by Gerry Givnish
Re-PLACE-ing Philadelphia is building an expanded archive of cultural memory that includes multiple histories, re-place-ing the established with new narratives and understandings. Notes consider place via the street, sound, food, trees, and other portals.
Painted Bride Founder Gerry Givnish shares his Philadelphia Street Note.
Our street is Germantown Ave, just north of Wayne Junction. Our house and three others nearby were built in the 1770’s. Historic East Logan just around the corner consists of large homes on spacious lots that date to the early 1800’s.
The street wakes up around 6:30 with delivery trucks and yellow school busses rumbling over the cobblestone roadway. At the corners, people gather for the 23 bus. On Friday, the Masjid comes to life with women in burquas and men with beards going to prayer; with food vendors and merchandise carts set up on the sidewalk; and with the jamming of traffic. Between the daycare next to our house and the DePaul Catholic (preK-8), children come and go from 7-5.
In spring, the trees of the Lower Burial Grounds cemetery and around the Logan Mansion come alive. Along the street, the cherry and magnolia blossoms and the purple Wisteria make a riot of color. Nature is present and palpable by April.
A lot of my neighbors are over 60. On clean-up day we sweep the street of the months' debris. A family with teenagers recently moved in and have joined in with the brooms. There is a satisfaction, when the job is done, over our newly tidy block. For years, nothing has really disturbed the peace on our block except some car crashes where thankfully no one was hurt.
Since I moved here in 1986, several churches, two bars and a food market have disappeared. But Southwest Germantown despite setbacks still has qualities. And the Wissahickon Valley with its creek and forest is a close-by retreat and amenity.
The familiar faces, the presence of history, the ample greenspaces, the easy rhythms satisfy my idea of the good life.