About Chestnut Hill
Chestnut Hill PA 19118 , located in the northwestern corner of Philadelphia, is one of the city’s most beautiful, affluent and historic neighborhoods. Centered around Germantown Avenue and Bethlehem Pike, Chestnut Hill is surrounded by Fairmont Park and adjacent to the Philadelphia neighborhood of Mt. Airy as well as the Montgomery County suburbs of Oreland, Wyndmoor and Lafayette Hill.
Germantown Avenue’s cobblestone blocks where trolleys once ran, feature shopping, antiques and dining of all sorts and are known for walk-ability and charm. Chestnut Hill was designated one of the top seven urban enclaves in the USA by Forbes.com and selected as a 2010 Distinctive Destination by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Chestnut Hill is the home to Chestnut Hill College, Chestnut Hill Hospital, the University of Pennsylvania’s Morris Arboretum and the Woodmere Art Museum as well as the Philadelphia Cricket Club.
Houses range from modest row houses to extensive mansions as well as architectural landmarks by Louis Kahn and Robert Venturi.
Chestnut Hill is home to more than 100 unique shops and businesses, most of them in convenient storefronts clustered on Germantown Avenue and Bethlehem Pike. Antiques, gifts and clothes, banks and spas, two yarn stores, two cigar stores, two independent toy stores, an old fashioned candy store, a neighborhood co-op grocery, a farmers’ market, a country market and a variety of other stores await you.
From fast food to fine cuisine, from neighborhood bars to BYOBs, Chestnut Hill has something for everyone. There’s a McDonald’s and also Mica, a new offshoot of Blackfish named Philadelphia’s best restaurant and CinCin owned by the owner of Yang Min named America’s best Chinese restaurant. There are two coffee shops, McNally’s (home of the famous Schmitter), a new Thai and new Italian restaurant, Cake, a beautiful sun-filled restaurant in a former greenhouse, as well as outdoor dining at the Chestnut Grille and a farmer’s market with a dozen restaurants of all cuisines. Chestnut Hill features no less than five fabulous bakeries.
On the western end of Chestnut Hill is the Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania, a romantic, 92-acre, Victorian landscape garden of winding paths, streams, flowers and special garden areas featuring the new Out on a Limb tree adventure for kids of all ages as well as the Woodmere Art Museum, a 19th century stone mansion converted to a Philadelphia-centric museum and surrounding grounds.
To the south is Fairmount Park, the nation’s largest city park with scenic trails for walking, biking and horseback riding (Northwestern Stables is on the edge of Chestnut Hill)
There is ice skating at the Wissahickon Skating Club and tennis, golf and cricket at the Philadelphia Cricket Club.
Chestnut Hill’s designation in 1996 as Philadelphia’s Garden District is well deserved. Large trees, gardens, and plantings are everywhere, from the large mansions to the neat and tidy row houses that make up the neighborhood. Germantown Avenue, the heart of the neighborhood, comes alive each spring as hanging baskets, barrels and window boxes are planted with lush, colorful flowers. Small pocket parks along the Avenue act as peaceful green oases in the retail corridor and every bit of open space is planted with bushes, trees or flowers.
Chestnut Hill is fortunate to be nestled along the 1,800 acres of Wissahickon Valley Park, part of Philadelphia’s 9,200 acre Fairmount Park. A lovely, wooded valley with the Wissahickon Creek running through its entire seven-mile length, the park provides residents and visitors with delightful access to walking, jogging, biking, horseback riding, picnicking and fishing, in season.
The Woodmere Art Museum focuses on the art and artists, both historical and contemporary, of the Philadelphia region. Located in a beautiful Victorian mansion, the museum owns and shows the works of such diverse luminaries as Violet Oakley, Benjamin West, Arthur Charles and N.C. Wyeth. There are also juried exhibits of local painters and sculptors, solo shows of promising newcomers, and sculptures displayed on its extensive grounds.
Fall in Chestnut Hill brings the fantastic Fall for the Arts Festival and spring the Garden Show which closes Germantown Avenue for tens of thousands of visitors who fill the streets for food, fun and shopping. Every other October a tent rises in the middle of Germantown Avenue for the elegant Black and White Ball and every December hundreds of people pull on blue booties to tour some of the area’s most elegant homes in the Holiday House Tour. Summer nights bring the outdoor Pastorius Park concert series; July features dozens of readers and writers at the Chestnut Hill Book Festival.
Chestnut Hill is easily reachable from Amtrak train to Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station and then by Septa train (the 7 and 8 lines from Amtrak’s 30th street or Suburban Station end in Chestnut Hill).
From Philadelphia and the East
Take the Schuykill Expressway west ( Route 76 to exit 32–Germantown/Wissahickon Park). Follow signs to Lincoln Drive. Take Lincoln Drive to dead end at Allen’s Lane. Turn right on Allen’s Lane and go to another dead end–Germantown Avenue. Turn left onto Germantown Avenue for approximately two miles.
