Mount Airy, Philadelphia

Mount Airy is a neighborhood of Northwest Philadelphia in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania.

Mount Airy
Daniel Billmeyer House on Germantown Avenue.
Mount Airy
CountryUnited States
CountyPhiladelphia County
Area code(s)215, 267, and 445


Map of Philadelphia highlighting the Mount Airy neighborhood

Mount Airy is bounded on the northwest by the Cresheim Valley, which is part of Fairmount Park. Beyond this lies Chestnut Hill. On the west side is the Wissahickon Gorge, which is also part of Fairmount Park, beyond which lies Roxborough and Manayunk. Germantown borders the southeast of Mount Airy, and Stenton Avenue marks the northeast border. Beyond Stenton Avenue is Cedarbrook (which is considered to be part of Mount Airy by some) and West Oak Lane.

The USPS does not officially correlate neighborhood names to Philadelphia ZIP Codes, each of which is called "Philadelphia" or "Phila".[1] However, the 19119 ZIP code is almost entirely coterminous with the cultural-consensus boundaries of Mount Airy.[2][3][4]

There is no official boundary between Mount Airy and Germantown. The most common consensus is that Johnson Street is the de facto boundary; however, the West Mount Airy Neighbors and East Mount Airy Neighbors organizations consider Washington Lane to be Mount Airy's southern edge.[2] The question is moot, however, as the two neighborhoods blend together very gradually. Historically, the entire area was part of the German Township. Many buildings in Mount Airy carry the identity and even the name of Germantown in one way or another. For example, the Unitarian Society of Germantown, the Germantown Jewish Centre, the Germantown Christian Assembly, and the Germantown Montessori School are all in Mount Airy, yet also belong culturally to Germantown. Parts of the Battle of Germantown in 1777 occurred throughout Mount Airy.[2] The special relationship linking the two has its roots in the time before the Act of Consolidation, when Germantown was a borough separate from the City of Philadelphia, and its rural environs were what is now Mount Airy.[2]


William Allen, a prominent Philadelphia merchant and Chief Justice of the Province of Pennsylvania, created his summer estate and mansion on Germantown Avenue at Allens Lane in 1750, and the area eventually took the building's name, Mount Airy, as its own.[3] Before this, the area which makes up the modern neighborhood of Mount Airy was part of two sections of the original Germantown Township (which covered all of Germantown, Mount Airy, and Chestnut Hill), Cresheim and Beggarstown.

The village or Dorfshaft of Krisheim (also known as Cresheim) has its origins in the original land divisions of Germantown Township in 1689.[5] It was a section of the township that was allotted to a group of original Germantown settlers who acquired rights to land either directly or indirectly from William Penn. It covered the area from Stenton to Wissahickon Avenues and from Mermaid Lane to roughly Sedgwick Street. The name is derived from a town known today as Kriegsheim in the Palatine in Germany which was the hometown of a few German Quaker families who had settled in Germantown in the 1680s. Throughout much of the 18th century, this area of Germantown Township was known in the land and tax records as simply Cresheim or Cresham. It was at the beginning of the 19th century that the name Mount Airy began to replace Cresheim.[6]

Beggarstown (also Beggars-town or Beggar Town), an area centered along Germantown Avenue between Gorgas Lane and Cliveden Street, was formed out of the so-called "Sidelands" of Germantown. The Sidelands were a section of Germantown Township that had been set aside so that the owners of lots in the center of Germantown could have access to an equal share of land in the entire village of Germantown section of Germantown Township. The portion from which Beggarstown grew covered the area from Upsal Street to roughly Sedgwick Street, Stenton Avenue, and Wissahickon Avenue. As the Germantown village filled up, settlers began to move northwest along Germantown Avenue. By the 1730s and 1740s, the Sidelands area was subdivided into smaller house lots. An account published in 1770 states that the area received its name as a result of its first resident's begging for money to build his house, which later became the home of the Germantown Church of the Brethren. The name for this area disappeared by the late 19th century, and it was sometimes called Pelham, Germantown, or Mount Airy.

