Some neighbors distressed about lingering tree debris at the Johnson House

Near neighbors of the Johnson House in Germantown are concerned about the current state of the historic site’s grounds.

Downed tree limbs, largely the result of a storm, cover the property at the intersection of Germantown Avenue and Washington Lane. Two particularly large ones are lodged in the roof of a historic shed.

Additionally, several planks part of a white picket fence that surrounds the 18th century house, once a stop on the Underground Railroad, sit broken just inside the edge of the premises. The dislodged pieces are the result of fallen tree limbs from a tree at the front of the property.

Michael Brix, executive director of Yes! And…Colloborative Arts, said the debris is “dangerous” and needs to be addressed.

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Brix’s organization provides art and theater programs for youth, including those at Germantown Mennonite Church, whose Washington Lane parking lot faces the Johnson House.

” Since April they [Johnson House] have told us that they’ve called the city about the tree,” said Brinx. ” It seems that no one is claiming responsibility.”

Sierra Thompson, a staff member at Little Einstiens, a daycare center on Germantown Avenue, is similarly upset by the lack of action.

” I don’t know why no one has come to clean it up,” said Thompson while shaking her head. ” Someone needs to do something.”

Officials at Johnson House said the debris is being addressed.

” We’ve been on top of this situation as soon as it happened,” said Cornelia Swinson, executive director for the Johnson House. ” We reported it to the city and we went through Councilwoman Bass’ office.”

Swinson said with the help of Eighth District City Councilwoman Cindy Bass, the debris will be removed by the city following insurance estimates. Cleanup work has already been started by Awbury Landscape Services, who have already bundled branches and will return to remove the heavy tree limbs with a crane, she said.

Bass spokesperson Joseph Corrigan confirmed that Swinson has reached out the Councilwoman and that the issue is on her radar.

” We’ve made sure that it’s not only in the queue of cleanups, but we’ve also tried to expedite the process because of neighborhood concerns,” said Corrigan.

Corrigan noted, however, that the city is facing a backlog of tree-related cleanups as a result of recent storms in the area and that it may be some time before Fairmount Park employees tackle the Johnson House.

Patricia Bass, president of the board at the Johnson House, said debris must be removed delicately. The fallen branches have already done enough damage.

” We want to do it right,” said Bass. ” We don’t want any more of the property damaged.”


Editor’s note: This is an updated version of the original story. A response from City Councilwoman Cindy Bass’ office has been added.

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