The latest book from Philadelphia author Natalie Pompilio, “Walking Philadelphia,” features detailed lists for 30 different walking tours around the city, one of which focuses on the Mt. Airy neighborhood. Looping around the area from the Henry H. Houston Elementary School back to Wissahickon Valley Park, the four-mile trail features plenty of sights that are sure to interest both residents and those from outside the immediate area.
This is the third book about Philadelphia that Pompilio has written since 2006. A former staff writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, her first title was “More Philadelphia Murals and the Stories They Tell,” which she wrote with Jane Golden and Robin Rice and which was published by Temple University Press. She also wrote the children’s alphabet book “Philadelphia A to Z” with photographer Jennifer Zdon in 2010. To get the right pictures for her new book, she partnered with her sister Tricia, a photographer also based in Philadelphia.
With nearly 75 miles worth of walking paths detailed, the book offers a comprehensive look at Philadelphia from a self-guided perspective. Beginning in Independence National Park and ending in Fairmount Park, each tour looks at a different part of the city, with highlighted stops ranging from well-known landmarks to hidden gems. The average tour is approximately two-and-a-half miles, but one of the longest ones in the book is the Mt. Airy path, which is about four miles long.
Beginning on Allens Lane, the tour’s first stops are the Houston elementary school and Radha Krishna Temple. The book provides historical information and other background details about each location, including Henry Houston’s involvement with the construction of 300 houses in the Wissahickon Heights neighborhood.
The tour then takes walkers onto Germantown Avenue, where most of the highlighted spots on the path are located. In addition to having plenty of modern establishments, this stretch of the tour has several older locations that emphasize the historical significance of the neighborhood. The Lutheran Theological Seminary, Lovett Memorial Library, Germantown Home and St. Michael’s Lutheran Church and Cemetery have all been in operation in one way or another since 1885 or earlier.
After St. Michael’s, the path takes walkers off of Germantown Avenue as they begin making their way back toward the starting point. The tour goes past the Commodore Barry Club, or the Philadelphia Irish Center, and then down Carpenter Lane, where the Weavers Way Co-op and Charles Wolcott Henry School are located right next to each other. The school’s namesake was not only a descendant of a signer of the Declaration of Independence, but also one of the city’s most significant activists. Henry’s wife, Sallie Houston, was also the daughter of Henry H. Houston, the namesake of the first school on the tour.
The last highlighted location on the path is Wissahickon Valley Park, the entrance to which is located on McCallum Street. With about 50 miles worth of trails on its own, the park itself could nearly double the length of the overall tour if walked in its entirety. Whether walkers prefer to take a short stroll through to enjoy the sights or take their time through the park, there is plenty to look at and take in on this last stop. Exiting Wissahickon Valley, the path then takes them back to Henry H. Houston, finishing the tour.
“Walking Philadelphia” is now on sale online and at local bookstores. For more information on the author, visit nataliepompilio.com.