Biking Germantown’s historic sites

The same weekend Denmark’s Alex Rasmussen peddled his spandex-clad and professionally trained buttocks off to a win at the Philadelphia International Cycling Championship, a group of bikers in Germantown had a more relaxed outing touring the neighborhood’s historic sites.

Rasmussen’s time was 5 hours, 59 minutes and 4 seconds for the 156-mile course around the city.

The fifteen bikers in Germantown completed their 5.2 mile loop in just about two hours, according to tour organizer Carolyn Faris, the program coordinator at Historic Germantown. She and others among the neighborhood’s 15 historic sites hope to make the new event into something regular.

“We got a really good turnout and people seemed to really enjoy it,” she said. “It is something that we really do want to do more of in the future.”

The tour started out at Cliveden on the 6400 block of Germantown Avenue, the site of the Battle of Germantown in the Revolutionary War, and headed south and west to the Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion, the city’s only Victorian house museum, located on Tulpehocken Street. Then the bikers went downhill to the Monoshone Creek and Fairmount Park’s Historic Rittenhouse Town, the site of the first paper mill in British North America.

The historic sites in Germantown have been coordinating efforts for years to improve service and help people take in what Germantown has to offer. The bike tour, which was really a trial run, is one of the newest of those efforts.

While no specific plans exist yet to repeat the tour, Faris said Saturday’s outing helped organizers learn some things they will need to do to make it manageable for participants if and when they do institute it as a regular feature of Historic Germantown.

“We did make special effort to avoid Germantown Avenue,” she said. “Not because we dislike Germantown Avenue, but because biking on it is not the most fun thing in the world – cobblestones and trolly tracks do not lend themselves to biking.”

Something else the bikers learned – coming back from Historic Rittenhouse Town to Cliveden may not be “the Wall,” but it’s quite an up-hill slog of its own.

Another new Historic Germantown initiative this weekend is Second Saturdays. This Saturday, and every second Saturday of the month, most of the neighborhood sites will be open for public visits from 1 to 4 p.m. The idea is to make it easier for people to get a full sense of Germantown’s history in a single outing by being open at the same time.

Faris does not recommend speeding through all 15 sites at a Rasmussen-like pace. Rather she thinks, no matter how they get around, visiting two or three sites in one afternoon should be fast enough for most visitors.

This month the sites are focusing on African American history, spearheaded by Juneteenth at the Johnson House – a celebration of the 145th anniversary of the passage of the 13th Amendment, which ended slavery. The event is June 18 from 11 to 3 at 6306 Germantown Avenue.


Click these links for more information on Historic Germantown, Cliveden, the Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion, Historic Rittenhouse Town or the Johnson House.





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