A tall chain-link fence recently appeared dividing the narrow walkway between two buildings on Germantown Avenue in the posh Chestnut Hill shopping district in northwest Philadelphia. And now, next to it a sign that reads "Snowden's Spite Fence." George Hobe says the fence went up between his antiques store and a building owned by Richard Snowden/ Bowman Properties after Hobe refused to sell his building to Snowden. Hobe maintains the walkway has long been a public thoroughfare, that the fence is illegal and that the Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections has not addressed complaints against the fence. During our interview Hobe retrieved a working Monopoly boardgame from inside his store called "The Game of Chestnut Hill." Snowden, who owns a large and ever growing proportion of the properties along the corridor, is presumably the inspiration for the unique Chestnut Hill version of Monopoly. Watch video interview here.
Dental hygienist Kara Hershey assiduously removes tartar from your correspondent's teeth while more than holding up her end of the conversation and guardedly discloses her ideas for inventions that she thinks could revolutionize dental care!
Volunteer Shirley Hanson was on hand to greet visitors at the Chestnut Hill Historical Society on their first Saturday of the month open house. The Society’s archives house some 20,000 historical items including photos, many available digitally online.
Your correspondent asked about the history of his house. Volunteer Meredith Sonderskov located a 1916 newspaper illustration of the newly built twin houses on the 200 block of East Highland Avenue featuring then modern amenities – refrigerator rooms, trunk rooms and set-in tub bathrooms. The garage and 14 foot driveway would accommodate the popular Ford Model T and nearly 100 years later are more than enough room for your correspondent’s machine. Watch video here.
Your correspondent went to the Chestnut Hill Garden Fest in the morning when it was still drizzly and cold.
But the weather didn't stop the Morris men from dancing and hitting their sticks together and the muscians and Morris men, women, boys and girls from kicking up their heels
Melody Mora,Ten Thousand Villages store manager was outside the store pitching the Village's exclusive small batch fair trade coffee, "Level Ground" while inside associate Tiara Richardson treated customers to tastes and imparted background information.
Meanwhile, Keven Wang was busy at his "Asian Name Painting" stall deftly brushing water colors with small, handmade leather brushes.
Outside the new "Greenology" store, Fritzie, Ken Hay and Harvey Gurst, described the mechanics and construction of koi ponds for aquaponics, growing greens and vegetables.
I returned in the windy but sunny late afternoon to hear a winsome young woman singing "I can't wait". Further up the street the peoples were boogie-ing to "Happy" and "She's a Good Girl" by the City Rhythm Orchestra.
PASSERSBY REACT TO BOULDER WRAPPED AS CHRISTMAS PRESENT
Passersby react to seeing a boulder at the corner of Ardeigh and Evergreen in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, gift wrapped in green and red. The boulder appears to have been placed on the sidewalk at the corner intersection to keep motorists from driving up on the sidewalk when they make a turn. Watch video here.
PARKING LOT ATTENDANT SAYS NO ONE'S BEEN TOWED YET FOR PARKING BUT NOT PATRONIZING TOP OF HILL BUSINESSES
The Chestnut Hill parking lot at the top of the Hill off of Bethlehem Pike has an attendant to ward off parkers who are not patronizing Top of the Hill plaza businesses. Other lots in Chestnut Hill are policed by the Philadelphia Parking Authority which monitors kiosk-issued timed parking receipts. There are often a lot of open spaces at the Top of the Hill Lot. Matt, the attendant, says you probably won't get towed if you park just long enough to return at book at the Chestnut Hill library at the northwest side of the lot. Watch video here.
DAD TAKES BABY DAUGHTER FOR HIKE ON FORBIDDEN DRIVE
Lou, a construction manager, is taking a break from work to care for his 4-month-old baby daughter while his wife continues to work. Tired of staying inside so much, they began taking their daughter on hikes. On this day, Lou had hiked a mile with Ilya before a refreshment break and diaper change at the Cedars Café at the northern end of Forbidden Drive. Watch video here.
MANUFACTURER'S REP OUT FOR A JOG
Lou, a construction manager, is taking a break from work to care for his 4-month-old baby daughter while his wife continues to work. Tired of staying inside so much, they began taking their daughter on hikes. On this day, Lou had hiked a mile with Ilya before a refreshment break and diaper change at the Cedars Café at the northern end of Forbidden Drive.
