by Sue Ann Rybak
For the third year in a row, Germantown Avenue between Bethlehem Pike and Southampton Avenue was transformed into a bright, interactive exhibit of history, art and architecture as part of the Chestnut Hill Conservancy’s Night of Lights held on Oct. 4.
This year’s event began with a “Flip the Switch” ceremony at 6:45 p.m. at the newsstand at the Chestnut Hill West train station. Several politicians, city officials and sponsors were on hand to “Flip the Switch,” including State Senator Art Haywood, State Representative Chris Rabb, Councilwoman Cindy Bass, Philip Dawson, executive director of Chestnut Hill Business District, Richard Snowden of Bowman Properties and many more.
Lori Salganicoff, executive director of the conservancy, said the event was initially created in 2017 to celebrate the conservancy’s 50th anniversary. She said the event was created “as a way to share the archives outside of their building and layer history on top of Chestnut Hill’s wonderful main street.”
This year’s event featured three community storytellers, including Rev. David Seip, senior pastor at Chestnut Hill Baptist Church, which Salganicoff said has the oldest church and cemetery in Chestnut Hill. The other community storytellers, Russ Goudy, Jr. and Sr., were at Kilians Hardware, 8450 Germantown Ave., and longtime Hiller John McGettigan was at 8343 Germantown Ave. sharing his family’s story.
“It’s an enormous undertaking,” Salganicoff said. “It takes a lot of time and effort; it’s our gift to the community to help everyone understand what makes this place so special.”
The project was led by the conservancy’s director of operations and special projects, Leah Silverstein.
“Two big differences to this year’s event were the level of engagement by the community supporters and the oral history component,” Salganicoff said. “We are not just sharing stories; we are collecting stories.”
Molly Murphy, a broadcast journalist, volunteered for this year’s event and recorded roughly a dozen oral histories at this year’s Oral History Recording Station located at 8632 Germantown Ave. She said they decided to start collecting people’s stories when they noticed that people were inspired after sharing their histories and experiences. She said the conservancy wants to continue to record and preserve Chestnut Hill’s history for the future.
Dawson said the business district was “proud to take a strong role in supporting the Chestnut Hill Conservancy’s Night of Lights this year.”
He added that this year’s event coincided with CHBD’s First Friday, “allowing people to explore the best that our modern commercial district has to offer while delving into the images and stories of Chestnut Hill’s fascinating past.”
To see more photos and images from archives from Chestnut Hill Conservancy Night of Lights, go to CHConservancy.org/night-of-lights. Sue Ann Rybak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-248-8804.