At the northeast corner of 28th & Girard in Brewerytown, a corner building with a very noticeable facade stands out from the other buildings on the block. This old edifice, which has been in use as a daycare center and four apartments for the last couple decades, has seen a lot from its corner perch over the last 145 years.
When this building was completed in 1875, it surely looked very different than it does today. Upon close examination of the building, one will notice that the rear section and the front section do not match. The front, with its Pompeiian bricks and arched windows, calls back to the Rundbogenstil facades found on the nearby brewery buildings and associated rowhouses. The rear section, with its mansard roof and typical 1870’s bay window, almost looks like a completely different building.
When brewer and real estate speculator John H. Goldbeck built the home in 1874, it was set back far from the street and had a porch in front like all the others on the block at the time. The first owner of the home was George W. Barron, an early form of real estate agent (real estate sales worked much differently back then), who sold it in 1875 to Sir Edward M. Vinton, a well-known socialite who seemingly had no other occupation.
The fourth owner, Doctor Charles E Bricker, was the one responsible for the home’s fancy front facade. Dr. Bricker was well-known in Philadelphia as the Police Surgeon, an office that came with the perk of a small office in City Hall before it was even finished construction. Back then, City Hall (when it was known as “the Public Buildings”) housed the Central Police Station. Dr. Bricker’s primary responsibility was to give medical and psychological examinations of both perpetrators and victims of crimes.
Due to his position, statements from Bricker regarding his many interactions with these patients can be found among numerous trial transcripts and newspaper accounts spanning decades. He was considered very objective and even-handed while also being known for not affiliating with any political party, which is probably why he kept his job for 48 years. Dr. Bricker had moved into the home in 1888 and the addition was built some time between 1895 and 1901. The architect is unknown, but the style and materials of the facade are very similar to the facades of homes designed by architect Angus Wade one block west on 29th Street. It appears that Dr. Bricker’s purpose in adding this new front for the home was to add an office for his personal practice on the first floor.
The retirement of Dr. Bricker from the police force was reported in newspapers across the nation. He died seven years later in 1939, aged 84 years. The home was left to Bricker’s daughter, Louise, and her husband, Gustave. In 1946, the building was sold to Dr. Aaron J. Bogdanoff.
Dr. Bogdanoff, who was the son of one of the Russian-Jewish-American merchants that commercialized this stretch of Girard Avenue, was a dentist who aimed to open an office in the house and split the remainder into two apartment units. Besides being distantly related to the Bogdanoff Brothers, Dr. Bogdanoff’s primary distinction is that he kept his practice in the building until selling it to another dentist in 1980.
In 1984, the new owners defaulted and Dr. Bogdanoff was able to regain ownership of the property, which he held until his death in 1987. The current owner purchased the building in that year and renovated it into four apartments and a first floor commercial space, the configuration it has to this day. The daycare center that occupies the first floor has been there since 1998. Today, this old house retains much of its beauty and prominence, despite missing its conical tower and being a little worse for wear. We could certainly say the same about many other buildings on this rapidly changing corridor.
Brewerytown, like other Philadelphia neighborhoods, has many buildings that tell stories like this. To hear more of those histories and to check out all the new development coming to the neighborhood, join us for another Brewerytown: Rich Past, Exciting Future tour on April 25th! Sign up HERE.
— Dennis Carlisle