Look Up! Train station welcomed residents to city’s first garden suburb

The Tulpehocken Station has been restored, but awaits a new occupant to serve commuters and visitors to Germantown.


“Look Up!” is a PlanPhilly feature that encourages appreciation of our architectural and historical environment. The photo essays focus on different Philadelphia areas and their distinctive building styles and details, all of which make up the physical fabric of the city and region.


At the heart of one of Philadelphia’s most architecturally significant and naturally stunning residential sections is the train station that welcomed affluent 19th-century commuters to its sylvan setting.


The Tulpehocken Station, 314 West Tulpehocken St., was built in 1878 by William Brown and William Bleddyn Powell, who designed all the buildings on the Chestnut Hill West line for the Pennsylvania Railroad. Powell later designed the Atlantic Coast Line building in Wilmington and train stations in Harrisburg. With its low, steep-pitched roofs, elaborate brackets, and mixed materials, the Tulpehocken Station recalls the station designs of Frank Furness, whose work enhanced the Reading Railroad line.


The train station at Tulpehocken was instrumental in the growth of this part of Germantown into the city’s first garden suburb.


A ticket office, businesses, and a second-story residence occupied the Tulpehocken Station for decades. But the building became vacant in 1978 and had been seriously deteriorated for many years. In 2007, the West Central Germantown Neighbors formed “Save Tulpehocken Station” and worked with SEPTA in raising funds to match a grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation to study the restoration and reuse of the station building.


In 2009, SEPTA announced it would use $3.1 million in federal stimulus funds to refurbish seven stations on the R8 Chestnut Hill West line, including Tulpehocken, which received an exterior makeover and new roof.


Throughout the work, the station stop never stopped carrying commuters and visitors to the steadily reviving section of Germantown. The restored building remains vacant, awaiting the right occupant for one of the city’s oldest and most beautiful neighborhoods.


The Tulpehocken Station Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. The station is a contributing property in the district, and is also on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places. 


Contact the writer at ajaffe@planphilly.com.

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