Much of modern Mount Airy was developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, spreading out from Germantown Avenue and two railroad lines. Large three-story, gray-stone Victorian, colonial revival, and Norman and Cotswold-style houses and mansions, with stained glass windows and slate roofs, are situated on many of the area's tree-lined streets. They dominated districts like West Mount Airy's Pelham section (a Wendell and Smith development from the 1890s), East Mount Airy's Gowen Avenue (the James Gowen Estate development from the 1880s), Sedgwick Farms (an Ashton S. Tourison development from 1905), and Stenton (a Frank Mauran development from 1905) areas.


As of the 2010 Census,[7] Mount Airy had 27,035 residents, 11,934 households, and 6,636 families. 62.5% of residents were Black or African-American, 31.7% White/Caucasian, and 5.8% were from other races or from 2 or more races.

There were 11,934 households, out of which 22.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 33.1% were married couples living together, 18.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 44.4% were non-families. 37.3% of all households were made up of individuals, and 27.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.21 and the average family size was 2.92.

20.1% of Mount Airy's residents were under the age of 18, and 16.9% were 65 years and over. The median age was 42.7 years. 56.5% of residents were female. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 72.8 males.

The median household income was $56,815, the median family income was $80,978 and the per capita income was $35,941.[8]

Racial integration

The area is recognized by many civil rights groups as one of the first successfully integrated neighborhoods in America.[9][10] Mount Airy residents organized to resist blockbusting, panic selling, and redlining, especially during the period from the late 1950s to the early 1970s when those practices were prevalent.[11][12] It continues to be a well-blended neighborhood and was cited in Oprah Winfrey's O magazine for its racial diversity and neighborhood appeal. The community has also been recognized by U.S. News & World Report for racial harmony and balance.[13]


Primary and secondary schools

The School District of Philadelphia operates area public schools. Zoned K-5 schools serving sections of Mt. Airy include the Eleanor C. Emlen School. Zoned K-8 schools serving sections of Mt. Airy include Charles W. Henry School, Henry H. Houston School, and the Anna L. Lingelbach School.[14] Residents assigned to Henry, Houston, and/or Lingelbach are also zoned to Roxborough High School;[15] they were previously zoned to Germantown High School.[16] Other nearby schools include Academy for the Middle Years, Parkway High School, and Martin Luther King High School.[14]

West Oak Lane Charter School and Wissahickon Charter School are two Mt. Airy area K-8 charter schools. Charter schools in nearby Germantown include Imani Education Circle Charter School (K-8), Germantown Settlement Charter School (5-8), Renaissance Charter School (6-8), and Delaware Valley Charter High School (9-12).[14]

Private schools in Mount Airy include the Blair Christian Academy (PreK-12), Revival Hill Christian High School (9-12), Islamic Day School of Philadelphia (PreK-5), Waldorf School of Philadelphia (PreK-8), Project Learn School (K-8), Classroom on Carpenter Lane (K-2), and Holy Cross School (K-8), a parochial school. Private schools in nearby Germantown include the Green Tree School (special education, ages 6–21), Germantown Friends School (K-12), William Penn Charter School (K-12), Greene Street Friends School (K-8), and the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf (ages 3–17).

Colleges and universities

Universities and colleges close to Mount Airy include Arcadia University, Chestnut Hill College, La Salle University, The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, Philadelphia University, and Saint Joseph's University.[14]

Public libraries

Free Library of Philadelphia operates the Lovett Square Branch at 6945 Germantown Avenue.[17]


Mount Airy (SEPTA station) on the Chestnut Hill East Line is listed on the National Register of Historic Places

Two SEPTA Regional Rail lines connect the neighborhood to Center City. The Chestnut Hill West Line runs through West Mount Airy with stops at Upsal, Carpenter, and Allen Lane stations and the Chestnut Hill East Line runs through East Mount Airy with stops at Mount Airy, Sedgwick, and Stenton stations.

