Belmont Village is a small, mostly residential neighborhood located in West Philadelphia. The borders of Belmont Village are City Avenue to the north, Belmont Avenue to the east, and the grounds of the Bala Golf Club to the west and the south. Despite being comprised of only eleven streets, Belmont Village features a relatively wide variety of housing styles. While a few houses and some historical landmarks existed on the land that is now Belmont Village before 1900, most of the development of the present-day neighborhood started in the 1920s, with the last single family homes being finished just after World War II.
Historically, Belmont Village has been a solidly middle class neighborhood and has benefited from its geographic proximity to the Main Line. For many years, Belmont Village was surrounded by park land and larger estates and its commercial northern border was deemed “The Golden Mile” for the level of sophisticated shopping and dining found on City Avenue during its heyday.
The area of and around Belmont Village was still mostly undeveloped before 1900. An 1843 map lists much of present-day Overbrook, Wynnefield, Wynnefield Heights, and Belmont Village as an area called “Blockley”, a name that has not survived unlike its peers on this map such as Roxborough, Manayunk, Northern Liberties, Germantown, and Kingsessing. There were three roads though—Ford Road, Monument Road, and Falls Road (present-day Conshohocken Avenue)—and the Columbia Rail line present around the future Belmont Village.
A series of maps over the next five decades reveals the following additions to the land in and around present-day Belmont Village:
* By 1855, the appearance of the D’Invilliers Estate, Belmont Street (Avenue), and the Christ Church Hospital/Asylum
* By 1862, the appearance of the (Hayes) Disabled Mechanics of Philadelphia
* By 1895, the appearance of the Presbyterian Home for Aged Couples & Aged Men, the Pennsylvania Schuylkill Valley Railroad (presently SEPTA), Conshohocken Avenue connecting through Belmont Village for the first time, and a property known as “The Rabbit”—a secret society found on the grounds of the Bala Golf Club but the house actually dates back far longer
With the areas in every direction from Belmont Village developing, the turn of the century brought new growth to—and the actual creation of—Belmont Village too. In 1901, the Bala Golf Club opened on part of the grounds of the Christ Church Hospital. In 1904, the Belmont Reservoir and Filter Plant opened (on the grounds of where a pumping station once was in the late 1860s).
By 1927, the D’Invilliers Estate (found on maps from 1855-1910) was gone and the land belonged to John H. McClatchy, the builder of perhaps the very first homes in present-day Belmont Village. McClatchy built the homes along the southern side of 4600-4800 blocks of Conshohocken Avenue. The Spanish-inspired homes lining the southern side of the 4600 & 4700 blocks each feature a plaque with his name. An April 1927 Philadelphia Inquirer ad shows these homes cost between $9500 and $10,200. The cluster of homes on the northern side of the 4700 block of Conshohocken Avenue were also present on a 1927 map and might pre-date the McClatchy homes by a few years.
By 1942, almost all homes of present-day Belmont Village had been constructed and the Philadelphia Home for Incurables was present (today’s Inglis House) on the corners of Conshohocken and Belmont Avenues.
From its creation in the mid-1920s up until World War II, Belmont Village was essentially the only neighborhood east of the Pennsylvania Rail Lines before hitting the river. Cocooned by the grounds of the Bala Golf Club, Christ Church, the Roberts Estate (present day Bala Shopping Center) and the Belmont Reservoir, Belmont Village also found itself overlooking to the east the last large swath of land free of urban density. With Interstate 76 not in existence yet, the natural beauty of Fairmount Park ran all the way up to City Avenue. Between Belmont Village and the Park, one found the following: Methodist Episcopal Hospital and Orphanage, Methodist Episcopal Home for the Aged (present day Simpson House), Woodside Amusement Park, Children’s Heart Hospital, Friends Select School, and the Philadelphia Country Club.
With a park-like setting and proximity to both the Main Line and Center City Philadelphia, Belmont Village had strong health as America exited World War II. The evolution of City Avenue into “The Golden Mile” only further cemented the joys of homeownership in Belmont Village. Middle class families, many of Jewish faith, moved into Belmont Village and enjoyed live TV programming at WPVI’s studio, shopped at one of the first Lord & Taylor’s outside New York, and ate at the iconic Horn & Hardart’s. This time period truly captured the slogan of the Belmont Village Community Association: where city living meets country charm. In essence, residents had the best of both worlds.
The Golden Mile days did not last, however. Overdevelopment and poor zoning control turned City Avenue into a series of strip malls. Owners of larger properties (like the Philadelphia Country Club) sold their land and subdivisions of brick row homes, more strip malls, and/or apartment complexes popped up straining Belmont Village’s park-like feel. At the same time, immediate neighborhoods like Overbrook and Wynnefield began to take a turn for the worse as their southern neighbors deeper in West Philadelphia took a turn for the much worse as Philadelphia declined overall in the 1960s.
Like its closest neighbors, as Belmont Village’s original and/or second-generation home owners began to die off or move away on a larger scale in the later half of the century, minority families started moving into Belmont Village in significant numbers for the first time. With the exception of skin color, these families were exactly the same as the original families however—everyone was a middle class family wanting their own little piece of the American dream. Seeking to insure this dream stayed intact for all, neighbors worked together to incorporate the Belmont Village Community Association (BVCA) in 1978.
The BVCA produced a number of initiatives to combat the decline of the neighborhood in the next two decades. By the late 1980s and early 1990s, drugs and violence in parts of West Philadelphia cast a negative shadow on Belmont Village and suppressed property values. Buffered from almost all of West Philadelphia, however, by rail lines, park land, and the county line, BVCA members knew the advantage was on their side as long as neighbors would stay vigilant and keep pride in the neighborhood from within. During this time, the owners of the Bala Golf Club, an important natural buffer for Belmont Village, almost gave up on the club and sold it to a strip mall developer, a potentially lethal blow for Belmont Village’s charm. The BVCA was integral in getting the club to stay in its present location.
Today, as Philadelphia’s quality of life overall has improved, Belmont Village is a place where one can have the best of city living in a place with some country charm.
There are many wonderful things. Crime is very low, with most incidents reported being commercial theft. Home values rose nicely during the late 2000s and, while lower now, are still much higher than pre-2004. New development with tasteful designs has also occurred in the area: the old Presbyterian Home was bought and converted into the luxury apartment complex, the Mansion at Bala; a new Target shopping center with many dining options was constructed; and both WPVI, Saint Joseph’s University, and PCOM updated and expanded their facilities.
Belmont Village is experiencing a renaissance and we welcome you to come be the newest addition to its history.