Germantown Avenue wins online popularity contest, $150,000 grant

Philadelphia residents can now boast that Germantown Avenue is the most popular main street in the nation.

Germantown United Community Development Corporation didn’t just win the grant awarded in the Partners in Preservation: Main Streets Campaign — it came in first in an online poll to determine the 11 winners of the contest by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, National Geographic and American Express to underscore the importance of historic places and their role in sustaining local communities. The prize: A $150,000 grant to fix up two buildings historically significant in the African-American community.

The money will help restore the facades and fix structural problems at Parker Hall and the John Trower Building, both of which date back to the 1870s.

Parker Hall served as an unofficial USO and entertainment hall for black soldiers during World War II. Today, it’s home to the medical offices of Dr. Althea Hankins, MD, and the ACES Museum, which honors minorities’ military contributions during World War II.

The eponymous John Trower Building was owned by a well-known businessman and philanthropist who was once considered the richest African-American in the United States. It’s now home to the Crab House restaurant.

Supporters from all around Greater Philadelphia rallied in support of Germantown, the only finalist from Pennsylvania, using social media to promote the online vote. The 11 winners will split a total of $1.5 million in grants. Other winners were named in Arizona, California, Iowa, North Carolina, New Mexico, Alabama, Ohio, Missouri, Texas and Utah.

“It’s very exciting. These are two buildings with a rich history that are hurting, and they’re right in the center of the Germantown business district,” said Ken Weinstein, a developer well known for his work reusing historic buildings in Germantown.   

The contest had a positive side effect too, he added.

“It’s hard to bring a community together, and this contest really brought people together around a common purpose,” Weinstein said. “It feels like it gave Germantown a little momentum going forward.”

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