Chapter 3: West Mount Airy, Philadelphia

Barbara Ferman
Temple University

Theresa Singleton
Temple University

Don DeMarco
OPEN's Fund for the Future of Philadelphia


West Mount Airy, a neighborhood in the northwest section of Philadelphia, has achieved national acclaim as a model of stable racial integration. The paucity of such examples renders each one important for the lessons that can be learned. The experience of West Mount Airy is even more illuminating when examined in the context of the adjacent communities in northwest Philadelphia. Large portions of East Mount Airy and Germantown, which began as all-White communities, have resegregated to predominantly African-American communities, while Chestnut Hill has retained much of its enclave character as home to some of the city's wealthiest White families. Roxborough and Manayunk, which are separated from West Mount Airy by the Wissahickon Creek and the surrounding Wissahickon Valley of Fairmount Park, are largely White middle-class and working-class communities, respectively. Exhibit 1 illustrates the racial patterns in these neighborhoods between 1950 and 1990. Exhibit 2 provides 1990 racial data for these neighborhoods. Given this particular configuration, the question of how West Mount Airy created and maintained a racially and, to a lesser extent, economically diverse community becomes quite interesting and important.

Chapter 3: West Mount Airy, Philadelphia (*.pdf)