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One of the oldest boroughs in Montgomery County, Jenkintown brims with historical interest and secret finds. In this residential community, visitors find National Landmarks, an active arts scene and shops and restaurants that are not just along the main drag.
Settled by William Jenkins in 1697, Jenkintown was incorporated in 1874. Among the quirkier holdovers from older days are the two fire companies founded in the 19th century—both continue to serve the half-mile area today. Like many of the suburbs that surround Philadelphia, Jenkintown had its first heyday in the 19th and 20th centuries. A downtown revival in the 2000s, with the renovation of the central Hiway movie theater and a resurgence of independent businesses and restaurants—as well as the success of its most famous former resident, actor Bradley Cooper—has boosted the town’s profile.
611, or Old York Road as it’s more familiarly known, serves as Jenkintown’s main thoroughfare. The majority of the town’s shops are here, though its restaurants tend to be located on the side streets.
Located a half-mile outside of Jenkintown proper, the 70-year-old Abington Art Center is situated in Alverthorpe Manor, a 27-acre campus that encompasses galleries exhibiting contemporary works, classroom space and a sculpture garden. In addition to regular shows and classes, AAC runs an outdoor summer concert series. (Also located here is the Old York Road Historical Society, which catalogues the history of the corridor connecting Jenkintown to Philadelphia and New Hope.) Local art can also be found in the collaborative gallery The Art of It. Originally built in 1913, the Hiway Theater has been a local staple and an unofficial town center through its various incarnations, most recently undergoing a renovation that includes digital projections. The theater now dedicates itself to repertory, foreign and independent cinema.
Jenkintown has a number of architecturally interesting sites, among them the Jenkins Town Lyceum Building (now known as the Jenkintown Library) and the Art Deco Strawbridge and Clothier Store, both listed on the National Register of Historic Places, along with the Salem Baptist Church, which famously hosted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. two months after the legendary March on Washington. The 45-acre expanse of Curtis Hall Arboretum in nearby Wyncote also features a national landmark building, as well as two ponds, 50 different tree species and a Valley of Remembrance in honor of World War II veterans.
Tucked in and around the Old York Road strip, Jenkintown’s restaurants merit their own exploration: the convivial atmosphere and classic American menu make West Avenue Grill the area version of Cheers. The festive decor at Argana Tree befits its spicy Mediterranean/Moroccan fare, while bring-your-own-bottle shop Leila’s Bistro’s cozy setting is a winning backdrop for rustic French cooking. Sweeter still, Velvet Sky Bakery inhabits a cafe and baking facility known for its creative cupcakes, and the candy-flavored concoctions at The Cheesecake Lady turn skeptics into diehards. The taps flow at King’s Corner Public House, a British “soccer pub” and Drake Tavern, a sports bar with patio seating. Opening in fall 2014, the Guild Hall Brewing Company promises to expand the local craft beer repertoire.
A combination toy store, play space and toy library, Rhinoceros also hosts regular do-it-yourself activities for kids. Art supplies, stationery and craft kits mingle on the shelves of Allegheny Art Company, while designer unmentionables at Tulips Lingerie and Intimate Apparel merit a visit. Gift seekers will find interesting handmade items at Luda’s Judaica, specializing in Jewish holiday items, and This Little Gallery.
Held annually in September, the Festival of the Arts is Jenkintown’s biggest event, with a juried art show, food stands, live music and performance, beer tents and more gathered around the Town Square.
Multiple SEPTA regional rail lines stop at the Jenkintown-Wyncote station. Inexpensive metered parking is available in the lots off of Leedom Street.
A Courtyard by Marriott and SpringHill Suites are both available in nearby Willow Grove. Alternatively, stay a short drive away in Philadelphia and save with the two-night Visit Philly Overnight Hotel Package, which includes FREE hotel parking.