The neighborhood is also served by bus routes 18, 23 (formerly a trolley line), 53 (formerly a trolley line), H, and L.

Culture and community

The Sedgwick Theater in Mount Airy, a 1920s Art Deco movie theatre

In 2011, the New York Times described the influx of new businesses to Mount Airy as a "cultural revival" buoyed by "the neighborhood's reasonable housing costs and relatively safe streets."[18] In 2013, CNNMoney named Mount Airy one of America's top ten best big-city neighborhoods.[19]

Mount Airy has a significant number of lesbian households.[20] It has been called a "Ph.D. ghetto" because many residents have advanced degrees.[10] The political tone of the neighborhood is predominantly progressive.[18] One prominent Mount Airy politician is former Republican mayoral candidate Sam Katz.

There are three Jewish congregations in Mount Airy (Germantown Jewish Centre, P'nai Or Jewish Renewal Congregation of Philadelphia, and Chabad-Lubovitch of Northwest Philadelphia). Additionally, there are three national offices of Jewish organizations (Aleph, Alliance for Jewish Renewal, the National Havurah Committee, and The Shalom Center).

A Hare Krishna community is located on West Allens Lane.

Mount Airy's main commercial district lies along stone-paved Germantown Avenue, which also serves as the boundary between East and West Mount Airy. The neighborhood has a variety of independent shops, restaurants, art galleries, clothing stores, coffee shops, a gastropub, wine bar, fitness centers, and professional offices. Mt. Airy also has two tented farmers' markets.[21] There are also chain stores such as an Acme Supermarket and a Wawa. The Sedgwick Theater, notable for its art deco style, has been a cultural center in the past, and now houses the Quintessence Theatre Group.[22]

The Weavers Way Co-op, a long-running co-op grocery store in West Mount Airy,[23] also manages two working farms, works with local schools, and provides fresh food to a shelter.[24]

Notable residents

Notable institutions

  • The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP) is located at Germantown Avenue and Allens Lane. The seminary is associated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the largest Lutheran denomination in the U.S., and also serves as its Region 7 headquarters.
  • The Sedgwick Theater, a 1920s Art Deco movie theater, is one of the few remaining in Philadelphia.
  • Mount Airy is home to numerous properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places as well as sharing the Colonial Germantown Historic District with neighboring Germantown.[31] Listings include: the Violet Oakley Studio, Nugent Home for Baptists, Mt. Airy Station, Malvern Hall, Eleanor Cope Emlen School of Practice, Presser Home for Retired Music Teachers, Cliveden, Upsala, Beggarstown School, Michael Billmeyer House, Daniel Billmeyer House, Grace Church, Mt. Airy, Henry H. Houston School, Robert M. Hogue House, Charles Wolcott Henry School, Edward B. Seymour House, and McCallum Manor.


