Historic Fairhill: Imagining a Better World: Historic Fairhill Provides Educational Opportunities for the Community
2901 Germantown Avenue is an area rich with history. Surrounded today by Cambria Street, Indiana Avenue, and 9th street, the area used to be on the outskirts of the city with a lot of farmland and woods. The first Quaker Meeting House in Fairhill was built here in 1703 along with a burial ground. William Penn owned the land and gifted it to George Fox—the English founder of Quakerism—in the late 1600’s. Fox died in 1691, but his dying wish was for the area to be used as a “meeting house, school house, and burying place,” which exist today in one form or another under Historic Fairhill.
The burial ground and entire area have suffered a lot in the time between the glory days of the Quaker Meeting House and the founding of Historic Fairhill. Fairhill has one of the highest crime rates in the City. In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, 2901 Germantown Avenue was overrun by drug dealers and other criminal activity, making it unsafe for residents to even walk near the property. In 1993, resident Peaches Ramos, had had enough and decided to take back the neighborhood. She, with the help of Margaret Hope Bacon, who organized the non-profit, set up a campaign to clean up the site and make it a safe haven for all community members. Along with that, they wanted to make it an educational experience to learn about the history behind this address.
Historic Fairhill is known as “a peace-making urban green space.” It is far from just an old cemetery and Quaker meetinghouse. The non-profit started a community garden, where many children are involved planting flowers, fruits and vegetables. There are also many satellite gardens in surrounding areas.
Along with the gardening, the organization also has a literacy program called Reading Buddies with the Julia de Burgos Elementary School. As of 2016, there are 20 volunteers. This program is especially important at the school because it helps reduce the language gap: 84.1% of kids at the school are Hispanic and many of their parents don’t speak English well. School is the only place the students can get help with reading. In addition to reading to the children at the school, Historic Fairhill also fundraised to get much needed books for the students. Recently, one of the libraries in the area closed down, so having books available to the students in their school is really important to keep them on track for success. The organization also offers field trips for students on the history of the property, including the burial grounds. Some of the graves are for people who had ties to the anti-slavery and women’s rights movements.
George Fox’s wishes have been fulfilled for the area to be used as an educational setting. According to the Great Philly Schools Rating in 2016, Julia de Burgos elementary school ranks a 3 out 10, with the reading rating being only 2 out of 10. Obviously the help from the volunteers is much needed, so Historic Fairhill is always looking for new people to join the cause and help a new generation of kids that might have otherwise been left behind.
- Fairhill Bibliography-http://historicfairhill.org/
- Fairhill- http://www.preservationalliance.com/explore-philadelphia/philadelphia-neighborhoods/fairhill/
- Fairhill- https://philadelphianeighborhoods.com/2014/04/11/fairhill-historic-fairhill-cleans-up-the-neighborhood/ http://articles.philly.com/2009-10-12/news/25273006_1_pet-cemetery-badlands-drugs http://greatphillyschools.org/schools/julia-de-burgos-elementary-school
2901 Germantown Avenue