Regent Terrace Apartments: Historic Senior Housing in the Middle of Southwest

It wasn’t even two weeks ago that we told you about a gorgeous but deteriorating church at the corner of 52nd & Chester, opining that the new owners of the property would likely tear it down. We visited this building thanks to a reader tip, so we zipped out to the property, took our photos, and made our way back toward the office. We neglected to look around too much, and that was a big mistake. Wouldn’t you know it, a couple days later, a different reader reached out to let us know about some possible construction activity at 1325-27 S. 52nd St., pretty much across the street. With that in mind, we went back out to Southwest Philly, to see what was going on.

Construction fence at 1325-27 S. 52nd St.

As we were making our way to this property, we were plotting out the beats of the story you’re reading right now. The general theme was going to be that student housing is continuing to push its way into Southwest Philadelphia, with this being perhaps the most far flung example to date. Sometimes when we plan a story before we visit a property though, things don’t pan out the way we expect, and that’s indeed the case with this one.

There is indeed a construction fence at the property, but as far as we can tell, there’s no active construction taking place. Instead, the owners of the property, who bought both sides of the twin last year, are working to correct violations on the property due to its structural issues. It’s quite possible that their eventual plan is renovation with an eye toward student housing, but that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening just yet. While we were over there, we did happen upon some rather interesting and unique architectural specimens, right across the street. Check out these buildings, will ya?

Lovely buildings across the street
Closer look at 1315 S. 52nd St.
Closer look at 1311 S. 52nd St.

It’s true, there are many awesome buildings in West Philadelphia and Southwest too, but these are pretty special. While the northern building has clearly gotten more work done than the southern building in recent years, the southern building looks like it’s held onto more of the original architectural details. As we were taking in these buildings though, something caught our eye around the corner, on Regent Street.

Looking down Regent Street
These buildings are crazy
Closer look

Yeah, we were not expecting to find buildings like these. In case you’re like us and had never known about these buildings, they’re collectively known as the Regent Terrace Apartments, a senior housing facility from Pennrose. But the buildings clearly weren’t constructed for this purpose. Doing a little digging, we were able to find out some more info.

It turns out, these buildings are all listed on the National Historic Register, and have been since 1985. They were originally constructed in 1910, developed by James Conner, designed by E. A. Wilson, and named Regent-Rennoc Court. By the mid-1980s, these buildings were in rough shape, but thanks to significant restoration efforts from Pennrose, we believe the buildings now look similar to how they were intended to look a century ago. If you look carefully at the buildings on Regent Street and look past the oversized porches on the upper levels, you’ll notice that the details on the buildings are very similar to those on the buildings on 52nd Street. That’s because the 52nd Street buildings were originally part of Regent-Rennoc Court, and are similarly listed on the National Register.

1325-27 S. 52nd St., the building that brought us here in the first place, was also originally included in Regent-Rennoc Court, but doesn’t look anything like its neighbors at this point. We suspect the three story building was altered beyond recognition somewhere along the line, losing its upper floor and almost all of its original details. Figure that if and when it gets renovated, the owner of the property isn’t too likely to restore any of those details. On the plus side, at least eight out of the original nine in Regent-Rennoc Court are still around and don’t seem like they’re going anywhere anytime soon.

  • Zoinkzz

    Love this row – i was so excited to see you had posted an update on the Church this week and now this. Part of my family is from 53rd and Whitby (not me) and i must admit I am in absolute shock that any development is happening (anywhere) on 52nd st! Especially this far south! So much potential in those huge buildings!

  • Timothy Reimer

    I am absolutely certain that you’re incorrect about 1325-27 S. 52nd St originally being a three story structure

    The row of five two story structures on the odd numbered side of 52nd street between Regent and Kingsessing were all constructed at the same time with the two corner buildings as multifamily dwellings and the remaining three as twins. 1325-27 S. 52nd st is/was the identical twin to 1341-43 S 52nds st. Look at the two buildings on google maps street view (or better yet in person) and it will be readily apparent. Unlike the other eight buildings discussed in the article 1325-27 does not have enclosed stairwell at the rear. Since we’re looking at the rear of this building it is important to note you can still clearly see the original intact chimney.

    There is no denying that the two 3 story building buildings at 1311 and 1315 S 52nd street are somehow related to the Regent Terrace Apartments. However the 52nd street building were constructed first at some point between 1895 and 1910 with the remaining six thereafter. Check out the 1895, 1910, 1916 and 1927 Bromley Philadelphia Atlases.

    While all eight of those buildings are very similar architecturally, there are differences both obvious and subtle. The 52nd st buildings have a small yard running between them while the Regent street buildings are connected at rear. The Regent street building have shallow bays on the sides while 52nd street buildings do not. The evolved design and increased architectural detail further point to the fact that the Regent street buildings were constructed later.

    The application to have the buildings listed in the nation register only discusses the buildings on Regent street in any detail. The only mentions of the buildings on 52nd street are to note their locations and ownership, leaving the rest up to the readers immigration. At the time of the application 5 out of the 6 buildings on Regent street we’re owned by the Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation. Out of the three buildings on 52nd street 1315 and 1325-27 (both of which abutt Regent) were owned by Justin Ragsdale, either directly or through a corporation. Perhaps this overlap in ownership or a desire to include as much of 5100 block of Regent St as possible was why a such a dissimilar building was included.