Today (Monday, February 14, 2022) the City of Philadelphia made history and took a stand against racial injustice in West Mt. Airy.
The street formerly known as Allen Lane, has been officially renamed and dedicated to Richard Allen, in honor of his contributions to racial justice in Philadelphia.
Allen Lane was originally named after William Allen, the 26th Mayor of Philadelphia. But Allen was an enslaver and a British loyalist whose opposition to abolition and racial justice was widely condemned in his lifetime and thereafter.
City Council passed a resolution to redirect the street name to honor Richard Allen. Councilmember Cindy Bass, D-Phila, introduced the resolution, under the behest of Representative Chris Rabb.
As a city that represents independence and freedom, City Council found it very appropriate to rededicate Allen Lane to a champion of the black community, Richard Allen. Richard Allen, born February 14, 1760, stood for the truth and the freedom of black people. Born into slavery, he bought his freedom for $2,000 from his enslaver, Benjamin Chew, the namesake of Chew Avenue. Active in his faith community, he led a walk-out from St. George’s Episcopal Church because Black worshippers we’re relegated to the back pews. Richard Allen went on to co-found the Free African Society and the African Methodist Episcopal Church where he become a bishop. It was the first national Black church denomination in the United States. He was a man of integrity and good character.
The ceremony took place at the Allen Lane Bridge located at Cresheim Road and Allens Lane and featured Representative Chris Rabb, Councilmember Cindy Bass, SEPTA General Manager/CEO Leslie S. Richards, and other distinguished guests.
Both the Allen Lane Bridge and SEPTA's Allen Lane Station on the Chestnut Hill West Line are named for the adjoining street which, until today, bore the name William Allen. SEPTA is proud to follow the lead of City Council and Representative Chris Rabb to rename Allen Lane Station in Richard Allen's honor.
The process to do so has been initiated internally and SEPTA is working with leaders of First Episcopal District AME Church to create and install historic panels of Richard Allen at the train station which will be unveiled at a future station dedication ceremony. We believe our stations to be more than transient places - they are a wonderful way to share our values through public art, tell stories, and allow people to lean and be inspired with each trip.
PennDOT also plans to rename Allen Lane Bridge in Richard Allen's honor.