For a little over a century, an attractive little building has brightened the 2500 block of West Girard Avenue, but it doesn’t match anything else around it. Where did it come from?
In 1915, an old blacksmith shop also used as the storefront for a junk dealer at 2517-19 W. Girard Ave. suffered a devastating fire, leaving a charred building on a large plot of land. It was purchased in 1917 by Joseph Decatur and Benjamin Weckerly, who eventually built an auto dealership that came to be known as the Girard Motor Sales Company. The building was rather fancy by today’s auto dealership standards, featuring a facade of Flemish-bonded bricks and a fancy iron cornice. On the second floor, Decatur and Weckerly created a space called Ford Hall, an event/meeting space available for local organizations to rent for functions. Girard Motor Sales was a dealership for new Ford Model T’s and the earliest Ford trucks while also offering used cars as well. A still-standing garage on the back of the property extended out to College Avenue.
In 1919, Ford Hall was the headquarters of the Republican Alliance of the 29th Ward. On August 15th of that year, U.S. Representative J. Hampton Moore used Ford Hall to announce that he would be resigning from Congress in order to run for Mayor of Philadelphia, beginning a successful mayoral campaign. He would serve as Mayor of Philadelphia from 1920 to 1923. Girard Motor Sales later came to be known as Decatur, Inc and closed as the West Girard Agency in 1936. It was later replaced by Shneer Motor Company, which held the space until 1946.
From 1947 to 1957, the property became an extension of still-operating Pearlstein’s Furniture next door. The Pearlstein family continued to own the property until the 1980s, leasing the building to Rose Auto Sales in the 1960s and 70s and a beer distributor known as Enigma Corporation in the mid 1980s. They sold the property to orthopedic surgeon Dr. Ronald Pitkow in 1988. In 1993, Joseph Santoro purchased the property and the business inside became Santoro’s Beer Distributor, only closing shortly after his death in 2016.
In 2017, MM Partners purchased the property for $650K. Their initial plan was demolition of the building and the construction of a five story, 12 unit building with ground floor commercial space, but the ZBA denied this use in January 2018. According to their website, MM Partners will now fit out the second floor with office space and a new beer distributor for the first floor. Shortly after MM Partners purchased the property, an art installation called All the Light You Can See was placed on the roof. It went away for awhile but now it’s back in place and it adds a very cool element to the building after dark.
If you’d like to learn more about the history of buildings in Brewerytown along with information about its exciting future, join OCF’s Dennis Carlisle for his Brewerytown Tour on June 20th! You can sign up HERE.
— Dennis Carlisle