Molly Smith is a public-school teacher who also runs the Germantown Homestay out of her house which was built in 1888.
She started her small business at 5925 Wayne Ave. in 1985, renting one of her rooms to guests from all over the world. In the past five years, approximately 100 to 150 days out of the year have been occupied by visitors, Smith said.
Ever since her daughter Laura can remember, their house has welcomed guests who have stayed anywhere from one night to an entire week.
“It was fun,” Laura says with a chuckle. “There are lots of baby pictures of me in the arms of strangers.”
A rare enterprise
The Smiths said they know of three other homes which rent rooms in a similar fashion, but are sure at least 10 other businesses are out there.
Molly, who uses the spare bedroom as a means for supplemental income, advertises sparingly, but since the room she rents out is in high-demand, she often turns people away, making sure to refer them to other similar businesses.
She said she typically rents to people interviewing at Drexel University College of Medicine’s Queen Lane campus, or tourists who want to stay in a historical area.
“We have some guests that come here and probably have never been in a neighborhood with a black person in it, and sometimes they are like, ‘Oh, we didn’t expect this,’ but we have never had a problem,” Laura said. “And the people usually leave with a good image of Germantown.”
While Laura does not keep in touch with past guests, her mother sometimes does. Laura recalled seeing an invitation sent to her mother to attend a wedding in Chile.
Laura said she has considered running a homestay in her home once she starts a family and finishes law school. And yes, she said, it would be in Germantown, too.
“We are a big Germantown family and [my brother] has talked about doing it, whether it be in his house or here,” Laura Smith said.
Thomas E. Zamonski and Parissa M. Zecher are students at Temple University. Philadelphia Neighborhoods, a NewsWorks content partner, is an initiative of the Temple Multimedia Urban Reporting Lab.