Foe of Mermaid Lane proposal a 5th generation Hiller

by Len Lear
Posted 9/2/21

Keith Kunz is about as Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy as the law allows. In 1837 his ancestor, Daniel Kunz, came from Germany to Chestnut Hill. In 1905, Johannes Kunz, Keith's great-grandfather, became the first Kunz to live in the Mermaid Lane house, as did his grandfather, Herman.

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Foe of Mermaid Lane proposal a 5th generation Hiller

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Keith Kunz is about as Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy as the law allows. Kunz, 45, who recently won a second three-year term on the board of the Chestnut Hill Community Association, is part of a fifth-generation CH/MA family. In 1837 his ancestor, Daniel Kunz, came from Germany to Chestnut Hill and opened a general store at 3rd and Girard Avenue. Family members in subsequent generations were usually tradesmen and stonemasons or owned general stores. Keith's father, Kenneth, worked for Bell Telephone Co. (now Verizon) for many years. He attended Jenks Elementary School, Saul High School in Roxborough and Temple University on the GI Bill. Both parents are now deceased.

Kunz's house on East Mermaid Lane has been there at least since 1876, when it had no kitchen. “In City Hall that's as far back as the records go,” said Kunz. “The kitchen was added in 1889. It was part of the Morgan or Yarnall Estate; we're not sure which, that went all the way up to Stenton Avenue.

In 1905, Johannes Kunz, Keith's great-grandfather, became the first Kunz to live in the Mermaid Lane house, as did his grandfather, Herman.

“This house was originally servant's quarters for the farm across the street,” said Keith. “A house on this side of the street was a working farmhouse. My brother and I grew up on Nippon Street in Mt. Airy. I bought this house, which my uncle previously lived in. It was a no-brainer.”

He has been active in protecting the integrity of his neighborhood. “Regarding the Goldenberg plan [to build a new apartment complex with 250 units across the street], I am all for development, but it has to be respectful of the environment you are putting it in and the historical nature of the community.

“They showed us their plan months ago. CHCA did not like it. LUPZ did not like it. Cindy Bass did not like it, so we developed a working group that sent Goldenberg a letter. After a couple months they came back with an even bigger plan. Some people on Highland Avenue are still not happy with the development project over there, but at least there was some give and take and compromise there. Cindy Bass said this is not Mermaid Boulevard; it is Mermaid Lane.

“We already have Chestnut Hill Village here. If you added the Goldenberg plan, we would have five percent of the entire population of Chestnut Hill right here. We are waiting to see what our next option will be. We have 15 homes on this side of the street. On the other side, you could fit 27 homes, as long as they are tasteful, like the new homes at Germantown and Springfield. They blend in, with stone and wood from this area and are LEED Certified.”

Keith and his four-years-older brother, Kenneth 3nd, both went to Norwood-Fontbonne School. Keith went to Penn State's main campus, transferred to Temple University, where he earned a business degree, and the University of Pennsylvania for a master's degree in engineering. He has now been an engineer at TV's Channel 29 for 21 years, currently working on the show Good Day Philadelphia. “I stay up till at least 8 p.m.,” he said, “and wake up at 2 a.m. Good Day starts at 3.58 a.m. My first 12 years there were with the 10 p.m. news. That was before the wife and kids. I enjoy the people I work with. Otherwise, I could not possibly do it.”

Keith worked even more hours at the station (not at home) during the pandemic. “I was the only one in the building,” he said. “I had to go to the houses of the on-air talent to set up the (virtual) systems.”

Kunz has also had a landscape company, Country Club Landscape, for 28 years, which now handles only commercial properties, not residential.

Keith's wife, Krystin, a Downingtown native, was working from home even before the pandemic as a project manager for Comcast. The couple met at TV29 and now have two children — Brady, 8, and Aly, 6, both Norwood-Fontbonne students.

Keith has a reputation in Chestnut Hill as a tireless volunteer. He and his dad volunteered to build homes for Habitat for Humanity, and for four years Keith has been president of the Water Tower Advisory Council. “I was told it was a thankless job and that 'you're gonna get beat up,' but the Water Tower is in my life forever. My granddad Herman's wife, Orvilla, taught there and ran 4-H program. All my aunts worked there teaching how to cook and sew, also pottery and child recreation programs.

“Last year was the 100th anniversary of the Water Tower, but we had to cancel our anniversary celebration because of Covid. We hope to have it next year and have already booked it at the Cricket Club, but we need sponsors.”

Len Lear can be reached at lenlear@chestnuthilllocal.com

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