Borough municipal offices are located at 700 Summit Avenue, Jenkintown PA 19046; phone: 215-885-0700.
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Jenkintown Borough was incorporated on December 8, 1874, from 248 acres of land taken from Abington Township; however "Jenkins Town" was a recognizable village within Abington Township for many years prior to its incorporation. In reference to Jenkintown's history and development, the 1877 Railroad Atlas states: "Though it is an old settlement, and known by its present name some time before the Revolution, ... its chief prosperity dates from the completion of the North Pennsylvania Railroad, in 1856." In fact, only 14 structures remaining in Jenkintown Borough were built prior to 1860.
The late-1800s brought many transportation advancements to the Jenkintown area including the opening of the Willow Grove & Germantown Turnpike (now Old York Road) and the North Penn Railroad. By 1876, people could take a train directly to New York City from Jenkintown. SEPTA still runs several regional railroad lines through the Jenkintown-Wyncote train station. From 1894 to 1941, the Pennsylvania Rapid Transit Company operated the Route 55 trolley through Jenkintown on Old York Road. One popular destination on the Route 55 trolley was Willow Grove Park. Today a SEPTA bus route by the same name ("55") runs in its place.
The large tract of land bounded by Greenwood Avenue, West Avenue, and Florence Avenue, across from the Jenkintown-Wyncote train station was home to the Beechwood Hotel in 1886; however by 1916, the site had been converted to the Beechwood School. From 1925 to the mid-1960s, a campus of Beaver College, originally a girls-only college, was located on the site. The College's move resulted in such an increase in enrollment that the College eventually relocated to the Grey Towers campus in Cheltenham Township.
In 2000, Beaver College was renamed Arcadia University for a "picturesque region of Ancient Greece known for its peacefulness and simplicity." In 1965, the Beaver Hill Condominiums were constructed on the site. Old York Road through Jenkintown was also considered a shopping destination in the early- to mid-20th century with at least five major department stores located in and around Jenkintown. With the opening of several suburban regional shopping malls: King of Prussia (1962); Plymouth Meeting Mall (1966); Neshaminy Mall (1968); Montgomery Mall (1977); and Willow Grove Park Mall (1982), stand-alone department stores slowly declined. Fortunately, all five former department stores along Old York Road have been adaptively reused and converted to new uses. Perhaps the most iconic of these structures is the Strawbridge & Clothier building (1931) which has been converted to a mixed-use office building including a large restaurant and a self-storage facility.
Most of the residential development within the Borough occurred between 1900 and 1940. The Borough witnessed a population increase of more than 140% during this same time period. Commercial and institutional land development activity was also high in the 1920s and 1930s to meet the shopping and social needs of the burgeoning population. Another spike in commercial land development occurred in the mid-1900s coinciding with the development of suburban department store outposts and other shopping centers within the Borough.
In 1880, the first year for which population was recorded for the Borough, Jenkintown was a small community of only 810 persons. By 1930 the population had grown to 4,797 persons. Jenkintown's population peaked at 5,404 persons in 1970 and has since declined slightly but stabilized. The total Borough population in 2010 was 4,422 person.
The neighboring municipalities of Abington Township and Cheltenham Township both experienced a similar population growth in the first half of the 20th-century that peaked in 1970. The population of both neighboring townships has declined slightly since 1970 but also appears to have stabilized (see Figure 4 on the following page). In terms of population, Abington is the largest of the three communities.
Although the gross populations of Abington and Cheltenham Townships are much greater than Jenkintown's, the Borough's population density (measured as persons per square mile) is much greater than either of the neighboring townships. In fact, in 2010 Jenkintown's population density was more than double that of Abington Township. Communities with higher population densities are typically more efficient in the distribution and use of utilities and roads, but a higher density can also put stress on those utility and infrastructure systems, especially if they are older systems.
† Adapted from: Jenkintown Borough, 2035 Comprehensive Plan, adopted 2018 (jenkintownboro.com, accessed April, 2019).