The Goodis House

Goodis’ Philadelphia stories are set in the gritty working class neighborhoods of South Philadelphia, Port Richmond, Kensington and Germantown as well as the Tenderloin. Goodis portrays these neighborhood as full of factories and mills, taprooms and pawn shops, cobblestoned streets and trolley cars, drunks and drug addicts, panhandlers and prostitutes. Living in the row houses were a melange of ethnicities, troubled families, losers and failures, and people who would never succeed. Most of the action in his Philadelphia stories take place far into the night.

These streets were not the world of David Goodis--or were they? Goodis grew up in middle class Logan. About 1950, he returned from Hollywood and moved into his parents’ single home in upscale East Oak Lane. From there, he wrote by day.

Legend has it that by night he did "research" in the streets and dives of working class Philadelphia and the Tenderloin. Divorced and living with his parents, Goodis could have maintained a double life. He had a loyal circle of friends and cousins. They concede that Goodis avoided talking about parts of his life and could very well have been a quiet author by day and an explorer of the night.

On June 21, 2006, I got a peak into the quiet side of the life of David Goodis. His house on the 6300 block of North 11th Street, had been listed for sale. The family which had purchased the house from the Goodis estate almost 40 years before, had grown and aged. The house was in good condition and appeared to have had few alterations. The original asking price was $260,000.

The house was been sold in April 2007. I wonder if the new owners know the mysteries which are hidden here..

The David Goodis House, East Oak Lane, Philadelphia, June 21, 2006. Photo by Louis Boxer

Real estate broker Frank Cummings conducted a tour of the house for Louis Boxer, my wife and I. It is a small and gracious stone single home with a large back yard in a neighborhood of single homes, most of which date from the 1920's. The basement is paneled in knotty-pine (real wood, not composition board). There is a bar in the basement. The first floor living room has a fire place. I opened a bin at the foot of the stairs and found a copy of "Shoot the Piano Player" on top of a pile of books. The owners had good taste.


There is a small dining room and a kitchen. Leading to the second floor is a secret stairway from the kitchen. Regretfully, the stairway was blocked off, to make a closet for the second floor.


The bedroom where we believe David Goodis did his writing, June 21, 2006. Furniture belongs to present owners. Photos by Louis Boxer

David Goodis from October 1963 Temple University Alumni Review. Photo made available by Louis Boxer. Single window and position of radiator match above photograph of June 21, 2006.

The second floor has a master bedroom, a medium size bedroom and a small bedroom. There are two bathrooms on the second floor. One has red-violet and black tile and a red-violet toilet. The other has yellow and black tile. The tiles look like the originals. I believe the small bedroom was David's writing room. At the Temple University Library is a collection of David Goodis materials. Included in this file is an article about David in the October 1963 Temple Alumni Review. David is pictured looking at a window with the blinds drawn. The window in the smaller bedroom matches the picture. I opened the closet in David's room. I imagined what mysteries had been stored there. The house has an attic. The front porch is surrounded by high hedges. Except for the copy of "Shoot the Piano Player," we found no trace of the Goodis family.

As I toured the house, I expected to run into Dr. Walter Coley, the disbarred plastic surgeon who gave a new face to Vincent Parry in Dark Passage.