I moved to Jenkintown from Chestnut Hill. In the past I’ve lived at 21st and Spruce, Academy House (14th and Locust), Spruce Hill, Fairmount, and Spring Garden neighborhoods. While very nice, none of these locations in Philadelphia can compare to the convenience of Jenkintown, especially if you have a family. I’ll also add that I’d take Jenkintown to living on the Main Line any day.
Despite living just a few blocks from the R7 Chestnut Hill East, I really wasn’t happy with hourly rail service that’s so typical. My wife works in Abington, and Jenkintown is a dream location for a rail commuter who doesn’t want to worry about missing the next train. The Jenkintown-Wyncote Station is served by the R1, R2, R3 and R5 trains and is the best served station outside of Center City and Temple.
The town itself is a little hilly, but it’s compact, has a historic housing stock (in multiple price ranges and sizes), sidewalks everywhere, and beautiful old street trees. You can live here more easily without a car than you can in Center City. A bicyclist or walker has easy access to Acme, Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Produce Junction, Glenside Farmers Market or Barnes and Noble. I can walk to four coffee shops in 5-15 minutes and bike to several more in that same time. We have inexpensive office space, good restaurants for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and a remarkably nice first run community movie theater.
I can walk to an indoor swimming pool/fitness club, walk to the dentist, ophthalmologist or the doctor, walk to UPS in 3 minutes or one of two post offices in 5. I can walk to my insurance agent, accountant, community bank or car repair place in just a few minutes.
We have two fire departments within about a 5 minute walk from my house, one of which has a 4th of July Bicycle Parade. Our library is beautiful and houses the Old York Road Historical Society. We have an effective police department, headed up by Chief Al. The Abington Art Center is about a 10 minute walk from my house. Our town square is a gathering spot for events throughout the year.
Politically, it’s an interesting place. Our volunteer borough council, school board, and borough staff work very hard. Ed Foley, our mayor lives up the street from me and is a remarkably likable guy. Larry Curry, our State Representative lives across the street from Ed. I think Larry has the best environmental record in the state legislature. I’ve seen Representative Curry waiting for the 55 SEPTA Bus to head to Philadelphia Community College to teach history. Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz has both her Congressional office and her campaign office here. I saw Joe Hoeffel, our former Congressman, current County Commissioner, and current candidate for Governor at the Drake Tavern recently. There’s probably a reason that President Obama came to the West Ave Grille in Jenkintown during his campaign. Even State Representative Josh Shapiro (champion of distracted driving bills in the legislature) comes to Jenkintown to get coffee.
Jenkintown is really a remarkable place, and there is a reason that people move here for the schools and then stay for the next 30-40 years. As residents get older, a lot of times they move into Beaver Hill Condominiums to stay apart of the community while downsizing their living space.
As a parent, I’m excited by the fact that my kids will be able to walk to school from K-12. Jenkintown residents treasure their public and private schools. We have the smallest school district in the state, and we don’t even need school buses. We have 8 or 9 really nice crossing guards, and parents get to know each other as they walk their kids to school or wait to pick them up. I actually bike on a tandem with my daughter to school, and a 10 minute walk ends up being a 3 minute bike ride.
I originally stumbled across our house while on a bike ride. It’s a 1920’s Dutch Colonial, and I’m told that the inventor of bubble gum used to live here. The Kingsleys, who we bought the house from, were really nice. And if want to describe where I live, I just say, “The Kingsley’s house.”
People here ride bikes. Herb, my next door neighbor who is 80, both bicycles and skis. Ted and Rosie, a couple houses away tour in Europe on their bikes. Bert, who lives a few more houses away, bikes into his engineering job in Center City. Bill and Elizabeth, who live across the street, both ride their Bromptons to work (one heads west to Plymouth Meeting. The other heads to Trenton). Josh, a lawyer in Center City rides his folding bike to work. Tom, an art teacher in Southwest Philadelphia, brings his folding bike on the train. A guy on Greenwood Ave bikes over to Fox Chase Cancer Center for his commute. We have a former bike racer and avid photographer named Big Al in town (He’s the guy in pink spandex). A cyclist named Chuck lives in Beaver Hill apartments and bikes about 100 miles a week. Adrienne (our movie discussion leader) bikes to summer camp with her son. He’s on a trailer bike. Bridget Chadwick doesn’t live in Jenkintown, but she bikes through all the time with her daughter. Reverend Sandy Hull, at Grace Presbyterian Church rides a couple of times a week. My neighbor Joe rides with his son JT on a trailer bike. Our Borough Council President bought a bike at Guys Bicycles this past year. I could go on and on.
Our local residents businesses here want to support bicycling. For example, we showed the Movie No Impact Man on a Monday night and raised $700 towards bike racks. About the same time, the Jenkintown Environmental Advisory Committee decided to contribute $500. The Jenkintown Kiwanis Club said they’d commit $500. Dr. Stuart Tollen, our award winning chiropractor (at Jenkintown Chiropractic), asked to sponsor a bike rack. The Borough Council is looking into buying bike racks, and the masterplan calls for putting bike lanes on York Road…
As I’ve mentioned before, I can bike to anywhere in Center City in under an hour. (It’s 40 minutes to Undine Barge Club on Boat House Row if I bike fast at 5 am. And every trip into Center City can take a slightly different route.
To sum up… I could be very happy living in Philadelphia. I don’t because we chose to live near my wife’s job and minimize her commute. And I think that, in finding Jenkintown, we totally lucked out. Now if we can get a bike shop to locate next to the Jenkintown Running Company or someplace else in town, this would be great.