Temple Area

They don't build 'em like this anymore

The 1800 block of W. Thompson St. is a mixed bag of long-time residents, newer residents, affordable housing units, and a smattering of Temple students and young professionals. This makes a whole lot of sense, as it sits about a block north of Francisville and somewhat close to Temple's campus. But it's far enough away from both that it hasn't really seen the gentrification and redevelopment that have been so prominent in both areas. What it does have, though, is a row of eight homes that are quite unique, architecturally.

Awesome homes
Closer look

You can see, at least one of the homes in this row, 1835 W. Thompson St., has been lost to history. But the other homes have retained a number of architectural details, the likes of which you don't often see around town. On each home, underneath each window on the second and third floor, there's a 3x4 checkerboard pattern which is echoed on the gabled section up above. The homes also have strips of black bricks interrupting the mostly red brick facades, creating a racing stripe effect. Interestingly, the homes don't include any cornices to speak of, which is something you wouldn't expect for such impressive homes.

Wonderful news for an area that lacks access to fresh food

The Ridge Avenue redevelopment story is becoming a little old hat, with new mixed-use projects seemingly springing up every few weeks or so. It's important to note though, that all of those stories are about Ridge Avenue in Francisville, and once you cross Girard Avenue things continue to look extremely bleak. Just a couple blocks to the north, the east side of Ridge Avenue between Master and Oxford Streets is almost entirely vacant. It's a pretty amazing sight, especially when you consider all the progress on Ridge Avenue in Francisville.

Huge swath of vacant land on Ridge Ave.

Last week, Philly.com posted a story that indicates that change is in order for this stretch of Ridge Avenue. According to the story, PHA has signed an agreement with Sav-A-Lot to develop an 18,500 grocery store on one of the vacant Ridge Avenue parcels near Jefferson Street. PHA will foot the $4.5M construction bill and the grocery store will pay for the fit-out of the space. Incidentally, we couldn't find any info about Sav-A-Lot, the store mentioned in the article, so we have to assume that the deal is actually with Save-A-Lot, a grocery chain with 1,300 locations across the country.

Students, please stay close to your tourguide

Welcome, freshmen, to Temple University ca. summer 2016. As you can see, our growing campus has been turned into one giant construction project, and we're hoping some of it will be finished by the time classed start in a month. Let’s go over what’s in store for you (and what jealous alums never had a chance to experience).

First off, we have the new library. Recall that this building is a Snøhetta design, bringing a touch of Scandinavian class (and automated stacks retrieval) to what some would otherwise consider to be a rather plain campus. The last time we checked in, Barton Hall was a-coming down. Now, instead, there’s a big ole hole in the ground.

Library, coming sorta soon
Soon enough

Right next door to the upcoming library, we have a repaving project on Liacouras Walk. This is part of the Verdant Temple landscape improvements project -- like the section that was put in along Liacouras Walk between Alter Hall and the student health section last summer.

Despite its location two blocks from Temple's campus

It isn't news that the neighborhood surrounding Temple University has seen an explosion of growth over the last few years. It seems like nary a month goes by that we don't have some news of a triplex here or a twenty-seven-unit project there. With all the construction in the area, you'd think that there's hardly any vacant land remaining and all of the blight has been renovated or replaced by now. And you'd be entirely wrong! Development has transformed many blocks near Temple, but some are still in pretty rough shape. Take, for instance, the 1500 block of Willington Street, which is only about two blocks away from campus.

Looking up the block

We were first drawn to this block by the vacant building right on the northwest corner of Willington & Jefferson. It's got amazing bones but it's in terrible condition. A sign on the facade advertises an auction for the property which happened in 2014. On the plus side, the buyers at that auction were Union Housing Developers who should eventually renovate the structure into affordable housing. On the minus side, the building looks like this more than two years after they bought it:

Wanna own a mansion designed by Willis G. Hale?

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.