  1. "® - ZIP Code™ Lookup". Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  2. Jarvis, Elizabeth Farmer (2008). Mount Airy (Images of America). Arcadia Publishing. pp. 7–8. ISBN 978-0-7385-5740-3.
  3. "Philadelphia Neighborhoods and Place Names, L-P". City of Philadelphia Department of Records. Archived from the original on 2006-10-06. Retrieved 2006-11-06.
  4. "Map of Zip Code 19119" Archived 2013-02-21 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on January 7, 2011.
  5. Francis Daniel Pastorius' "Ansprach and die Nachkömmlingschaft" in the Germantown "Grund und Lager Buch" transcribed and translated on pp. 268-74 in Learned, Marion F. (1908). The Life of Francis Daniel Pastorius. Philadelphia: W. J. Campbell. p. 1. Retrieved 2007-09-28. pastorius. and another account that appears in the "Grund und Lager Buch" translated by Learned on p. 137.
  6. The Philadelphia newspapers refer to the area as "near Mount Airy College" around 1815 (Ad for residence "in the immediate neighborhood of Mount Airy College" The American Daily Advertiser. 1817-04-19. {{cite news}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)) or simply "Mount Airy" around 1820 (Marriage notice for "Miss Ann Gorgas, of Mount Airy, Germantown" The American Daily Advertiser. 1818-02-17. {{cite news}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)).
  7. Bureau, U.S. Census. "American FactFinder - Results". Archived from the original on 21 May 2019. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  8. Bureau, U.S. Census. "American FactFinder - Results". Archived from the original on 12 February 2020. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  9. Heumann, Leonard Franklin (1973). "The Definition and Analysis of Stable Racial Integration: The Case of West Mt. Airy, Philadelphia". University of Pennsylvania. ProQuest 287964507. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  10. "Racially and Ethnically Diverse Urban Neighborhoods, Cityscape, Volume 4, Number 2, 1998. Chapter 3, by Barbara Ferman, Theresa Singleton, and Don DeMarco". Archived from the original on 2007-09-26. Retrieved 2007-04-07.
  11. Gordy, John H. "Mt. Airy Group Drafts Code of Ethics for Homes Sales." Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, 18 February 1959.
  12. Smyth, Jack. "Panic-Selling Fought in Mt. Airy, W. Oak Lane: 29 Realty Firms Agree to Anti-Bias Code." Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, 10 February 1966.
  13. Buckley, Jerry. "Mt. Airy, Philadelphia." U.S. News & World Report, 22 July 1991, 22–28.
  14. "Education Archived 2012-11-18 at the Wayback Machine." Mt. Airy USA. Retrieved on January 20, 2009.
  15. "High School Directory Fall 2017 Admissions" (Archive). School District of Philadelphia. p. 57/70. Retrieved on November 16, 2016.
  16. "A Directory of High Schools for 2009 Admissions Archived 2015-11-06 at the Wayback Machine read." School District of Philadelphia. Retrieved on January 20, 2009.
  17. "Lovett Branch Archived 2008-08-28 at the Wayback Machine." Free Library of Philadelphia. Retrieved on November 7, 2008.
  18. Zach Pontz (June 5, 2011). "Enclave Embraces Brotherly Love". The New York Times. Section Travel. Archived from the original on June 7, 2011. Retrieved June 9, 2011.
  19. Susie Poppick (August 12, 2013). "Best Big-City Neighborhoods". CNNMoney. Section Personal Finance. Archived from the original on August 15, 2013. Retrieved August 14, 2013.
  20. "The Philadelphia LGBT Community Assessment Final Report, October 27, 2006" (PDF). Archived from the original on November 23, 2009.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  21. "Farm to City". Archived from the original on 2007-05-15. Retrieved 2007-04-27.
  22. Rosenfield, Wendy (February 18, 2013). "Voices of Philly Review: The Diary of a Madman". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Archived from the original on 13 April 2014. Retrieved 2 July 2013.
  23. Bruch, Laura J. (October 16, 1998). "Weavers Way, Thriving Why Mt. Airy's Funky Food Co-op Is Still A Happening Place At 25". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 1 July 2013.
  24. Heller, Karen (September 13, 2012). "Weavers Way Co-op gets a ritzy rebirth". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 2 July 2013.
  25. "Where Is My Mind?: Chiddy Bang". Archived from the original on 15 March 2017. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  26. "Look who's back in the local aria!".
  27. "Archives -". Archived from the original on 1 October 2015. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  28. Moore, Matt (2012). "Louis Pollak Obituary - Elmira, NY". Star-Gazette. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Associated Press. Archived from the original on May 15, 2012. Retrieved August 15, 2019 via
  29. "Comedian Bob Saget dies at 65; Temple grad started his career in Philly".
  30. Tannenbaum, Rob (26 September 2018). "Kurt Vile, Indie Rock's Charming Riddle". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 27 September 2018. Retrieved 28 September 2018.
  31. "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
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