A couple months back, we drew your attention to the building at 752 S. 16th St., upon which a neighbor had discovered a demolition notice. At first we were rather upset, lamenting the imminent elimination of an interesting edifice which was originally built as a fire house but had been used for residential purposes for the last several decades. Upon closer examination of the permits, however, we realized that the developers were only planning a partial demolition and intended to preserve the building’s facade as part of a plan for an eleven-unit project. And so we breathed a sign of relief, recognizing that the facade was really the only interesting thing about the building, and appreciating that it would stick around as the property moved into its next phase of life.
If you visit this property now though, you’ll discover that things haven’t gone as we expected. We passed by yesterday and discovered nearly all of the building has been demolished, including the facade. Check it out:
We published our story about the partial demolition on August 3rd, and literally on the same day the developers revised their demolition application to reflect the full demolition. Lest you think that this was some kind of bait and switch, we should clarify a few things. First, the previous iteration of the project was by-right, as is the new version of the project, which calls for one more unit. The building, while possessing some history and perhaps deserving a place on the local Historic Register, was not designated as historic. So the developers were under no obligation to preserve the old facade.
We have to think that the developers had every intention of keeping the old firehouse facade, because they otherwise had no reason to pay their architects to flesh out a plan that included it. But something came up along the way that changed their plans. Maybe the old facade wasn’t as sound as they hoped. Perhaps they started getting quotes on what it would take to maintain the old facade and the numbers came in way higher than expected. Or it could be any number of other factors.
Whatever the reason, we’re sorry to see this old building go- it was one of our favorites in the neighborhood. And its loss once again points to our busted system of historic preservation in Philadelphia. Like we’ve said many times before, if the Historical Commission wasn’t so dramatically underfunded, we’d see much more preservation and adaptive reuse in this town… but if it hasn’t happened in the last few years, it’s safe to assume it ain’t happening now.