A reader tipped us off the other day about construction on the 900 block of S. Saint Bernard Street, and since we'd never visited said block we figured it was worth it to make the trip. It's a pretty sweet block, dominated by twins that have been fairly well maintained. Architecturally, the homes have typical West Philly touches, like gabled roofs, front porches, colorful bays, and so on. While each home copies its twin, none of the pairs on the block are the same. For example:
We've heard from a few readers over the last few months, wondering about the vacant lots at 1721-25 Tasker St.
This address, where Bouvier hits Tasker Street, was home to Dean's Bar for many years. We confess, we never had the pleasure of visiting this establishment, but a sign above the long-missing door indicated that they were indeed available for parties. Incidentally, the home next door was in terrible condition and it was probably a good thing that this City owned property came down along with the former Dean's Bar.
The view in the past
Innova, an affordable housing company that's done quite a bit of building in Point Breeze in the last few years, purchased the former Dean's Bar along with the adjacent City-owned shell back in 2014. They tore down all three buildings soon after, and the lots have been sitting there ever since. When we zipped by the properties the other day, we noticed a sign on the fence that looks relatively fresh.
Philadelphia was awfully lucky to have Willis G. Hale doing his thing here at the end of the 19th century. Hale designed a number of amazing buildings over the years, including the Divine Lorraine and the Hale Building at Juniper & Chestnut (finally getting renovated after years of blight). While many of Hale's best buildings have been torn down over time, we've fortunately been left with a number of Hale homes scattered around the city. Take, for example, a row of twelve mansions on the western side of the 1500 block of N. 17th Street:
Six large arches mark twelve homes
Hidden City provided some great info on these homes back in 2012, describing how businessmen William Elkins and Peter A.B. Widener retained Hale to design them in 1886. This project was part of a real estate speculation effort by Elkins and Widener, who accurately predicted that wealthy Philadelphia residents would soon drift away from the Center City core. But this neighborhood didn't stay wealthy forever, and by the 1970s the homes fell on hard times. By the time the century turned, many of the homes were sitting blighted and vacant, and it's only because of their presence on the Historic Register that they weren't demolished along the way.
Don't look now, but the 4200 block of Chestnut Street is getting some new student housing. Okay, go ahead and look, it's happening no matter what you do.
New hole in the ground
4217 Chestnut St. was home for a number of years to Jack Kramers Catering, but the two-story building that housed the business has been demolished, leaving a large empty lot in its place. Developers bought the property back in 2013, and then flipped it to different developers last year. The company that now owns the property is a generic LLC, but its address tracks back to How Properties. These guys have done all kinds of projects over the years, including another student housing building on the 3200 block of Spring Garden Street. While that property primarily targets Drexel students, we'd have to imagine that the Chestnut Street property will attract Penn kids.
The building at 990 Spring Garden St. was built almost ninety years ago, initially functioning as a warehouse for the Philadelphia Wholesale Drug Company. In its last incarnation, the interior of the building was chopped up into a collection of small office spaces, though the outside maintained a certain gravitas that we've always appreciated.
990 Spring Garden
When Arts and Crafts Holdings bought the building last year, they brought a new vision for the property. The old tenants are out, and the interior of the building has been stripped down to cement floors, exposed ceilings, and mushroom columns. They've branded the building as 990 Spring Garden, and they're actively marketing sparkling new office space in this up and coming neighborhood. In their marketing materials, they consider themselves part of the "Spring Arts" neighborhood, so maybe this moniker could stick after all.