Stuck Inside Of Mt. Airy With The Center City Blues

 

Facepalm.

Are you serious.

When I moved to Mt. Airy in 2013, I had a list of reasons: the leafy and hilly topography, the history, the architecture, the SEPTA access, the Portlandy Mt. Airy-ness, and above all else, the Wissahickon. Among the neighborhood’s ideal charm was the fact that it’s close to Center City, but not too close. I can be downtown in less than 30 minutes, and when I step off the train coming the other direction, the busy bustle is 30 minutes behind.

That pseudo proximity is never more pronounced than in a massive snowstorm.

I lived in Center City for seven years, 2001–07, and of course I loved everything about it. The love of city life turned magical, though, in the deepest throes of a blizzard, long before the slush and the salt and the hassle of returning to work. Things shut down. Cars and buses (usually) go away. The loud and busy city becomes a white forest of silence and tranquility. Except in the neighborhood bar, which is packed full of friends and neighbors relishing in tomorrow’s snow day and gaily stumbling home in the middle of the street.

Center City snow magic: Rittenhouse Square in an 11-inch snowstorm, February 2006

Center City snow magic: Rittenhouse Square in an 11-inch snowstorm, February 2006

As much as I love Mt. Airy, and I do, I really missed Center City with this, the Great Blizzard of 2016. SEPTA canceled the weekend in advance, and while I’m capable of hiking eight miles in a blizzard, it was the eight back that scared me straight.

In each of the two previous, snowy winters, my instinct has taken me into the Wissahickon, where the stillness is otherworldly. There might be some blue jays squawking, but mostly, you can hear every snowflake as it touches the ground, tink tink tink.

As I’ve spent many many hours in the Wissahickon, I opted this time for the urban blizzard experience, the Northwest standing in for my erstwhile Center City. And as I slogged through the quickly deepening snow in Mt. Airy and Germantown, I could not believe how much attention people gave to their cars: people plowing their driveways and shoveling out their cars before their sidewalks (if at all), the cones and recycling bins and chairs and toilets vying for the next #NoSavesies spot, the cars on the road, on a weekend, as though a massive blizzard hadn’t been forecast all week. This led to a lot of unnecessary aggravation—two-wheel-drive cars getting stuck, 4WDs behind them honking their horns, plows being blocked—and to a lot of my own reminiscing of Center City blizzards.

It made for a strangely disappointing first day blizzard experience, one that I knew only the Wissahickon could balance out the next day. These photos come from those two days: Saturday’s Mt. Airy and Germantown whiteout, followed by the brilliant blue sky through the snowy trees in the Wissahickon on Sunday.

(All photos by Bradley Maule.)

* * *

SATURDAY, MT. AIRY & GERMANTOWN

Virgin powder, brah: Cresheim Road, Mt. Airy

Virgin powder, brah: Cresheim Road, Mt. Airy

6825 Cresheim Road, built 1902

6825 Cresheim Road, built 1902

Germantown Meetinghouse, built 1770, the first American home of the Church of the Brethren

Germantown Meetinghouse, built 1770, the first American home of the Church of the Brethren

Germantown Avenue & Johnson Street, border of Mt. Airy and Germantown

Germantown Avenue & Johnson Street, border of Mt. Airy and Germantown

Street scene, Germantown Ave & Washington Lane

Street scene, Germantown Ave & Washington Lane

Germantown Mennonite Meetinghouse, birthplace of Mennonites in the New World, incidentally also built in 1770

Germantown Mennonite Meetinghouse, birthplace of Mennonites in the New World, incidentally also built in 1770

Germantown Town Hall, a fine place for a festival

Germantown Town Hall, a fine place for a festival

Germantown storefronts

Germantown storefronts

Still waiting at Germantown YWCA

Still waiting at Germantown YWCA

Congressman John Wister looks over Vernon Park, recently renovated under all that snow

Congressman John Wister looks over Vernon Park, recently renovated under all that snow

Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion, attributed to Joseph Hoxie and Samuel Sloan, built 1859

Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion, attributed to Joseph Hoxie and Samuel Sloan, built 1859

Night falls on Mt. Airy, blizzard rages on.

Night falls on Mt. Airy, blizzard rages on.

* * *

SUNDAY, WISSAHICKON VALLEY PARK

McCallum Street Bridge over Cresheim Creek, built 1985

McCallum Street Bridge over Cresheim Creek, built 1985

Cresheim Creek

Cresheim Creek

Popular mountain bike trail, the White Trail, buried under two feet of untouched snow

Popular mountain bike trail, the White Trail, buried under two feet of untouched snow

Looking across Wissahickon Creek, a cross country skier glides along Forbidden Drive

Looking across Wissahickon Creek, a cross country skier glides along Forbidden Drive

Livezey House, aka Glen Fern, built 1747, added onto later

Livezey House, aka Glen Fern, built 1747, added onto later

Livezey Dam

Livezey Dam

Friends of the Wissahickon's new trail posts stand out in the snow

Friends of the Wissahickon’s new trail posts stand out in the snow

Marshmallow land: Devil's Pool from above

Marshmallow land: Devil’s Pool from above

The winter postcard: Devil's Pool from below

The winter postcard: Devil’s Pool from below

* * *

About the author

Bradley Maule is co-editor of the Hidden City Daily and the creator of Philly Skyline. He's a native of Tyrone, Pennsylvania, and he's hung his hat in Shippensburg, Germantown, G-Ho, Fishtown, Portland OR, Brewerytown, and now Mt. Airy. He just can't get into Twitter, but he's way into Instagram @mauleofamerica.



14 Comments


  1. Great pictures! You need to crowdfund purchase of new boots!

  2. Beautiful pictures and good article, thank you.

  3. Thanks for the lovely photos!

  4. Thanks for a great article and nice photographs!

  5. The Germantown YWCA is so sad. Can’t the City at least board the windows up?

  6. I grew up in Germantown and remember blizzards in the past and love your pictures. Now living in CA, but close to Tahoe to ski and love both.

  7. Robert Edward Dabney

    Super, wonderful photos for this Mt. Airy boy now living in Barbados. One very minor correction – the border street between Mt. Airy and Germantown is not “Johnston Street”, but “Johnson Street!”

  8. Very pretty!

  9. The Wissahickon has always been my refuge during my years spent in Germantown. I miss the area so much. Thank you for the pictures.

  10. Great photos!

  11. Plenty of neighborhood bars packed in the lower northwest, and much less than 8 miles away. I always prefer the Ugly Moose and its wood stove during a snowstorm.

  12. You are a superb photographer and an intrepid one to boot. I learn a lot from looking at your photos. I missed the storm but got to know a couple of airports only too well.

  13. Thanks for the kind words, all!

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