Somewhere I saw, a long time ago, a button or bumper sticker that said "Readers are Leaders" And I think that's really true- that people who read find out details about the world and have things to talk about. And it's much more effective to be in the world with other humans when you have things to talk about.
We have a rule in our household that if there's a book that's been turned into a movie, you have to read the book first- the Harry Potter movies... there's been a lot of kids books that they've taken and changed around and made them into movies and it's been pretty funny. Because they change them! But I always insist that my kids read the books first. Of course we have to do that ourselves, mind our own rules. So my husband and I had to read "The Lord of the Rings" when that coming out as a movie a while back. We had to read them again. I had read them in high school It was actually work!
Being at this book festival, people are walking by and they're talking about books which is so much fun. And there were some women here earlier at my table and they were talking about kids books that were turned into movies, "The Hunger Games" and how excited they are about that. And we started talking about the books that we love, as adults but they also might be kids books. And then we started talking about the books that are narrated, that are read on tape or CD. And one of the leader-readers, it's so obvious, is Barack Obama, You know he got a grammy award for reading his own book aloud?.. That poor guy has such a job!
Laura Richlin, Chestnut Hill Book Festival
[Alexandra Serfass, Robertson's Flowers greenhouse employee]
In the 2004 movie, “Maria Full of Grace,” a pregnant young woman trades the harsh conditions of a flower packing operation in Colombia to come to the United States with a friend as a “drug mule.” It doesn't turn out well.
The flower export business is big business. Large, drab greenhouses, like those in Ecuador where “Maria” was filmed, can stretch for miles. From my bus window, I knew the eerily transformed landscape would not be on any picture postcard I would be sending home to the U.S.
Beauty has its cost to both the environment and people, however, according to “The Secrets Behind Your Flowers,” a February 2011 Smithsonian Magazine report. Because it may take three gallons of water to grow just one rose bloom, groundwater supplies become depleted. The low-paying work is tedious and straining. In traditional growing operations, workers are exposed to the dangerous pesticides and fungicides that keep insects from taking the slightest nibble from an otherwise picture-perfect flower.
Public outcry in recent years has led to the introduction of fair trade practices. Nicole Serfass, flower buyer at Robertson’s Flowers greenhouses in Wyndmoor, showed off the Veriflora label on the roses they import from South America. Veriflora is one of a handful of certifying organizations that try to ensure that their growers are using sustainable agricultural methods and providing equitable, healthy conditions for their workers.
At Robertson’s showcase Chestnut Hill store, Sandy Robertson says they source their flowers locally from New Jersey, domestically from Florida when they can and even sees growing customer interest in organically or sustainably grown flowers. Serfass has been asking their growers about organic but believes it’s not yet economically worth it for them to invest the years required for organic certification.
“Aren’t they gorgeous?” Donna Beardell of Chestnut Hill asks, exiting Robertson’s with a brilliant bunch of pink tinged roses, destined for her nieces competing in a gymnastics meet. On Valentines Day, she’s hoping she’ll be the recipient.
[Donna Beardell of Chestnut Hill]
[Nicole Serfass Robertson's Flowers greenhouse, Buyer]
Prudential, Fox and Roach realtor Pam Thistle shows houses to prospective buyers Dabravka and Moritz Ritter who are attracted to the Hill's Avenue, shops, trains and not "too suburban" feel.
YOU’RE LOOKING FOR HOUSES IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD AND WHERE DO YOU LIVE NOW?
Moritz Ritter: We live in center city and we are looking for 3, 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, quiet street…
Dabravka Ritter:..close to the transportation.
Pam Thistle: … because they have no car, nice walkable location
AND WHY ARE YOU LOOKING IN OUR NICE NEIGHBORHOOD?
MR: Oh, we like it up here! We’re looking for something that doesn’t have too suburban a feel [laughter]DR: Germantown Avenue’s a plus, the shops and the trains
HAVE YOU SEEN ANYTHING TODAY THAT YOU LIKE?
MR: Yes some things we’ll think about.PT: Just starting out, getting a feel for the neighborhood. DR: First trip.
Dabravaka and Moritz Ritter with Prudential, Fox and Roach realtor Pam Thistle.