Germantown: Historic Building Serves Local Seniors

The Center in the Park

While Vernon Park is less verdant and bustling in the middle of winter, many Germantown seniors can be found playing pool, cards or even the Nintendo Wii inside a century old library building nearby.

A member of the center crosses Vernon Park.

Center in the Park, Germantown’s senior center, occupies the former Germantown Branch Library building on 5818 Germantown Ave. This time of year one can usually spot bundled-up members coming through the large metal doors on their way to activities including, according to its website, bowling, knitting and yoga. The center also organizes trips ranging from day trips around Philadelphia to a five-day trip following Canada’s Underground Railroad.

According to Grant Research and Development director Megan McCoy, the building’s iconic green doors and brick walls have stood since 1906, while the library closed in 1979. The original site, when Center in the Park was founded in 1969, was the now-defunct Germantown YWCA, according to the 2009 documentary “A Gem In Germantown.” In order to accommodate more space, it was necessary to gain approval from the Philadelphia Historical Commission to convert the library interior, said former director Rennie Cohen in the video. The building’s status as a historic structure saved it from a disaster, Cohen explains.

The Center in the Park stands tall even during the winter.

“Right before we took over the building, a group came, some night, and stole the whole copper roof. The entire roof. It was horrible. We were very lucky [that] the William Penn Foundation was into historic preservation and they gave us the money to put back the roof. […] Without community development funds this never would have happened.”