Mt. Airy residents tackle abandoned buildings during city-wide cleanup day

Clear blue skies, sunshine and temperatures reaching into the 70s provided the perfect conditions for a Spring Clean Up Day over the weekend on the unit and 100 blocks of East and West Duval Street in Mt. Airy.

Mt. Airy’s Business Improvement District (BID) organized the Saturday event as part of the city-wide community effort.

“A clean city starts with you,” exclaimed Stan Mosley, who lives on the unit block of East Duval Street.

About 30 Mt. Airy neighbors, BID board members and volunteers from Elfant Wissahickon Realty donned gardening gloves and armed themselves with rakes, brooms and shovels.BID Executive Director Hollie Malamud-Price said this year’s Spring Clean Up Day drew “a lot more community participation” than what was seen last year. This is the second year BID has organized the event.

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One property on East Duval Street provided the clean up crew with quite a challenge.

In the middle of the block sits the original factory site of the Philadelphia Toboggan Company, which manufactured wooden coasters and carousels at the site for years.

Some of the company’s creations can still be enjoyed at amusement parks such as Disney World, Dorney Park, Hershey Park and Six Flags. The company’s Carousel Number 15, located at the Palisades Center in New York, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The 108-year-old business moved its factory from the neighborhood in 1971. Residents consider the building to be a historic landmark.

The property, however, has seen better days.

Anthony Sydney, a committeeperson in the city’s 59th Ward, explained that the site was purchased several years ago by an absentee owner. Though the listed property owner has a Philadelphia address, Sydney maintains that the building’s true owner is a relative who lives in New York.

Volunteers labored long and hard to make some headway in what appeared to be years of neglect.

Sydney and BID board member Michael Schweisheimer braved a trash filled stairwell leading to a below ground entranceway. “You get an award for going in the hole,” joked fellow BID board member Bob Elfant.

In the end, though, the former Philadelphia Toboggan Company lot proved to be too much to handle in just one day. Elfant and Mosley made plans to get together in the coming weeks, determined to tackle the site again.

Elfant and Mosley also had their hands full with an adjoining empty lot at 126 East Duval, a property also owned by the factory’s absentee owner. The pair cleared debris and trash from the often precarious lot.

The first two blocks of Duval Street east of Germantown Avenue are plagued with multiple abandoned buildings. East Duval Street block captain Theresa Johnson remarked that the abandoned properties are a serious detriment and drive good residents away.

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