Ambler Storytellers News
After several months of discussion, the Ambler Planning Commission has sent a recommendation to its Borough Council regarding the proposed content of its “demolition ordinance” to be overseen by the Zoning office.
It will call for a 90-day delay on demolition of any of the borough’s pre-1935 buildings. One phrase heard during these meetings is “Would you chain yourself to the door to save this building?” Thus, because a demolition cannot be stopped (the current proposal), the commission is relying in part on public opinion to protect Ambler’s old buildings.
The Ambler Storytellers will continue to encourage appreciation for Ambler’s historic properties (and save them) by providing guided tours of the borough. Tour guides are needed! For more information about the tours or the new ordinance, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Ambler Storytellers Features Building of the Month:
The King and Betz Grocery Building
THE HISTORY. The core of the original building at 216 Lindenwold Ave retains its shape, but over time the stone façade has given way to siding and brick: The first-floor porch has been enclosed, and a large addition has been added to the side closer to Butler Ave. In a nod to its original architecture, attractive corbels appear under the eaves along the roofline. The changes to the building appear to have been made in the 1940’s, giving it a WWII era vibe. Some historically significant buildings change over time, wearing their history even as they evolve to meet the needs of the community. Today it’s known as the King & Betz building, owing to the engraved marble plaque that bears the name of the grocery store it housed for half of the last century.
This historically significant building was, in fact, a grocery store continuously from the 1890’s through the late 1970’s. Back then, many grocery stores were owned by “mom and pop” and located on neighborhood street corners. Its first owner was Richard L Tyson, who had it for 14 years. Tyson sold it to Josiah Longstreth, whose ad in the 1906 Ambler Gazette boasted, “Fine Home Dressed Meats, Fresh Provisions and Fine Groceries.” Longstreth sold the store to Charles E Ridgeway, who used World War I patriotism in his ads. Ridgeway sold the store to J. B. Neely. By 1929, the store became King & Betz when Frank King and Charles Betz, whose names are engraved in marble on the side of the building, started the iteration that served this community through the late 1970’s. This long-running version of the grocery is remembered fondly by people who lived nearby in those years.
FUN FACT. Martin Kilson, the first tenured African American professor at Harvard University, grew up in Ambler. In his recently published book, A Black Intellectual’s Odyssey (2021), he recalled, “The store’s clientele was mainly North Ambler’s upper-middle-class WASP families, and whenever its fruits exhibited even a slight sign of spoilage, King & Betz set those pieces in crates outside the store. It was the heart of the Great Depression, and our parents could rarely afford to buy fresh produce, so we kids really appreciated those crates of spoiled fruits, picking out an orange, banana, or handful of grapes for our lunch bags.”
Please reach out to us at email@example.com if you have any feedback, comments, or suggestions.
The Ambler Storytellers are a WVHS Committee that soon will be sponsoring tours and other programs to raise awareness of the borough’s rich history. This citizens’ group has been working to preserve the history and character of Ambler since the spring of 2021. In addition to researching and promoting Ambler’s historic buildings, they have been attending Ambler Planning Commission meetings and advocating for a historical preservation ordinance.
As a new committee of WVHS, Ambler Storytellers will support and augment the WVHS work promoting and preserving the history of the area. More about the Storytellers will be found via the links below and in future issues of The Valley Crier (the WVHS newsletter).
To read more about the group’s goals, see “Action is Needed by All to Develop Ambler the Right Way” in the December 2021 issue of The Shuttle, published by Weavers Way Co-op: https://issuu.com/weaversway/docs/theshuttle_2021_12/1?f.
To join their efforts, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To receive The Valley Crier, please send an email to email@example.com.
Wissahickon Valley Historical Society is a certified 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization