We don't often find ourselves in the Fairhill section of Philadelphia, which likely explains why we've never encountered 2809 Germantown Ave., a wonderful building originally constructed for the Mutual Trust Company bank.
Ah, just look at that facade. The columns! The stone work! The cornice! We can only imagine that this building was even more impressive back in the day, though we cannot find any old pictures. Doing some basic digging, we also can't find much information on this bank, aside from the fact that there was another branch, since demolished, at 4th & Market. We're pleased and perhaps a little surprised to see that this building has been spared from the wrecking ball and repurposed into an active church. Considering the fact that the neighborhood is quite rough and the surrounding blocks are rife with blight and vacancy, it's a real triumph that this place has survived the passing decades.
If you ever find yourself in the area, we suggest taking a quick peek in person.
When a reader gave us a shout to let us know about some renovation activity happening at 2221 N. Broad St., just a couple blocks north of Temple University, we assumed that this was just one more example of developers looking to capitalize on the student housing boom in the neighborhood. And we were totally off base. First, let's consider the building itself. It appears it was used as office space most recently, though we'd imagine it was originally built for something much more interesting.
View in the past
In the immediate vicinity there are a number of truly gorgeous old Victorian homes, some of which are in disrepair while others are now broken up into student apartments. This building doesn't have the same detail as many neighbors, but it still possesses a certain industrial sensibility, and its height makes it stand out among the surrounding buildings on North Broad Street. So... perhaps you're wondering what's happening here, if student housing isn't on the menu?
For over 20 years, Project HOME has been at the forefront of getting stuff done when it comes to making inroads against Philadelphia's homelessness problem. Not only does the organization provide direct services like healthcare and adult education for the homeless population, but they also advocate for better public policy around the issue. They're also a fairly productive developer of supportive housing for people who need it most. We recently covered one of their most prominent projects to date, the Francis House of Peace, which was finished in 2015. Rather than take a breather from the arduous work of funding and managing development, the organization is marching forward with yet another project, this time much further away from the Center City area where many of their projects have happened lately.
Their next project will happen at 2415 North Broad St., along the stretch of North Broad Street between Temple University and the North Philadelphia train station. This is an area that, despite its location close to the Temple Medical and Temple University campuses and incredibly easy transit access, has plenty of abandoned/derelict property. Having heard that the development broke ground last month, we wanted to check up on it and see what was going on.
Perhaps you haven't found yourself near 7th & Cecil B. Moore at any point in the recent past or... ever. But if you ever happen to make your way to this intersection, you'll quickly notice one of the more interesting churches in Philadelphia. New Greater Straightway Baptist Church has made their home at 1705 N. 7th St. since the early 1980s, but the building dates all the way back to 1886 when it was built as the home for the Adath Jeshurun synagogue.
View from the north
AJ moved away in 1911, selling the building to another synagogue, Ohel Jacob. That congregation installed a date stone that can still be found in the front of the building. According to an in-depth Hidden City writeup of the building, the appropriately named Shalom Baptist took over the building in 1967, holding down the corner for fifteen years.
Today we direct your attention to 1511 N. 16th St., the amazing Victorian mansion that's currently home to the Alpha Kappa Lambda fraternity. This building has been used for student housing for many years, but may retain some of its original interior architectural details. About ten years ago, the property was listed for sale with this amazing description: