Exploring the History of a Unique Building on West Girard

The 2800 block of Girard Avenue in Brewerytown is a living example of a commercial corridor created from a former row of stately homes. While many on the row stand out in their own way, 2826 W. Girard Ave. is quite noticeably unusual. This building was built in 1874, just like the rest of the old homes on the south side of the 2800 block, and was once no different in appearance to the others. It was the residence of one Louis J. Bauer, a German immigrant who was Secretary and Treasurer of the local J & P Baltz Brewery headquartered nearby at 31st & Thompson. Bauer was also Vice President and later President of Northwestern National Bank, whose building still stands at the corner of Ridge and Girard Avenues.

South side of the 2800 block of W. Girard

Bauer moved into the home in 1875 but must have been tired of its appearance by 1895, because that’s when he commissioned architects Charles Martin Keen and Frank Mead to design a complete makeover of the home’s facade to make it stand out from the others. Keen and Mead were just starting their firm at the time and this was one of their earliest commissions. They would go on to design many suburbanesque homes that still stand in Mount Airy and Overbrook.

The design, with Pompeiian bricks and Gothic arches, seems more like a church or castle than a single family home. This design is almost completely different than any other Keen and Mead would design in later years, but at least one of their designs that still stands in Mount Airy incorporates a few details similar to the Bauer Residence.

2826 W. Girard Ave.

Louis Bauer died in the home in 1907 at the age of 59, leaving it to his family. Between 1912 and 1925, numerous owners would come and go, but none seemed to want to stay long term. The property was bank-owned by 1925 and stayed that way until Girard Federal Savings & Loan absorbed the bank that owned it and decided they should open an office in the building.

In 1940, they converted the former Bauer Residence into 5 apartments and a ground-floor office space. To do this, a large addition was built on the back of the building and a small addition was placed in front. That front addition was partially decorated with portions of the first floor facade that were disassembled and reassembled eight feet closer to the street, giving the building the appearance it has today.

Closer view

Girard Federal Savings & Loan kept their ownership and office in the building until selling it in 1952 to one Theodore Rosenberg, who leased the first floor to a branch of Ritter Finance Company, a large chain of small loan offices that had dozens of locations all over the region. Theodore Rosenberg retained ownership of the property until his death in 1980. His family continued to own the property until 1985– there has been no less than five owners since then, none holding the building for more than ten years.

Today, the stately Bauer Residence still stands out on the block. Since Ritter Finance Company vacated the first floor in the early 1960s, the commercial space has been through a very long list of very different tenants. Diadem Hair Salon is the current occupant while the apartments installed in 1940 are still in use. As Brewerytown goes through more and more changes over the coming years, the old Bauer Residence will still be just as impressive as ever.

If you’d like to learn more about the history and new developments in Brewerytown, join Dennis Carlisle for his newest tour, Brewerytown: Rich Past, Exciting Future on April 4th. You can sign up for this FREE tour here.

–Dennis Carlisle