Fire damages former Germantown YWCA building near Vernon Park

A fire broke out Friday morning in a vacant four-story building, adjacent to Germantown’s Vernon Park, in the 5800 block of Germantown Ave.

The fire originated in the rear of the building and was reported to the Philadelphia Fire Department at 11:45 a.m., according to Executive Chief Richard Davison. It was declared under control by 12:17 p.m., he said.

There were no reports of injuries and the cause of the fire remains under investigation.

The vacant building’s right side bears a city mural done by artist David McShane in 2001. It features six women and is called “Women of Germantown.”

At the time the mural was painted, the building was Germantown’s YWCA and was once owned by Germantown Settlement.

The theme of the mural relates to the Germantown YWCA’s motto: to empower women and eliminate racism, said Amy Johnston, information and events specialist at the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. The six women chosen for the painting were deemed the most representative women of the motto.

According to Johnston, the women were Maggie Kuhn, founder of the Gray Panthers; Louisa May Alcott, author and abolitionist; Sadie Tanner Alexander, first African American woman to go to Law School at the University of Pennsylvania and to become a member of the state Bar Association; Sarah Ward McLean, philanthropist whose family helped build Germantown’s first YWCA; Clarice Gamble Herbert, first African American woman to assume the directorship of YMCA; and Dinah, a freed slaved who saved Stenton Manor from the British during the Revolutionary War.

The painting itself was not damaged in the blaze.

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