Saturday, May 30, 2015

Don't blink! You'll miss it

Ever seen this view as you rocket along Lincoln Drive? I'm not talking about Pat Moran, a civic-minded guy from Mount Airy with a keen interest in "at-risk" buildings and structrures in his neighborhood. I'm talking about the stone pier behind him. It was one of four, now one of two, on the drive where it intersects with Johnson Street. Each pair had a wooden pergola on top, very similar to the one at Germantown Avenue and Cresheim Valley Road at the entrance to Chestnut Hill.

Don't blink! You'll miss it

Ever seen this view as you rocket along Lincoln Drive? I'm not talking about Pat Moran, a civic-minded guy from Mount Airy with a keen interest in "at-risk" buildings and structrures in his neighborhood. I'm talking about the stone pier behind him. It was one of four, now one of two, on the drive where it intersects with Johnson Street. Each pair had a wooden pergola on top, very similar to the one at Germantown Avenue and Cresheim Valley Road at the entrance to Chestnut Hill.

The Mount Airy piers and pergolas were underwritten at the turn of the 20th century by philanthropist Edward T. Stotesbury (yes, he of regatta fame), but all but two piers have been lost. For the last three years, Moran and a large group of volunteers have been raising money and giving up untold hours to clear the site of nasty invasives and begin to replant it with natives, using a planting plan devised (pro bono) by landscape architects Claudia Levy and Doris Kessler and an architectural plan to replace the pergolas drawn up by architect Peter DiCarlo.

This is a joint effort by Historic Germantown and West Mt. Airy Neighbors with support from the City's Recreation Department and the Fairmount Park Conservancy. Pat thinks, if all goes well, the Stotesbury project could wind up this year.

During my visit today, I could see considerable effort's been made here, and this spring should be a pretty one. Lots of hydrangeas and ornamental grasses in evidence. I even saw what I think was a sweetbay magnolia. The idea, Pat says, is to recreate this once-beautiful gateway between Mount Airy and the park. The steps into the park are still there, as is an old schist fountain (now splotched with red graffiti) and some remnants of fencing. Long ago, you see, this was a place were people walked from their gracious homes along Lincoln Drive down into the park. Or they drove by carriage or car.

More on this in Monday's paper. Just a preview today. I wish these folks well. It's always heartening to see good works being done by good people who care about their neighborhood and city. Meanwhile, if you're hoping to sneak a peek at this project, be careful, for crying out loud. Going slow-mo down Lincoln Drive, as we all know, can be very hazardous to your health.

Inquirer Staff Writer
About this blog
Ginny Smith, a Philadelphia native, joined the Inquirer at 1985. After stints as both reporter and editor in the city and suburbs, she’s been happily writing – and learning - about gardening full time since 2006. She’s won two silver medals of achievement from the national Garden Writers Association and in 2011, Bartram’s Garden honored her with its Green Exemplar award for her stories about “the region’s deeply rooted horticultural history, cultural attractions and bountiful gardens.” She plays in her own – mostly - bountiful garden in East Falls. Reach Virginia A. at vsmith@phillynews.com .

Virginia A. Smith Inquirer Staff Writer
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