Some NW Philly voting venues veer from the norm

Think of polling places, and what probably come to mind are churches, schools, and community centers. However, on a Philadelphia Election Day, the venues where you can cast your vote come in some odder shapes and sizes.

Here are a few of the more offbeat spots where voting machines will be waiting for the voters of Northwest Philadelphia on Primary Day.  

Walnut Lane Golf Club

Located at the intersection of Henry Avenue and Walnut Lane, Walnut Lane Golf Club is an 18-hole course with a certain scruffy charm owned by the City of Philadelphia.

Ed Rendell, Arlen Specter, and Chaka Fattah have all teed off at Walnut Lane. The Club is also the headquarters for The First Tee Philadelphia, a nonprofit organization that teaches local kids life skills through golf.

Walnut Lane is a public course that puts on no airs and welcomes all manner of duffer.  “This is a club for everybody,” said Cy, a regular player.

According to manager David Smith Jr., the Walnut Lane clubhouse has been a polling station for the past 20 years. About 500 people are expected to pass through on Election Day.

The voting machines are lined up against the wall of the cafeteria area. Some Walnut Lane regulars are less than thrilled when the election interrupts their daily golf game.

“Once [the election commission] found out we had a nice place, they confiscated it,” said Steve, another frequent golfer.

The polling station remains open well past the course’s last tee time, but the poll workers usually treat Walnut Lane’s staff to dinner afterward.

Concerned Black Men

Founded in 1975 by five Philadelphia police officers, Concerned Black Men has grown into a nationwide mentoring program that gives young African-American males “the care and discipline that all youth need, while providing opportunities for academic and career enrichment.”

The Philadelphia chapter, located at 7200 North 21st Street, boasts SAT prep courses, the Positive Action Summer Program, and the African-American Youth Recognition and Awards Banquet.

The CBM office has a large open room on its ground floor that is regularly used for computer classes and tutoring. According to Concerned Black Men co-founder Harry Crudep, the room is also large enough to accommodate the voting needs for two precincts.

“Our requirement is that the building has open access during the day,” Crudep said, “and we have someone there at 5 a.m. when they set up.”  

Parker Pub

Opened in 2006, Parker Pub is a popular Roxborough sports bar.

“Ninety percent of our customers eat here,” bar owner Pat Busk said proudly. “Our regulars include a lot of police officers and city workers.”

It’s also one of the few places in the city you can grab a cold brew in the same place you can pull the lever. Busk purchased the burned-out two-story building in 2005. During renovations, local officials approached him and asked if his new establishment could be used as a polling station.

On Election Day, the first floor of Parker Pub is filled with voting machines, while the second floor continues to serve beer and food.

Busk sees this as good for business. “What better way is there to get food traffic?” he said. “It doesn’t bother us.”

Engine Company Number #37

This Chestnut Hill landmark is the oldest operating fire station in Philadelphia. Built in the early 1890s, it is a Romanesque Revival structure built out of Wissahickon schist. Unfortunately, the station was constructed just before the advent of the automobile.

Its two-garage door bays are wide enough for horse-drawn fire engines, but are a tight squeeze for today’s modern fire trucks. Engine Company #37 transitioned to fire engines in 1916, and since then, the firehouse has boasted that Engine Company #37 is the “tightest squeeze” in Philadelphia.

For a complete list of polling places in Philadelphia, go to www.seventy.org

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