Those who live there know differently, as do their neighbors in Mt.
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African-Americans do make up the great majority about 80 percent of Germantown residents, but a sizable portion of the neighborhood — about 15 percent — consists of Caucasians, based on census data from Asians account for a small 1. The owners of these businesses — one a noted African-American intellectual and social critic, the other a pair of white Northwest Philly natives with deep roots in community activism — share common goals and run their distinctive establishments in a similar fashion.
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Hill, a Temple University professor, grew up in North and West Philly and lived in gentrifying Fort Greene, Brooklyn , for a while before returning to Philly to settle in Germantown, in Photo by Sandy Smith for Philadelphia Magazine. Hill says he chose to settle in Germantown because of both its diversity and its potential. Like a good barber.
Just a few blocks away is another gathering place, one of those hidden gems Germantowners love to polish. Proprietors Miles Butler and Jeff Podlogar have fashioned a small, two-story home into a cozy space for reading, working or socializing while sipping. Several local organizations that focus on social-justice issues gather regularly in an upstairs community meeting room.
But what he saw in Germantown closely matched what Hill saw. I fell in love with this neighborhood at a very early age. After spending several years traveling and performing music across the country, he returned to Germantown with the idea of opening a coffee shop.
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Both shops make themselves open and welcoming to a broad cross-section of Germantowners. On the day I visited the Espresso Bar, an opening reception was winding down for Miles Conyers, a young African-American photographer whose works were on display in the shop. What can I do to make them want to be here, and be accountable to them, and service their needs in ways that affect them? Although the demographic breakdown has changed over those centuries, his statement gets at a fundamental truth.
William Penn was a Quaker who left England to establish an American colony that would be tolerant to all religious beliefs. In , Penn sold land in his new colony to Francis Daniel Pastorius so that the German religious dissident could establish a settlement where his fellow Pietists, as well as Mennonites and Quakers, could practice their beliefs freely. But the trajectory of the neighborhood over the centuries has varied.
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Some popped up on the east side as well, but most of that area was developed to appeal to working-class families. Construction of the trolley line along Germantown Avenue, circa Credit: Germantown Special Services District. These two groups of residents, both mostly white, coexisted until the late s and early s. At that point, in response to both a fresh influx of African-American migrants from the South and the construction of public housing in the neighborhood, real estate agents who were looking for a quick profit began to stoke racial fears; they sold cheap houses to black families in search of a decent home, then warned the white neighbors of an impending invasion to trigger panic selling.
Ann Marie Doley was part of that latter group.
She bought a house on Rockland Street in southwest Germantown in , after the wave of panic selling had mostly run its course. The problem on her block, she said, is that the owners of its large, three-story homes bring in friends and relatives as tenants to help them defray expenses, overcrowding those homes as a result.
At the neighborhood level, the story follows a similar arc. The 30 percent increase in house values in Germantown since May closely tracks the 29 percent rise citywide over the same time span. In Point Breeze, they have skyrocketed, rising percent since May , the earliest year for which Zillow provides May data for that neighborhood. Median house values in all three of these neighborhoods are now higher than they are in Germantown; in or , that was true only for Francisville.
She does not oppose redevelopment but she does want it to be structured so that as few people as possible face displacement. Their presence makes Germantown exceptional in a way that even famously integrated Mount Airy is not.
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The people who stuck with Germantown in the down years see this economic diversity as an asset to maintain, now that seeds of change are beginning to sprout in the form of new businesses and residential construction. And that includes most of the people who have been planting those seeds. And in a rapidly-spreading offshoot of his business, he enables a new generation of small-scale developers to follow in his footsteps. His story is similar to that of some people who have gone through the Jumpstart training since the program began two and a half years ago.
McCall asked Weinstein if he would sit down and give him some pointers on the development business in exchange for his doing IT work for Weinstein. So myself and Nancy Deephouse [became] the first two Jumpstart Germantown students. McCall was already working on a house in West Oak Lane when he met Weinstein, and since going through Jumpstart, he has restored two more houses, one in Germantown and the other in Point Breeze.
That figure might cause Christian Heyer-Rivera some angst, for he would see it as a sign that the neighborhood is in danger of becoming too thoroughly middle-class. Heyer-Rivera moved to Germantown in , while finishing a degree from what is now Palmer Theological Seminary. He and his wife had spent the previous two years in Mt. Airy and had fallen in love with the area, so when he was named director of Christian education at the racially integrated First Presbyterian, the couple immediately started looking for a home in the neighborhood.
And I wanted to do ministry in a place that was contextually urban, and I wanted even more diversity than Mt. Airy had as far as economics were concerned.
Follow Lincoln Drive to dead-end at Allens Lane. Turn right onto Allens Lane and follow to dead-end at Germantown Ave. Turn left onto Germantown Avenue. Follow two lights into Chestnut Hill shopping district. Stay on Germantown Pike for approx. Take N. Turnpike to Pennsylvania Turnpike. Exit PA Turnpike at Ft. Follow signs for Rte. Turn right at exit ramp. Proceed to the 4th traffic light Stenton Avenue. Turn left onto Stenton Avenue and then, almost immediately, veer right onto Bethlehem Pike and follow into Chestnut Hill.