From the Northwestern Suburbs (via Bethlehem Pike):
Take route 309 south to Paper Mill Road, turn right, take Paper Mill Road to Bethlehem Pike (fourth light). Turn left and immediately bear right onto Bethlehem Pike. Take Bethlehem Pike to Germantown Avenue.
From the Pa. Turnpike, Plymouth Meeting Area (via Germantown Pike):
Take the Turnpike to exit 25 (Norristown). Go east on Germantown Pike (which becomes Germantown Avenue) approximately 6 miles.
From Delaware County (via Route 476/”Blue Route”):
Take Route 476 to the Germantown Pike East exit. Follow Germantown Pike (it becomes Germantown Avenue) approximately 8 miles.
From NE Philadelphia (via Ridge Avenue):
Take Route 1 (Roosevelt Boulevard) south to the Ridge Avenue exit (Henry Avenue is an alternative). Turn right onto Ridge Avenue; proceed for 5 miles to Andorra. A half mile past the Andorra Shopping Center, turn right on top Bell’s Mill Road. Follow to Germantown Avenue and turn right for approximately I 1/2 miles.
Where to stay:
The Chestnut Hill Hotel is a 36-room boutique hotel on Germantown Avenue in the heart of Chestnut Hill. Starting with an inn on that location in 1772, the hotel was rebuilt in 1865 and was refurbished in 2011 to have a historic look and modern convenience. It is surrounded by the Chestnut Hill Farmers’ Market, the Chestnut Hill Grille and El Poquito, a Mexican-style cantina.
The Silverstone Bed & Beakfast is a converted 19th century Victorian Gothic mansion on Stenton Avenue not far from the shopping district featuring 1-3-bedroom apartments with extended stay accommodations available. Kitchens, laundry rooms, wireless internet and a breakfast are available.
Several miles away, in Plymouth Meeting there are 3 larger chain hotels, the Hampton Inn , Courtyard by Marriott and Doubletree Suites.
History of Chestnut Hill
Chestnut Hill became part of Philadelphia in 1854 when the state legislature annexed some 129 square miles to the old city of Philadelphia, which occupied the land between the Schuykill and the Delaware Rivers. The village of Chestnut Hill lay ten miles north of city hall and served as a way station for travelers and a gathering place for the surrounding farms and the mills operating on the Wissahickon Creek.
According to Chestnut Hill College Prof. David R. Contosta’s definitive history, Suburb in the City: Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, 1850- 1990, prosperous Philadelphians first headed to Chestnut Hill to escape the summer heat of the low-lying old city. When the railroad provided a link in 1854, suburban development took off. The village provided services to the new suburbanites and the new commuters lived in the comfortable, breezy enclave of Chestnut Hill while they depended on the city for their livelihood and culture.
To this day, Chestnut Hill remains a highly livable suburb in the city. Bordered by Fairmount Park, the largest city park in the country, and served by two railroad lines, Chestnut Hill offers a vibrant commercial district, low-density housing, and a strong community commitment to a lifestyle worth preserving.
Chestnut Hill,was named by Forbes magazine as one of the top seven urban enclaves in the United States, and one of 12 Distinctive Destinations in America by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Residents and visitors can leisurely stroll the cobblestone streets, enjoy a delicious meal in one of Chestnut Hill’s many eclectic restaurants, or shop in the upscale boutiques lining historic Germantown Avenue.
Renowned for its delightful shopping and dining, Chestnut Hill is also home to the Woodmere Art Museum, the Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania, Chestnut Hill Hospital and Chestnut Hill College. The neighborhood caters to all interests–from biking along beautiful scenic trails in the Wissahickon, to sipping a glass of wine after a relaxing massage at one of our three full-scale day spas, attending an art gallery reception, or shopping for that perfect gift or outfit.
For more on the history of Chestnut Hill, please visit the Chestnut Hill Historical Society website at chhist.org or stop by their office at 87078 Germantown Avenue.
For a Germantown Avenue self guided walking tour, visit: www.chhist.org/avenue/tourinfo.htm online or for a mobile web version for smartphones visit
www.chhist.org/avenue/index.html, or by phone at 215-525-1539.
For a 20th Century architecture tour visit www.chhist.org/20thcentury/index.htm
Fun Facts About Chestnut Hill
1. The name Chestnut Hill was in use as early as 1704
2. George Washington led the main body of his army through Chestnut Hill on the way to the Battle of Germantown on October 4, 1777, and they retreated through Chestnut Hill after losing that battle.
3. A Civil War hospital used to exist on East Willow Grove Avenue
4. Ian Fleming named his famous character, James Bond, after a Chestnut Hill resident whom he met on a cruise.
5. The movie, Stealing Home, starring Jodie Foster and Mark Harmon, was filmed in Chestnut Hill.
6. Chestnut Hill is home to the Thomas Mill Bridge…the only covered bridge in the Philadelphia area.
7. The Baleroy Mansion in Chestnut Hill is considered one of the most haunted houses in the United States. A ghost by the name of Amelia haunts the blue room in the mansion and a number of other ghosts, including Thomas Jefferson, have been seen here.