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Charles Bukowski in Philadelphia

Charles Bukowski spent some time in the mid 1940’s wandering about Philadelphia. This virtually unknown chapter of his life leaves little evidence behind except some employment records, a bit of poetry, and in true Bukowski fashion – a neighborhood bar he was said to have frequented.

“There’s nothing like being young
and starving…”

How It Began…

The year was 1944 – prominent American author & poet Charles Bukowski was just 24 years old. Decades away from publishing his first novel, he had just left Los Angeles City College and had his sights set on seeing the country. He eventually landed in New York, but couldn’t quite get settled there. “New York was so bad I thought: “I want to go to a nice, shady, quiet city. Everything is calm, the people are decent, there’s no trouble. Philadelphia, what do they call it? The City of Brotherly Love. I went there – it was tougher than New York”, he later said of his decision to move cities.

And thus began Bukowski’s tenure as a resident of Philadelphia. He first settled in North Philly, but later relocated to Fairmount, where he spent his remaining time as a resident until 1947.

The “17th Street Spot”

During this time, it is known that Bukowski frequented a neighborhood bar called the “17th Street Spot” (Bukowski worked just a block away at Fairmount Motors for a short period of time for 65 cents an hour). It was there that he ran errands for other patrons for extra cash and even helped the owners open the place in the morning. It is almost certain that Bukowski did a fair amount of writing at that very bar as well.

While the “17th Street Spot” written about by Bukowski, as it existed in the 40’s, is long gone (the bar has gone through major renovations in 1968 and 2001), it is now on the market as a two story extensive bar/restaurant with additional outdoor seating. You can find more about owning a piece of Bukowski history here.

1700 Fairmount
The “17th Spot” as it stands today

Though much of Bukowski’s literary work is based on his life and adventures in and around Los Angeles, his time in Philadelphia left some impact on him. He wrote poetry on the subject and later wrote a film screenplay, Barfly, that was loosely based on his time in Philly. The bar in that film, “Golden Horn” was inspired by the “17th Street Spot” of the mid 1940’s.

A Place in Philly

In his poem “A Place in Philly”, Bukowski contemplates his career as a writer, being young and starving in Philadelphia:

“soon you’ll sleep

and

tomorrow there

certainly

will be

more

Masterpieces.”

Hopelessness, despair, with brief hints of optimism. That’s what made Bukowski a Philadelphian.


Written by Joe Ramoni – Atacan Group
Joe@AtacanGroup.com

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