Six Months in Mt Airy: I Like It Here


When I left Philadelphia for Portland nearly five years ago, I wholly credited Penn Treaty Park for reestablishing a personal connection with nature—it and Johnny Brenda’s were my go-to fortresses to escape Fishtown without leaving Fishtown. Watching the tide roll in and out focused my attention on the bigger Delaware River, the one that bubbles out of the ground in the Catskills and empties into the Atlantic below the horn of the Cape May-Lewes Ferry. Portland’s lush greenery cemented that connection as something wholly necessary, wherever I might live. Moving back to Philly a little over a year ago, I knew I had to be somewhere with real green space. Not Rittenhouse green space, but Wissahickon green space. And I knew it had to be Mt Airy.

I like Chestnut Hill and Germantown, and Roxborough, Manayunk, and East Falls have their pluses, but Mt Airy is the sweet spot, the porridge. It’s just right. The low crime rate, the racial and economic diversity, the progressiveness, the SEPTA regional rail lines (and buses), the stuff on Germantown Avenue, the great residential architecture, American Revolution history … all this is well documented. But for me, A#1 at the top of the list is the natural beauty—the tree canopy throughout the neighborhood, the topography and vistas it provides, the direct access to Wissahickon Park.

Mt Airy in paper cut by the one and only EmmaF-C
Greatest gift ever: Mt Airy in paper cut by the talented and lovely Emma F-C

Six months ago, I departed my interim arrangements a surprisingly satisfied customer in Brewerytown, where I’d been living since moving back to Philadelphia from Portland, Oregon. It was nice to watch that neighborhood in mid-transition—it felt very similar to G-Ho of about 12 years ago, before Toll Bros and boring people with boring homes took it over. The growth in Brewerytown, though, is anything but boring, and places like High Point Cafe and Shifty’s Taco and Brewerytown Beats, as well as those in the pipeline like Pizza Brain’s second location and Crime & Punishment Brewing, will keep Brewerytown interesting. Plus—speaking of access to green space—all of East Fairmount Park is right there, from Lemon Hill to Strawberry Mansion and a new plan coming from Penn Praxis to provide even better connectivity via Brewery Hill Drive.

But I knew I had to be in Mt Airy amongst the trees and the birds, so in November, I made the move. These first six months have been a bona fide love fest, getting to know Weavers Way, Earth Bread & Brewery (brewer Tom Baker says proper shorthand is “Earth,” not “Earth Bread”), High Point, the Goat, Chef Ken, Carpenter’s Woods, even busy Lincoln Drive … So I thought, what better way to profess this love than on the 44th annual Mt Airy Day?

My only hangup is a matter of syntax: how to spell it. Mount Airy? Too formal. Mt. Airy? Ehh. Much like I absolutely despise hyphens, I don’t like using dots for anything other than periods. I use “Mr Jones” and “Dr Smith.” Mt Airy? It’s neither AP nor Chicago style, but baby, it’s Skyline style, so here we are, in Mt Airy. (See also: Allens/Allen’s/Allen Lane.) Besides, it’s good to have options.

So: what up 19119! Nice to see ya. It’s nice to be here. See y’all at Cliveden. Happy Mt Airy Day!

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Click any of the 80 photos below to launch a gallery of photos, all taken on the iphone 4S, in chronological order from November 1st through May 4th, Mt Airy Day. Use your right and left arrow keys for best viewing.

11 thoughts on “Six Months in Mt Airy: I Like It Here

  1. My wife & I are considering something similar (Fishtown->Mt Airy, though I think we’ll skip the Portland bit). Anything you miss about Fishtown in particular? I feel like I’d really miss the restaurants – while I love Earth Bread, the area seems a little lacking in that department still.

    1. My wife and I had similar sentiments about leaving Bella Vista for Chestnut Hill. And, while we missed a lot from the old neighborhood, NW Philly has so much to offer beyond just the restaurant scene. Not to mention the restaurants are definitely better in Mt. Airy and area then they were 5 years ago. Suffice to say, it took about a year, but we don’t miss the old hood.

    2. Well, when I left Fishtown in ’09, there was pretty much JB’s and Memphis Taproom. All the other stuff has come about in the past five years. Granted, Mt Airy doesn’t quite have the depth Fishtown/NL does, but Earth is great, Goat Hollow’s decent, and for Restaurant restaurants, Chef Ken’s Soul Food is excellent, the Mexican and Trini places are solid, and Avenida and Geechee Girl are both bomb (but both a little spendy). McMenamin’s has good enough bar food too. Plus Chestnut Hill is right up the avenue, and there are a bunch of great spots there.

  2. Nice catching up with you on Mt. Airy Day at Cliveden with some of my ex-pat cousins (formerly of Bryan Street). Mt. Airy is definitely one of the most historic and photogenic neighborhoods anywhere. It’s absolutely worth the trip and getting better all the time.

  3. suggestion——-start taking and/or include photos of some dogs; always an important part of any neighborhood.

  4. Mt Airy is nice, but without frequent train service it feels a lot like the suburbs.

    1. This is my only authentic complaint about Mt Airy. The train service, not that it feels like the suburbs. I think of shopping malls and cul-de-sacs and roads without sidewalks when I think of “The Suburbs”. Mt Airy’s just pretty with nice gardens.

      During normal work hours, I think SEPTA is fine, but the weekend service is extremely lacking, and the hour the Chestnut Hill West line stops running is downright infuriating. The last train leaves Center City at 10pm? On a SATURDAY NIGHT? Absolutely terrible.

  5. As a lapsed Mt. Airyite, when I’m looking for shorthand, I’m partial to “the Mount,” as in [to my brother] “you going up to the Mount for Mother’s Day?”

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