We commonly hear the refrain that “they don’t build ’em like they used to,” and the people saying this certainly are not wrong. A few hundred years ago, they built ’em all out of wood and cities kept burning to the ground. A hundred years ago, they built ’em out of bricks and that has proven to be a successful construction method, resulting in homes that are able to survive for a very long time, even when not very well maintained. Today, they generally build ’em out of wood again, since brick is expensive and fireproofing methods have improved dramatically in the 21st century. Even though the homes are framed in wood, most new construction in Philadelphia still utilizes a brick facade, perhaps to maintain aesthetic continuity with the majority of the existing housing stock in the city.
Like we said though, brick ain’t cheap. This being the case, more and more developers are shifting away from brick facades, using a variety of materials for the fronts and sides of their buildings. We were on 6th Street just above Snyder Ave. the other day, and spotted a few new homes that use brick alternatives, along with a smattering of new homes that went with a more traditional look.
Both 1923 and 1925 S. 6th St. were sitting vacant for a number of years, but no longer. Last year, a developer built a new home at 1923, using some pink-beige bricks for the facade. The front of the home was to the liking of at least one person, as it sold earlier this year. Next door, another developer is hard at work on a triplex and the front facade will be mostly brick with some metal panel accents. As for the much larger side facade, we don’t know what material will be used but we’d expect that it won’t be a wall of bricks.
Just a few doors down is another new home at 1939 S. 6th St., also replacing a vacant lot. We aren’t quite sure what material is being used here, but it looks like a corrugated metal, or perhaps something else that imitates that look. We think it looks a little like a chicken coop, but the owners are hoping that will strike a chord with a buyer to the tune of $440K.
Less than a block away, we might see more of the same sometime soon. 2027 S. 6th St. is being built by the same developer that went with the corrugated metal look nearby. We see that the base of the building will have brick, but we imagine the rest of the facade will have a different material- perhaps a more “traditional” metal panel? Or maybe another trip down the corrugated metal path? Next door, the builders at 2029 S. 6th St. went with what looks like a cement board facade, selling the home earlier this year for $410K.
Finally, let’s look at 601 Mercy St., a corner property that offers two different colors of siding. This home looks like it would fit in better down the shore than on a South Philly corner, and we’re just grateful that the developers opted for hardie siding rather than vinyl. The home sold at the end of last year for $400K, by the way.
What do you think of these homes? Do you prefer any of the newfangled facades to traditional brick? Or do you prefer the old fashioned approach?