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Joe Menkevich to Appear Before the Historical Commission

Joe Menkevich is the ultimate historical researcher  He won’t let you say he is a historian because that implies more than what he does.  What he does is dig through documents files archives and pictures to get at facts.  He has been working on documenting the Byberry African American Cemetery.  This cemetery is an orphan.  It sits unmarked and almost forgotten up on Townsend Road in Northeast Philadelphia near Benjamin Rush State Park.

He will be making his case to have this property included in the city list of historic places at the Historical Commission meeting this Wednesday at 9:30 AM.  You can read his nomination documentation at his link.  This is a public meeting for anyone who would like to attend.

Below is a letter of support from John Buffington which argues why this is important to all of us.  It is good to remember that we have our own orphan cemetery right here in Frankford down at Wilmot Park on Meadow Street.

Remarks Prepared for the Historical Commission of Philadelphia

 September 16, 2015

My name is John Buffington. I do neighborhood history rather like Joe Menkevich.

I know a bit about Orphan Cemeteries.

Four generations of several sides of my family rest in a rural Cemetery in South Alabama. My ashes will be there too eventually.

Both of my grandmothers, during near impoverished widowhood, managed to scrape together a modest amount every year to contribute to the informal system for caring for the resting place of the people that they loved.

We buried one of my grandmothers quite close to the fence that runs alongside a 2 Lane State Road.

A few years later the Alabama highway department anticipating the need to someday widen the route from Montgomery to Mobile, condemned additional right of way on both sides of that road.

No one had standing to speak for our dead.

My grandmother now lies in highway right-of-way. If the highway department decides to widen on our side of the road, her grave may be desecrated.

Eventually descendants of the folks in that cemetery got together and organized “The Buffington Cemetery Trust”. We got our federal tax exemption and conducted a fund drive.  I was the founding chair of the Board of Trustees. When I wrote the trust indenture, I stated our intention to maintain and protect that cemetery forevermore.

Then I took the Trust indenture to the Conecuh county courthouse and recorded it in the land records.

Now if anybody ever wants to mess with that cemetery, they know who they have to call.

I also wrote organizing documents and served as chair of the Knowlton Preservation Committee.

When the last standing country house designed by Philadelphia’s greatest architect, Frank Furness, went on the market, neighbors and preservationists and Furness devotees were alarmed to learn that the leading proposal for reuse would have taken most of the site for condominiums, utterly depriving that fabulous building of its remaining context.

The mere existence of an engaged organized constituency, coupled with the legal protections that this great city has put in place, headed off development plans until Jack Conroy, the world’s most acute caterer, came along with a plan that made the most of the architectural asset and sacrificed only the orchard (for parking), a single cut in the rear of the building for a door, and part of the view from the rear.

Twenty-five or so people who immersed themselves in that matter bless the name Conroy and the existence of legal strictures on the development of historic properties every time Knowlton is mentioned.

I want to be on the mailing list whenever the independence or budget of The Philadelphia Historical Commission is threatened.

Who speaks for recognized African-American cemeteries? Doug Mooney mostly.

Who speaks for the restless dead who lie in unlisted ground like Byberry African American Cemetery, Hart Cemetery and Wilmot Playground?  Right now that would be Joe Menkevich.

I know several African Americans who know that their families have been in Frankford longer than my family has been in south Alabama.  They are as proud of their heritage as I am of mine.

My fond hope is that Joe is not the only person who cares about orphan cemeteries of many anonymous souls who labored and served in colonial Philadelphia. I hope that this application will be the catalyst for organizing to speak for the dead. I am ready to write another set of organizing documents. I will hope for a call.

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Deed Restrictions of Frankford and NE Philadelphia

Preserving and Promoting the History of Northeast Philadelphia Since 1905
The Center for Northeast Philadelphia History
Tuesday, 11 November 2014 7:30pm
Featuring Northwood and Crestmont Farms
Joseph Menkevich and Debbie Klak

Join Society members and guests for a slide show presentation and display on the genesis and impact of neighborhood deed restrictions in Northeast Philadelphia – including those of Northwood (Burk) and Crestmont Farms (Torresdale). Mr Menkevich has done extensive research on these deeds and identified several historic maps and surveys from the City Archives never before seen in public. Newspaper clippings from the Society’s Edward Becker collection will also be displayed.
 Refreshments served. Members free; Others $5.00
1507 Orthodox Street, Philadelphia, PA 19124

Tuesday, 09 December 2014 7:30pm
Frankford’s Home Grown Historians

A first for the Society—members will have a chance to meet and greet local historians/authors—some who have previously offered programs at the Society. They will be signing copies of their books and sharing previews of their upcoming works. These make great gifts—join us!
Join Society members/volunteers in this festive Annual Holiday Tea.
Please bring light fare/desserts to share.
 Refreshments served. Members free; Others $5.00
1507 Orthodox Street, Philadelphia, PA 19124
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The Savaging of Tina Tartaglione

Political Commentary by John Buffington is the first in a series.  His opinions are entirely his own.

