In the late 19th and early 20th century, the intersection of 5th & South was at the heart of an increasingly vibrant Jewish Quarter in Philadelphia. Immigrant families began flowing into Society Hill and lining South Street with their businesses. The building standing at the Southwest corner of 5th Street and bearing the address 500 South St. would be a mainstay of the Jewish neighborhood even as it changed hands numerous times over the decades. The corner in question is shown here below in an image taken from G.W. Bromley’s 1895 Philadelphia Atlas.
500 South St. at the heart of the Jewish Quarter in 1895
At around this time, 500 South St. served as the studio for a popular family portrait photographer named Max Pomeranz, according to the Family Tree Maker. Pomeranz specialized in ‘Art photography’ and claimed to have innovated an “Instantaneous Process used exclusively'” in his studio. The image below, taken from a personal photo collection at Dreamwidth.org, shows one of Pomeranz’s family portraits with his studio’s address etched into the matting.
About a year ago, we were encouraged to learn that 540 Lombard St., the building one off from the corner, had been sold to a private developer who demolished and rebuilt the property. Our expectation was that the church would take the proceeds from the sale of the building to renovate the corner property, which it still owned at the time. By the summer, we learned that the church sold off the corner property as well, which was just fine by us. The new owner came to QVNA asking for support for a coffee shop in this location, a variance that was ultimately granted by the ZBA.
Like most of the addresses on South Street, 410 South St. used to be a whole lot more fun and exciting than it is today. The building on the southwest corner of Leithgow & South today wouldn't attract the attention of the average passerby. However, obscured by the retail shell that now occupies the site is a compelling history that begins in the city’s earliest days. According to the Queen Village Neighbors Association, The Southwark Theatre was built in 1766. By many accounts, this would be the first permanent theatre built in America. The sketch here below, borrowed from the York County Heritage Trust website, shows the theatre in its earliest days.
While falling snow postponed the Queen Village Neighbors Association zoning hearing last month, QVNA members are nevertheless optimistic about a proposal from a well-known local developer to convert the former drab looking and faded Sonny's General Auto Repair at 123 Washington Ave. into three row homes that front League Street with garages facing Washington.
Current view on Washington Ave.
The proposal, which was heard last week, seeks to create three lots from one, and is by the same developer that built row homes at 6th & Bainbridge. A number of members of the zoning committee have already met with the developer informally to look at and comment on the presentation, and they found nothing to be controversial, according to Mike Hauptman, zoning chair.
Back in August, the property owners got their variance from the ZBA for this project, and the other day a reader gave us a shout that a rendering for the new hotel complex had been posted to the property, which is looking for retail tenants.
Future hotel site. See the sign? Not the potatoe sign, stop messing around.