In Wissahickon, residents are working together to restore a damaged sign that served as a gateway to their community.
As reported by NewsWorks in September, the “Welcome to Wissahickon” sign that greeted motorists and pedestrians to the Northwest Philadelphia neighborhood was destroyed this fall, shortly after its installation at the intersection of Ridge and Rochelle avenues.
While no suspects were discovered, there was speculation, at the time, that an unidentified truck was a likely culprit.
Bernard Guet, executive director of the Roxborough Development Corporation, said in September that the sign would be difficult to replace as it was part of a $2.2 million dollar streetscape project for Ridge Avenue that included new signage, green space and sidewalks.
Reinforcing remarks made at the time of the sign’s damage, Guet confirmed recently that no additional funding is available and that the RDC will not be able to install another one.
But that isn’t keeping residents from working together to get the sign back up.
Incorporating ‘function, aesthetics and continuity’
David Decca, a Wissahickon resident involved in restoration efforts, said that he and other residents are currently in the planning stages of bringing the neighborhood gateway island back to life. They are considering various funding sources and trying to strategize to prevent a reoccurrence of the damage.
Decca said that he and his partners in the project are looking at using bricks to raise the height of the sign. He added that solar panels for additional lighting are also a possibility for any second-generation sign.
“In the new year we’ll probably be getting down to brass tacks looking for funding,” said Decca,
Jose Peguero, another neighborhood resident interested in seeing the sign brought back, has taken the initiative to keep the triangle upon which it sat clean, having spent several hours this past weekend removing weeds and litter.
Peguero proposed modeling any future signage on the wooden one that currently adorns nearby Cook-Wissahickon Elementary School.
“For me it’s all about function, aesthetics and continuity,” he said. “If you look at the Cook-Wissahickon sign, it aesthetically makes sense, even in front of that modern building.”
In addition, a wooden sign appeals to Peguero because the replacement costs would be manageable, should the proposed replacement sign be damaged once again. This would also provide the similarity of design that he seeks and perhaps serving as a model for other signs in the neighborhood.
“I would also like to see a similar sign at LaNoce Park and Daisy Field,” he said, and suggested the Wissahickon Train Station could be made to sport similar motifs. “Having a continuous look in the signage throughout the neighborhood will only enhance the look and identity.”
A promise from Councilman Jones’ office
At a recent Wissahickon Interested Citizens Association meeting, WICA vice-president Chip Roller briefed members and staffers from Councilman Curtis Jones’ office on the proposals, lending his support to their endeavors.
Asked for comment, Joshua Cohen, special assistant to Councilman Jones, said he “was disheartened to learn that the ‘Welcome to Wissahickon’ sign was destroyed.”
Cohen, who also manages the councilman’s district office on Ridge Ave., observed that the sign served as a gateway to the community and was a “welcome addition” to the neighborhood.
“Our office will make it a priority to work with Wissahickon Interested Citizens Association, Wissahickon Neighbors Civic Association, and the Roxborough Development Corporation to identify funds to find a replacement in the coming year,” said Cohen, adding, “That’s a promise.”
With a commitment made by city officials to replace the sign, an observation by Decca underscored the number of parties invested in the sign and the process of securing funds to replace it.
“There’s a lot of moving parts to a ‘Welcome to Wissahickon’ sign,” he said.