My friend Joe Menkevich and I were planted on adjacent bar stools when Danny Savage strolled up looking for the possible vote.

Joe is always ready with conversation for a politician. This time my ears started to vibrate when Danny said that his opponent, Sen. Tartaglione, voted twice against taxing Marcellus Shale gas production. I got Danny to repeat that one directly to me, and he promised to send me the details.

No follow-up from Danny has ever arrived. Danny’s campaign literature doesn’t include a phone number. The number at Danny’s website is disconnected; it forwards to another number that is also disconnected. Danny is unreachable by telephone.

So I researched Sen. Tartaglione’s record on shale gas taxation without further help from Danny.

What Sen. T voted against was Act 13, which includes a modest “extraction fee”. Republicans who have sworn to avoid new taxes need euphemisms, so the Act 13 tax became an “extraction fee”.

Tina Tartaglione wasn’t alone in voting against Act 13. Every Democrat in the state Senate voted No on final passage.

Act 13 is the Corbett administration’s vehicle for turning Pennsylvania into the Saudi Arabia of Shale gas production. It isn’t especially controversial hereabouts, yet, because there’s a moratorium on fracking in the Delaware River basin and the pipelines haven’t been built through here yet. So you can’t smell or taste fracking in Philadelphia. Yet.

Danny Savage’s campaign flyers claim that he will “fight to pass a real tax will on natural gas drilling…”. Maybe so, but it’s not good to start the effort by lying about your opponent’s record.

On March 31, Sen. T. and four other senators started circulating a request for additional sponsors for SB 1333, which would impose a 5% tax on shale gas extraction.

I have been observing politics with horrible fascination for more than 50 years. I have seen plenty of politicians blowing smoke like Danny. It is a pleasure; believe me, when I occasionally stumble on a politician who is doing the right thing for purely virtuous reasons, and doing it quietly.

It isn’t politically correct around here, yet, to do the right thing about shale gas extraction because you can’t smell or taste the poison here, yet. Tina Tartaglione looks to me like a politician who is doing the right thing quietly.

I asked the Brendan Boyle campaign about his position on taxing fracking proceeds and learned that he voted against Act 13.

I asked the Daylin Leach campaign and they referred me to a staff member in Senator Leach’s office. It turns out that Sen. Leach is devoting a lot of resources to this also, despite the lack of promotional potential.

Imagine that. I stumbled on not one but two politicians in the same campaign season who actively care about the public interest.

Senator Leach voted against Act 13 and has signed on as a sponsor of SB 1333. His staff member gave me enough material to write a book on fracking.

I also heard from a third school of thought. The Delaware Riverkeeper takes the position that fracking to produce natural gas is inherently disastrous for both air and water, and taxing it is just a distraction. Their website is a good place to start finding out about the issue.

I plan to do an occasional piece on local politics for the Gazette. If you spot a politician blowing smoke, please let me know.

John Buffington
May 2014
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Property Tax Issues

