Washington Square West

Large rat keeping an eye on things

The Parker Spruce, at the northeast corner of 13th & Spruce, was built as a "bachelor hotel" in the 1920s, but as the decades wore on, it transitioned to a seedy hotel of ill repute. A Philadelphia Weekly writer spent a night there in 2006 and found the accommodations to be better than expected, and noted that the management of the building possessed at least a modicum of professionalism. Then again, at one point during the night, the writer got a whiff of what was more than likely a bunch of people smoking crack, so while it may not have been as bad as people thought at the Parker, there was still some illicit stuff going on over there.

Initial reactions seem more positive than Toll Brothers plan

The controversy sparked by a Toll Brothers plan to demolish a row of buildings on the eastern side of Jewelers Row could encourage a different developer to move forward more aggressively with another development on this corridor. In case you haven't been following the saga, Toll Brothers owns 702-710 Sansom St. and intends to demolish the existing structures and build a 29-story building with 115 condos and ground floor retail. This will certainly impact the character of Jewelers Row and many people are up in arms about the plan. But when you consider that the properties have a generous CMX-5 zoning designation and absolutely no historic designation protection, there's little that anybody is going to be able to do to stop the project.

Doesn't include the existing facades

When news emerged last summer that Toll Brothers had acquired 702-710 Sansom St. on Jewelers Row and had plans to demolish the buildings and replace them with a 16-story building, many people were apoplectic that the developers would be compromising the integrity of the oldest diamond district in America. Unfortunately, while the 700 block of Sansom Street has a ton of history, it was never actually designated as a historic district and the buildings were therefore not protected by the Historical Commission. In addition, the property is zoned CMX-5, which allows all kinds of projects by right, so despite the protests of preservationists and other neighbors, Toll Brothers could basically build whatever they wished at this location. So it was no shock in December, when word came out that the plans had changed and that Toll Brothers would be increasing the size of the project, building a 29-story building instead.

Demolition finishes a few weeks ago

Fare thee well, Society Hill Playhouse.

Society Hill Playhouse, last summer

From the south, also from last summer

Back in the summer of 2015, we first heard the rumor that Toll Brothers would be purchasing the Society Hill Playhouse at 507 S. 8th St., and many people were apoplectic about the prospect of the building's demolition. The Toll Brothers plan went through several iterations as it wound its way through the community process, shifting from a five-story condo project with parking to a four story rental project without parking. Ultimately, Toll Brothers was unable to get support from the community and walked away from the project.

Within a week, a new developer came forward, this time with plans for 26 units, 8 parking spaces, and a green roof. With the building permit already pulled, we can say that the project is most definitely happening, and by-right to boot. Another strong indication that it will be moving forward is the fact that the old Society Hill Playhouse building was demolished over the last couple of months. A reader sent us a rather sad image that shows the building reduced to just one story.

It's a bit of a fixer-upper though

We don't usually call out individual properties listed for sale, but every now and then a particularly special one comes on the market and we feel like we'd be remiss if we didn't bring it to your attention. Such is the case with 1221 Pine St., a historic home in the Washington Square West neighborhood that's now on the market for $550K

View of the home

According to the listing, the home was built by by Joseph & Eliza Shoemaker, Jr. in 1829, with the first floor originally functioning as a drug store. According to the Historical Commission, the architecture of the building perfectly represents the period in which it was built. Though the exterior of the building is in pretty shabby condition, it appears to be mostly intact and it probably strongly resembles its original state.

The listing has many photos that show the interior of the house, which has a number of seemingly original details but still looks like it will need a total rehab. The current owner, who bought the property in 1985 for $50K (!) seems to have done some renovation work over the years, but looking at the photos we can't be sure that anybody has been living there lately. The building has about 3,000 sqft inside, with three large rooms on each of the first three floors. The top floor has another large room with roof deck access. At this time, per the listing, there's only one working half bath. Like we said, the place needs some serious work.

Okay, enough exposition. Check out these photos!