Last year, news broke that Post Brothers, the well-known and sometimes controversial development firm which owns various apartment buildings throughout the city, was heavily investing in the neighborhoods surrounding University City. They bought seven properties in the area and planned on substantial renovations for all of them, with Hamilton Court at 39th & Chestnut as one of the more significant acquisitions. This property was built in 1901, in the heyday of aristocratic West Philadelphia, as a luxurious apartment building amongst mostly older single family houses and mansions. The building is U-shaped and was set up to emphasize the inner courtyard which contained gardens and a fountain.
As a result of a growing student population and physical campus of University of Pennsylvania, this property eventually turned into an building that almost exclusively houses Penn undergrads. Prior to the Post Brothers acquisition, the building was under the ownership of a company that only invested enough in the building to keep it habitable. We're using the term habitable pretty liberally, by the way. Thankfully, we've been told that interior renovations are currently underway. Here's what the building looks like now:
From an architectural perspective, it's almost always a shame to see a church get demolished. Since many churches in Philadelphia date back over a century, there are a number that provide a direct connection to a community's history. Additionally, these grand buildings add to the architectural diversity in different neighborhoods, especially those dominated by row homes. On the other side of the spectrum, there are churches that have taken over buildings that were originally built for some other purpose, and don't really create the same dynamic. The former Revelation Baptist Church at 3937 Haverford Ave. fits into that latter category.
View in the past
According to some historic maps, this building was a club in the middle of the 20th century, and all we know for sure is that it became home to a church at some point more than ten years ago. We can also tell you that its days as a house of God are at an end, as it's now in the process of getting demolished.
Around the corner from a possible new student housing development, we noticed a chain link fence at the corner of 37th & Mount Vernon. Our first instinct was that this was yet another construction site springing up in Mantua, likely some additional student housing development. Upon closer examination though, we quickly realized this wasn't the case at all.
View of construction from the south
This corner has been home to a small park and playground for many years, notably featuring an oddly elevated basketball court and a worn out playground. The website Map of Play, which describes many of the playgrounds around town, offered this summary: "This playground is extremely run down. It's now used more by druggies than children. The paint is chipped throughout the park and dangerous for kids. The mural is chipped and falling apart. The floor paint is chipped and broken throughout the park. The benches are rotting. The basketball court paint is there but fading. Kids still play basketball there." Uh, yeah, not what you'd call a ringing endorsement of this public green space.
The last decade or so has been a bit of an uneven ride for the commercial stretch of 40th Street between Ludlow and Chestnut. Most prominent here is the Hub, a ten-story funky-looking building constructed in 2006 that's home to Distrito and the Jean Madeline/Aveda Institute. Across the street, at the southwest corner of 40th & Ludlow, Lovers and Madmen Cafe turned into a Green Line Cafe location a couple years ago, and a little to the south, Locust Moon Comics went under at the end of last year. That space is available for rent from MSC Retail.
Corner of 40th & Ludlow
Former Locust Moon, available for rent
But all of this is just an effort to establish context, as we're really here today to share some information about the newest addition to the block, in between the coffee shop and former comic store.
The 3600 block of Haverford Avenue has been in the news over the last few years, as the City attempted to condemn all the properties on the block in an effort to combine four city blocks and construct a supermarket in Mantua. Artist James Dupree owns a studio on this block and wasn't so keen on losing his property, he fought the condemnation and ultimately succeeded in his efforts. If you pass by this block today, you won't need more than one guess as to which building is an artist's studio.
James Dupree's studio
Across the street, at 3612 Haverford Ave., we recently spied a zoning notice. This building was an auto repair shop at one point in its history, but it appears that it's been vacant and blighted for at least a decade. The zoning notice indicates that developers are looking to demolish the building and replace it with a five-story building with ground-floor commercial and 21 apartments. The property is zoned for industrial use, so they're not getting a refusal for the height, but they are surely getting refusals for the residential use. A project like this certainly seems like it'll be student housing, though we can't confirm this as public record doesn't reflect any recent sales for the property.