By Joe Menkevich

I did some searching and found some helpful links.  I know that many people are hurting & do not know how to get help.
Community Legal Services
Posted October 29, 2013
For years, millions of dollars in delinquent property taxes have gone uncollected in Philadelphia.
Programs to Help Homeowners with Property Taxes
Date Posted: 
Managing Property Taxes
There are many programs available to help people pay their property taxes:
  • Installment payment plans. Income-eligible homeowners and senior citizens age 65 and older can apply to pay property taxes in monthly installments during the same tax year that the taxes are due.  Application must be made by February 28th.  The Philadelphia Department of Revenue offers: 1) Income-eligible installment agreements; and 2) Senior Citizen Installment Agreements.  A homeowner whose spouse is 65 or older may also qualify for a payment plan.  If approved, homeowner receives a coupon book to make payments. The payment plan must be completed in the year in which the taxes are due.   No re-application is required for subsequent years.  If a taxpayer successfully completes either of these plans, any interest and penalties that accrued during the year will be waived by the Department.  Application forms and more information on these installment agreements are available on-line at the Department of Revenue’s website at
  • Pennsylvania Property Tax/Rent Rebate. Low-income senior citizens and low-income persons with a disability may be able to receive a refund on all or part of their homestead property taxes once they are paid in full each year. More information on the Pa. Rebate program is available on-line at the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue’s website at
  • Senior Citizen “Tax Freeze.”  Low-income senior citizens can apply for a special program where their property taxes will not increase each year that they live in their home.  The program provides that eligible low-income senior citizens shall be entitled to receive refunds or forgiveness of that part of their real estate tax liability caused by either i) a real estate tax rate increase or ii) an increase in the assessed value of the taxpayer’s home. This program applies only to an eligible taxpayer’s home.  Reapplication for subsequent years is not required. More information is available on–line at:
  • Philadelphia Active Duty Reserve and National Guard Tax Credit.  Reserve members of the U.S. Armed Forces or Nation Guard who are on active duty outside of Pennsylvania may be able to receive a credit toward their homestead property taxes.  The Application form for the Philadelphia Active Duty Tax Credit is available on-line at the Department of Revenue’s website under “Common Forms” at
  • Pennsylvania Disabled Veterans Real Estate Tax Exemption Program.  The Pennsylvania Constitution provides a real estate tax exemption for any honorably discharged military veteran who is 100% disabled, whose disability is connected with his or her military service, who is a resident of the Commonwealth, and who has a financial need.  More information on the program is available at the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs’ website at
  • Homestead Exemption. The City of Philadelphia offers a Homestead Exemption program, which reduces the taxable portion of your property assessment by $30,000. This means that if you live in a home assessed by the City at a fair market value of $100,000, the City will subtract $30,000 from your assessed value before determine how much you owe. This means that a home assessed as worth $100,000 would only be taxed on $70,000 after the exemption is applied.  This could result is significant saving for homeowners on their property tax bill each year.  If you are approved, your real estate tax bill will be lower the next year.  To qualify, you must own and live in your home as your primary residence. You can apply even if your name is not on the deed.  You need to apply a year in advance of the tax year.  The deadline to apply is September each year. If you missed the deadline, you can still apply, it just won’t take effect until the second tax year.
Delinquent Property Taxes – Owner Occupied Payment Agreements
For years, millions of dollars in delinquent property taxes have gone uncollected in Philadelphia. In the push to increase enforcement and collection of property taxes, Community Legal Services has seen a sharp increase in the number of homeowners facing a tax foreclosure filed by the City of Philadelphia.  There is also real value in helping families to stay in their homes and avoiding creating more vacant properties and increasing homelessness.  In June 2013, City Council passed an ordinance creating a uniform system for allowing homeowners to enter into affordable repayment agreements for delinquent taxes, called “Owner Occupied Payment Agreements.”
The new program took effect Tuesday, October 15, 2013.  Several key features include:
  1. Access to affordable monthly payments;
  2. A standardized written repayment agreement;
  3. Forgiveness of all or part of the accrued penalties and interest if certain conditions are met;
  4. Uniform procedures and policies, regardless of which entity is collecting the taxes;
  5. Notice to homeowners of options, obligations, and availability of counseling;
  6. An appeals process for taxpayers who are denied an owner-occupied payment agreement on their home.
  7. A strict requirement that a homeowner MUST pay all of the current and future property taxes when those taxes are due (failing to pay current and future property taxes is considered a default on an agreement);
  8. Consequences for failure to pay under the agreement, including Sheriff’s Sale of the property.
If you are behind on your property taxes, there is help!
You can meet with a housing counselor who can assist you in applying for a repayment agreement.
You can contact the entity collecting your taxes, and apply directly with them.
Department of Revenue
Form for taxes being collected by the City of Philadelphia
Dept. of Revenue – Taxpayer Services
Municipal Services Bldg.
1401 John F. Kennedy Blvd., Concourse
Philadelphia, PA 19102
Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson
Form for taxes being collected by Linebarger Goggan Blair & Simpson
Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson
Attn: Patricia Smith
4 Penn Center
100 JFK Boulevard,
Suite 910
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Form for taxes being collected by GRB
1425 Spruce Street, Ste. 100
Philadelphia, PA 19102
If you need help with your property taxes, click here.
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DAR Awards Two for Excellence in Community Service

At their 2010-2013 Triennium Luncheon on Saturday, May 18th, the Flag House Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R.) awarded Excellence in Community Service Awards to Joseph J. Menkevich and Michael C. Axelrod.

First a little bit of history about the Flag House Chapter of the DAR.

Mr T. Worcester Worrell, a long-time Frankford resident and member of the Sons of the American Revolution, suggested to his wife, the great grand niece of Betsy Ross, that a family chapter consisting of relatives of “Aunty Claypoole” (as they called Betsy Griscom Ross Ashburn Claypoole) be formed as a lasting tribute to the maker of America’s first flag.

