Discover Chestnut Hill: Documenting our history and the pandemic

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SEPTA’s “Lifeline” map of Chestnut Hill and Mount Airy is shown here, with lines in operation highlighted, as well as the locations of “life-sustaining” businesses.

By Alex Bartlett
Archivist, Chestnut Hill Conservancy

The citizens of the United States have now suffered from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic for approximately two months. Since then, we have been practicing social distancing and working from home whenever possible. Of course, this has led to a case of cabin fever for many. Those projects we have avoided around the house‑ long awaiting attention‑ have suddenly become much more attractive. There are rooms to be repainted, and attics, basements, and garages to be cleaned out.

While doing your deep cleaning, have you thought about things you might throw out or recycle? Have you turned up old photographs, newspapers, letters, and ephemera associated with Chestnut Hill and the surrounding area? These items may be invaluable to the Archives of the Chestnut Hill Conservancy. We are always looking for information helping to document our history, from our beginnings over 300 years ago to the present day.

At the Chestnut Hill Conservancy, we have been also working hard to document the history of the pandemic in Chestnut Hill and its effects on everyday life, including those of our families and businesses. We have been taking photographs of storefronts and their signage and have interviewed local residents to find out how the pandemic has affected them and how they have been coping with life in isolation. Part of this documentation has involved reviewing online content, gleaned from websites of businesses and organizations, including city agencies.

For example, SEPTA has implemented its “Lifeline Service” to provide service to essential workers in our community. This has involved reducing the frequency of some transit lines and suspending service to others. The organization has provided an interactive map of those remaining lines and has included the location of “life sustaining” businesses, including hospitals, pharmacies, hardware stores, nursing homes, and grocery stores, a “screen grab” of which is published here.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Archives and Library of the Chestnut Hill Conservancy are closed. However, if you would like to donate any items documenting the history of Chestnut Hill or share your own experiences—including those related to the pandemic—please let us know about them! Please get in touch with Conservancy Archivist Alex Bartlett to let him know about anything you might like to donate to our collections BEFORE sending it along or dropping it off, by emailing him at alex@chconservancy.org. He will get back to you as soon as he can. Direct all other inquiries to info@chconservancy.org.

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