The open spaces and historic places of Huntingdon Valley

ZIP code 19006 in Google Maps shows more green than surrounding areas. But it’s probably better to see with your own eyes.                                                                                                                                              

From the tops of the towers at Bryn Athyn Cathedral or Glencairn Museum in Huntingdon Valley, all that green becomes trees, grassy fields and open space, with the Philadelphia skyline looming in the distant horizon. On the ground, you would never know how close you are to the fifth-most populated city in the United States.

That proximity is part of the appeal of Lower Moreland, Upper Moreland and Abington townships and Bryn Athyn, all of which have pieces in Huntingdon Valley. Philadelphia has the job market, and these places have the room to breathe.

“In Huntingdon Valley, there’s a couple thousand acres of protected open space and parks and I think that makes this place very special,” said Robert Demartinis, president of the Lower Moreland Board of Commissioners. “It’s not overbuilt and there’s access trails and rails and things like that.”

SEPTA Regional Rail systems offer easy transportation to the city, and a quick walk, bike ride or drive gives locals access to some of the area’s most expansive nature areas. Probably the most impressive example of this is the Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust.

The Trust contains 812 acres of protected land throughout the Huntingdon Valley area. It’s home to 11 miles of trails, hundreds of different bird species, deer, foxes, raccoons, possums, skunks and, occasionally, even coyotes and a nesting bald eagle.

It anchors the nature scene in the area, but municipalities are taking strides to make even more of the outdoor space accessible.

Lower Moreland, for example, turned a previously underutilized stretch of land off Red Lion Road into a community park. Valley Center Park includes a state-of-the-art, multi-purpose turf field, playground, pavilion and mile-long nature trail through the surrounding woods. That project was completed from the ground up in under two years.

Another project is the Pennypack Trail extension, which is already partially completed and could bring pedestrian- and bike-friendly trails from the Delaware River, through Montgomery County and eventually into Bucks County. Abington is also looking at implementing a network of bicycle lanes to township roads.

Huntingdon Valley is also rich in history. The most notable piece is probably the Bryn Athyn historic district, where the Bryn Athyn Cathedral, Glencairn Museum and the Cairnwood Estate stand tall above the landscape, giving the area some generations-old charm. Tours of the buildings and the artifacts contained within are given almost daily.

Nearby is the Fetter’s Mill historic district along the Pennypack Creek. It includes several historic buildings and an old train station-turned post office. It has been named to the National Register of Historic Places, and recently, has been growing as a weekend attraction.

Lower Moreland officials want to connect these areas with Bethayres, the township’s historic district. Planning projects have begun to promote walkability between the three sites to connect them as an attraction to the area in general.

Along with the small-town feel comes some small-town shopping. Huntingdon Valley is home to an array of specialty shops, craft stores, clothing boutiques and restaurants.

“There’s a lot of small, local business,” said Loreen Montagnon, assistant township manager at Lower Moreland. “People sell products and services that you want to see in person.”

The shops of the Valley Courtyard and other businesses along Huntingdon Pike are a nice change of pace from the Walmarts and Targets of the world. With a lot of handmade and specialized products and people-based service, it matches the aesthetic of the area: historic and personal, but certainly not stagnant.

“This is a 300-year-old community,” DeMartinis said. “It’s the older infrastructure. It’s homes and buildings from the 1600s and 1700s that are still here that make this a neat place to visit, shop, dine, bike and hike.”

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