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Discovering Germantown Avenue: Historic Walking Tour – 10-9-2020

October 21, 2020
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October 21, 2020

by Misha Rodriguez of APM

Misha & Melinda of APM

Need a new idea for how to stay active while practicing social distancing?

In September, Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha, APM, launched the Discover Germantown Avenue self-guided walking tour in the Eastern North Philadelphia neighborhood. A 1.6 mile round-trip route with 10 historic posters, the Discover Germantown Avenue self-guided tour will allow you to time travel, contextualizing the current community in its history, present and future.

Map of Historic Walking Route and site locations along Germantown Ave.

For the past two years, APM has collaborated with Temple’s Community Development department to create a series of events situated along historic Germantown Avenue. The first event, held in Spring 2019, was called “Remembering and Envisioning Germantown Ave.” The intention of the project was to build community capacity and community identity in relation to the future redevelopment of Germantown Avenue, the main commercial corridor in the area.

From the late 1870’s to the early 1960’s, factories and retail establishments lined Germantown Avenue, providing stable employment to local residents. The loss of commercial establishments in the 1970’s and 80’s that coincided with nationwide downturn in industry affected area businesses like the Breyers Ice Cream Factory, the Quaker City Chocolate Factory, and the Stetson Hat Company — sapping the majority of local employment and commercial opportunities in the neighborhood and resulting in widespread vacancy and job loss. The resulting slump in the local economy, and compounding factors caused by intentional divestment and structural racism, has yet to be amended. At the same time, the neighborhood is now facing development pressure and the threat of displacement, having crept in over the years from development booms in Fishtown and Temple University.  Residents are hopeful about their community and its propensity to change, grow and develop. However, as it develops they desire to be at the table and for their voices to be heard.

APM learned that residents felt it was important to share the rich history of the neighborhood, particularly, in the midst of new development, to connect old and new community residents with the history of the neighborhood; and serve as a reminder of the community’s past in its present and future. The Discover Germantown Avenue historic tour arose out of this feedback–an opportunity to combine the power of movement with history and storytelling.

A neighbor along Germantown Ave shares his ideas for the corridor at the Spring 2019 Remembering and Envisioning Germantown Ave event. 

Temple students researched the sites, designed the route and posters, and collected oral histories. Originally, there was a kick-off event planned but it had to be canceled due to Covid-19 concerns. However, APM believes that this can still be an informative and safe activity for people to participate in so went ahead with installing the posters on site along Germantown Avenue and promoting the walk.

The historic walking route begins at APM’s Community and Economic Development office at 600 W Diamond Street. Here you can pick up a map of the route from the office. Heading north along Germantown Ave the first stops include the old site of Dawn’s Donuts as well as Diamond Theater. The route features both historic commercial sites and cultural sites such as the Ile Ife Museum.  Each post contains historical facts as well as a QR code that you can scan on your phone to hear oral histories and learn more about each site.

You can find other diagrams like this one of Dawn Donuts along the walking route.

We believe this walking tour combines the power of movement to highlight, celebrate and situate Germantown Avenue and its surrounding community. We invite you to come out and safely participate on the walk.

A few tips if you decide to go on the historic walk:

  • Wear a mask and maintain social distancing
  • If it’s available to you, a cell phone with a QR reader will allow you to can scan the posters for additional information
  • If you can’t participate in person you can also “go” on the tour on the tour website at : http://bit.ly/DGA-home
  • Let us know if you go on the tour! Tag us @apmforeveryone with the hashtag #DiscoverGermantownAve
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