Historic Home on Spruce Street Picks Up a Pergola?

We were making our way through town up 20th Street the other day, and some rooftop work at 20th & Spruce caught our eye. At first glance, we thought it might be an expansive pergola- but objectively, this didn’t make a lick of sense.

View of the building

This ain’t a pergola, folks- it’s a fourth floor addition. And it’s frankly this fourth floor addition has been a long time coming. The building was constructed as a single-family home back in 1860, and our first suspicion was that that family that commissioned the home was perhaps a little less wealthy than their neighbors and could only afford three stories. But that isn’t the case at all!

Closer look
View from the rear

We took a look back at historical records for the property and we discovered that it was once a four story building. It was converted into a 7-unit building back in 1942, and in doing so, the owners at the time also chopped off the 4th floor! As odd as this sounds, it’s at least better than plans from a few years before that to demolish the entire building and replace it with either two homes or a one-story commercial building. In light of the plans which never came to pass, the mere removal of the 4th floor can be considered a huge win.

View of the building back in 1906

The current owners bought the building back in 2014, paying $1.5M for a property that was in need of serious renovation. The next year, they got a variance to construct a 4th floor addition, also jumping through hoops required by the fact that the building is contributing to the Rittenhouse Fitler Historic District. As a result, the addition looks like it will hearken back to the original edifice, utilizing a mansard roof and recreating window locations and window shapes from the part of the building that was removed 80 years ago.

Elevations drawing from zoning application

Granted, we’re just comparing an elevation drawing with a grainy photo from 1906, but from what we can see, this will be a faithful recreation of something that any reasonable person would have expected to be lost forever. And aside from the addition, it will be great to see this awesome old building get renovated, and perhaps reclaim some of the shine that’s worn off over the last century and a half.

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