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Frankford Needs You

By Al Houston

Help! Frankford Needs You.

Over a decade ago, Thomas Hummel of Penn street and several others developed the plot at the corner of Penn, Foulkrod, and Oxford Ave. This was previously the site of the old Bell Telephone building and later a gargantuan pile of rubble after the explosion late in 1995. The current owner of the properly can be called a slum lord and were it not for Tom, Pastor Gabe, and others we would not have this mini Garden of Eden in this neighborhood.

That was late 1995 & 1996 and there have been other improvements over the past couple of years due to the efforts of some extraordinary people in the community. In addition to Tom Hummel, his wife Hazel, Roy Koehler, Janet Bernstein, Mr Angel, Al Houston and many other residents, the once vacant lot remains a beautiful green space today. Pastor Gabriel Wang-Herrera of the By Grace Alone Church on Oxford Avenue and the many groups he is associated with have also been instrumental in maintaining cleanliness and the beauty of the community garden at Penn, Oxford, and Foulkrod. Mr. Robert Smiley of the Frankford Gazette says the rehabilitation of this lot has been the impetus of other like projects in Frankford.

Additionally, a group of civic minded residents in the 4800 block of Penn Street have done a marvelous job at maintaining the beauty of the neighborhood, and in doing so, enhance property values and neighborhood pride. These folk are very diligent concerning matters on their own block, but are also ever active concerning other developments in the wider area. We (Frankford) need more people with this spirit! Indeed the very purpose of this article is to urge people to action.

A testament to that wonderful spirit occurred, when due to an accumulation of flammable gases, the Bell Telephone building exploded at 3:15am on December 29th 1995 “a date which will live in infamy”. Destruction visited many homes, vehicles, and businesses in the area, but the residents showed amazing resolve and resiliency . They did not sink into despair, nor did they wait on the others or the government. Instead they sprang into action. Their maxim was ‘this is Our Frankford, We live here (therefore) we must rebuild.’ That was the genesis of the garden, and those folks have taught us much. We are responsible for ourselves. Together we CAN make a difference. And so, I salute all those persons and I Will be one of them. I will do my part. This my pledge.

It is safe to say that most people appreciate cleanliness in their neighborhoods. However, this is attained and maintained by the efforts of All Of Us! In fact, if all able-bodied persons spent an hour or so out front of their homes or apartments picking up the trash and sweeping rubble into receptacles, Frankford would be noticeably neater. But please, do not stop there take in your mail and those annoying circulars. Clean-up days are great and block parties draw people together, but of our several responsibilities, cleanliness is certainly nigh to Godliness. And just think, it would only take several hours a week from each of us. Let us get back the pride. Pride in ourselves. Pride in our neighbors. Pride in our community. Frankford can be better. We can be better. Together we can return the luster to Northeast Philadelphia.


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A Garden Grows in Frankford

Actually there are quite a few gardens growing in Frankford.  Some of the most interesting user comment we have seen has been related to those gardens.  So a few weeks ago when I was coming down Oxford Avenue and saw that group of folks tending to the lot on the corner of Oxford and Foulkrod naturally I had to stop and ask what was going on.  So emerged the story of Tom and Hazel Hummel and Al Houston.  I had heard a little bit of it before.

The old Bell Telephone building became vacant and in 1996 blew up in an interesting burst of flaming inferno.  It was subsequently demolished and a vacant lot remained.  After some time, Hazel and Tom got involved and rallied some other folks and with the help of  Janet Bernstein and the Horticultural Society planted a garden.  The garden was beautiful and turned an eyesore into a little place of beauty.

Some time went by and the people who had worked to maintain the garden were no longer able to do so and it fell into decline.  Along comes pastor Gabe from the little church on the block (By Grace Alone Frankford Fellowship) and well, why don’t we let them to the story.  Here it is below.