The idea was well received by Mrs Worrell’s relatives and an organizing meeting was held at the Worrell’s home (Column Hall – State Rd/Church St and Tacony St) on February 23, 1901.  On June 9, 1903, the founding members met the home of Ada Cooper Dickeson where they were granted their Charter from the National Society, Daughters of the American Revolution.  Ms Dickeson, a member of Delaware County Chapter DAR, became a member of Flag House to be with the Ross family group and bring their numbers to a symbolic thirteen.

In 1924, Flag House Chapter opened its membership to all Revolutionary War descendants – ensuring the chapter’s survival into the next millennium.  Members continue to participate in local, state, and national DAR activities and remain a presence in Frankford and the surrounding area.

Following are the citations for the awards. Joe Menkevich is well known to many in the Frankford community.  He will be our Focus on Frankford subject in June:

Flag House Chapter, NSDAR, proudly honors Joseph J Menkevich with the 2012-13 National Society Daughters of the American Revolution Community Service Award.   Mr Menkevich, an active resident of the Northwood/Frankford area of Philadelphia, has invested his time, resources, and considerable talents in civic/community service in enhancing the livability of his community & preserving the area’s history for over a decade.

As president of the Northwood Civic Assn, he took a firm stance in working with community leaders & City to enforce the area’s protective zoning ordinances – encouraging residents to get involved.  He convened civic meetings around development and demolition to preserve the historic, social, cultural, and economic features of the neighborhood.

Joseph Menkevich can be viewed on You Tube (02 July 2012) sharing his vision for the Frankford community in conjunction with his participation in the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program’s initiative to create six murals featuring the area’s history.    He has devoted his tremendous skills, time, and resources to researching the significance of various properties in the area to discourage their demolition and encourage productive use/reuse.  These include researching/sharing  the historic significance of the home of Dr Benjamin Rush, researching Oaklands – the home of William Overington – researching and sharing the history of Lydia Darragh’s role informing Washington of the movement of British troops, and researching and encouraging the Historical Society of Frankford in the preparation of a nomination for a Philadelphia Historic Commission listing for the oldest house in Frankford.  He is a consistent and vocal presence at community meetings and a frequent contributor to the area’s on-line newspapers (, and ).

 Mr Menkevich continues to generously share his time and talents with the area’s social, civic, and historical groups.  His activities have served to inspire residents to get involved in making their community a better place.   Flag House Chapter is delighted to present this national award.

Mike Axelrod is known to Frankford as a former Vice Principal at Frankford High School.  He has also made a fascinating presentations at the Historical Society of Frankford on flag history.

Flag House Chapter, NSDAR, proudly honors Michael C Axelrod with the 2012-13 National Society Daughters of the American Revolution Community Service Award.  Mr Axelrod has combined his formidable skills as an educator and administrator and his interest in and love for history to research and present a series of programs, activities, and displays on military, American, and Flag of the United States history to children, senior citizens, educational institutions, and social, cultural, patriotic, fraternal, historical groups throughout the SE PA region.

He is Vice President of the national’s oldest flag day association (Philadelphia Flag Day Association, and is an active member of the nation’s first organized military unit (1747 – Veteran Guard, Third Regiment, National Guard of Pennsylvania 

Mr Axelrod took the lead in establishing and expanding the PFDA Flag and Banner Collection, broadening it to include 9-11 and “Support our Troops” flags – now numbering over 200.  He has raised the funds to purchase significant flags through his educational programs, which are richly illustrated by examples from the Collection.   He has been instrumental in the planning of parades/processionals, events/activities, and ceremonies to commemorate 9-11, Flag Day, Veterans’ Day, and Washington’s birthday, working cooperatively with the National  Constitution Center, US Army, Independence National Historic Park, the Betsy Ross House, Fort Mifflin, and local universities and legislators. 

 His latest project is to offer support to enhancing and expanding the Military Museum at the National Guard Armory in NE Philadelphia as a vehicle for the preservation of the nation’s military history through the items from our nation’s military history and the stories of those who used them.   Michael Axelrod continues to explore ways to bring history alive through educational outreach and patriotic pageantry as he generously shares his time and talents with the area’s social, civic, and historical groups.   His activities have served to inspire residents to get involved in making their community and this nation a better place.  Flag House Chapter DAR is delighted to present this national award today.


In addition to the honors bestowed, new chapter officers were also installed as follows:

  • Pamela Rivera, Regent  
  • Patricia Coyne, First Vice Regent  
  • Colleen Kolakowski, Second Vice Regent 
  • Betty Bedford, Chaplain 
  • Patricia Coyne, Recording Secretary   
  • Bunny Riehl, Corresponding Secretary 
  • Christie Link, Treasurer 
  • Nancy Popielarski, Registrar 
  • Patricia Coyne, Historian 
  • Kathleen Zielinski, Librarian 

Congratulations to Joe and Mike and the Flag House Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

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2010-2013 Triennium Luncheon