Washington Square West

The northeast corner of 12th & Locust Streets sits in the center of a neighborhood teeming with restaurants, bars and apartment buildings.  In several of its past lives, however, this location primarily served the interests of education.  Bryn Mawr College tells us that a school was erected here between 1827 and 1828.  The Locust Street Grammar School would operate here through the rest of the 19th Century.  Hexamer & Locher’s Philadelphia Atlas shows the site of the school in 1858.

The Locust Street Grammar School at the northeast corner of 12th & Locust, 1858

Philadelphia Architects and Buildings shows that the school continued to serve the children of its neighborhood right up to the turn of the century.   The wood cut pictured here is dated to 1897.

If this plan actually moves forward

The former home of the Letto Deli, at 208 S. 13th St., has had a trying past few years. For quite some time, it looked like Jose Garces would be taking over the space to open a German sausage and beer hall called Froman's Wursthaus. We even shared the good news in February of 2012 that the West West Civic Association would not oppose the application for takeout in the space. But by the time that summer rolled around, Garces sold the building and the Wursthaus was dead. Since then, we've occasionally heard rumors about someone taking over the space, but they've all fizzled out.

Looking down 13th St., there's the Letto building

The latest rumor to come down the pike comes from Michael Klein, who says that Sylva Senat, Tashan's opening chef, has signed a lease for the space. Guess a signed lease qualifies as a little more than a rumor, eh? What we find most interesting about this story is that the new restaurant won't apparently be opening in the space we see today.

At long last

It was almost three years ago that we first brought the blighted Lincoln Apartments at 1222 Locust St. to your attention. Remember, we told you about its sad recent history, having suffered a fire in 2006 and sat vacant ever since. Back then, we were stoked to share the good news that progress was finally imminent here, with support from the Washington Square West Civic Association Zoning Committee for the building's renovation. 

View of the building through the trees

The supported plans included forty-four units, with six studios, thirty-two one bedroom apartments, and six two bedrooms. The plan for the building from Cecil Baker + Partners was slated to begin in the spring of 2012. As you can see from the current photos, the building still looks like dreck.

We don't know what it is now

In the latter part of the 19th century, Philadelphia was well known for its preponderance of groundbreaking and important banks.  The Franklin Savings Fund was not one of these.  To the contrary, the building at 917 Walnut St. would earn notoriety as an early example of greed and malfeasance at an American bank.  The image here below, taken from G.W. Bromley’s 1875 Philadelphia Atlas, shows 917 Walnut St. during the Franklin Saving Fund’s occupancy.   Its neighbor at 915 Walnut is identified in the same image as Cyrus Cadwallader, Treasurer for the Fund.

The 1100 block of Locust St. offers a mix of modern construction, neoclassical architecture and standard Philly rowhomes.  The north side of the street, 1111 Locust St., is dominated by a large structure.  According to Hexamer & Locher’s Philadelphia Atlas, this was the site of a school in 1858.

The 1100 block of Locust St, a school in 1858

As the surrounding neighborhood grew, so too did its industry.   The north side of the block in question became home to  “the old established and reliable firm of Messrs. R. F. Bancroft & Son, whose iron works are located at Nos. 1109 and 1111 Locust Street.”  This according to Illustrated Philadelphia: Its Wealth and Industries, 1889, which also credits Bancroft & Sons with contributing iron to such city landmarks as The Philadelphia Library and the Bank of the Republic.   It would appear, however, that Bancroft did not survive long at this location after the turn of the century.  The Department of Records shows Locust Street looking west from 11th in 1917, with the stretch in question occupied by a handful of unidentifiable businesses.