Mt. Airy [†] is divided almost equally between East Mt. Airy and West Mt. Airy. The seam that joins these two neighborhoods is Germantown Ave., a historic road that has always linked Philadelphia to its northwest counties.
These neighborhoods are located in the northwest portion of Philadelphia, between < href="/PA/Philadelphia_County/Philadelphia_City/Germantown.html">Germantown and Chestnut Hill. Germantown is the oldest community in this part of the city. It is greatly varied in its condition and its economic status, varying from pre‑Revolutionary War homes and Victorian homes that are well kept to large areas of poverty. The shopping areas tend to serve the nearby neighborhoods only. Chestnut Hill is one of the most affluent neighborhoods in the city, and includes an extremely successful shopping district that serves a very wide region. The total geographic area of the two Mt. Airys is about 1 mile by 1.5 miles (or about 22 short blocks by 18 long blocks).
Mt. Airy began as a location of country estates, farms, and a few homes and inns along Germantown Pike, between the more developed centers of Germantown and Chestnut Hill. In many ways, the pattern of being "between" remains today and is perhaps the root of the challenges that the community faces.
The oldest remaining buildings in Mt. Airy were constructed throughout the Eighteenth Century; the earliest was Cresheim Cottage (now at the north end of Germantown Ave., at Gowen Ave.), which was built in 1700. Cliveden, built in 1764 at the corner of what is now Cliveden St. at the south end of Germantown Ave., is the most famous of the historic buildings, since it was the site of the Battle of Germantown in the Revolutionary War. There are at least ten other buildings that now remain from that era, all of them along Germantown Ave.
The area received its name from the home of Chief Justice William Allen's country estate, "Mt. Airy," which was built around 1750 and was located on Germantown Ave. near what is now Allens Lane&mdasg;near the center of the existing main shopping district.
As the community grew in the nineteenth Century, two commuter train lines were built, on the east (the R7) and west side (the R8) of Germantown Ave. The completion of these lines and their eight stations spurred the residential development that took place through the end of the Nineteenth Century and in the entire Twentieth Century.
Mt. Airy is clearly defined on its north and west edges by the Wissahickon Creek and its tributaries. The entire community essentially slopes down to the ravines created by those creeks. On the other hand, its east and south edges are occasionally in dispute. (Note that, while Germantown Ave. travels southeast to northwest, the very clear understanding in Mt. Airy is that the northeast side is East Mt. Airy, and southwest side is West Mt. Airy.
This is important in understanding the locations of everything in the two communities.) The south edge of Mt. Airy is the most unclear. The zip code says Washington Lane, but many Germantown residents identify it as Johnson St. The streets and residences in both places look very similar, so there is no vivid distinction to be made, but for the purposes of this study Washington will be the southern boundary. The east edge is marked as Stenton Ave., which has greater clarity than the south edge, but some blocks and individual neighborhoods in that area claim differing locations: East Mt. Airy versus West Oak Lane, for example.
Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, Mt. Airy Neighborhood Plan: Opportunities, Challenges and Recommendations, 2004, dvrpc.org, accessed December, 2021.
Allens Lane West • Berdan Street • Bryan Street • Carpenter Lane • Charlton Street • Cherokee Street West • Cliveden Street West • Creshelm Road • Durham Street West • Ellett Lane • Emlen Street • Germantown Avenue • Gorgas Lane West • Greene Street • Hortter Street West • Johnson Street West • Kingsley Street West • Kitchens Lane • Lincoln Drive • McCallum Street • Mower Street • Mt Airy Avenue West • Mt Airy Terrace • Mt Pleasant Avenue West • Mt Pleasant Pike North • Nippon Street West • Orwell Road • Park Lane West • Pelham Road • Phil Elena Street West • Quincy Street • Rural Lane • Scotforth Road • Sedgwick Street West • Springbank Street • Srbutus Street • Upsal Street West • Walnut Lane West • Wayne Avenue • Weaver Street • Westview Street West • Wissahickon Avenue