inquirer on Saturday. “We wanted to give people something to talk about. All the old folks in Fishtown wondered why aren’t there any fish in there? It makes no sense and they were grumpy about it. The new residents were like that, it’s funny and awesome and we love it. And what happened is that a conversation started and that’s where change happens when people talk about their differences.
Lovett, who in 2016 co-founded Visual Urban Renewal and Transformation, a nonprofit that creates murals in urban areas, knew cats wouldn’t last forever.
“A mural is part of the natural landscape of a city. It’s changing forever. And when I paint a mural, it’s to change, but I’m not trying to create a monument. It’s temporary,” he said.
Erica Petrini, a longtime Fishtown resident who works with Lovett, called the mural “Fishtown-specific.”
“We have a lot of stray cats hanging around and people are taking care of them so it’s cute to see them depicted on a mural like this. But nothing is permanent. … He did what he was supposed to do while he was there.
Jon Geeting, president of the Fishtown Neighbors Association, said while he was sad to see the mural disappear, he was happy to see the dirt lot on Frankford Avenue growing, with a 150-unit building with a commercial space on the ground floor.
“It’s nice to have a sign at the entrance,” he said, “But the terrain there was really gross and it’s really part of the hallway that’s going on. So in the “Overall, I’m pretty happy to see that most of the vacant lots in this section of Frankford are filled with buildings.”
Corey Danks, an artist and Fishtown resident of 10 years who lives half a mile from the mural, agreed.
“It’s a disappointment. It’s always a disappointment when this stuff is covered, but it was also a wasteland. So it’s sort of weighing a positive against a negative,” Danks, 31, said.
But no matter what, Burdett said, “Fishtown will remain Fishtown.”