We were driving around North Philly the other day, hot on the trail of a reader tip regarding some new construction on Tioga Street, near Temple Hospital. While we didn’t find the construction we were looking for, we did stumble upon a rather unique building on 17th Street, just south of Venango. The building is sitting vacant and has clearly been slowly decomposing for a number of years. It was only after getting in front of a computer that we realized that this was the facade of the long shuttered Tioga Theater.
The theater, located at 3540 N. 17th St., was designed by Sauer & Hahn and opened its doors in 1915, according to Cinema Treasures. Five years back, Hidden City covered the building and described its run as a jazz club in the 1950s, with a church eventually taking over the building. Amazingly, the space has been vacant since the early 1970s and the building hasn’t fallen down. Based on the look of the exterior though, we’d think that some TLC couldn’t come soon enough.
The aforementioned Hidden City story noted that Connection Training Services purchased the building in 2011, with a plan to renovate it into an event and community space. The budget for this kind of project is astronomical, especially if the non-profit hopes to restore any of the severely worn interior details. This might explain why little to no work has seemingly occurred in the last several years. While we would like nothing more than to see CTS bring this building back to life, we don’t know whether it’s a realistic possibility. We’d love to be proven wrong, perhaps someone has heard about plans for this property more recently? We’re not structural engineers, but we’re legitimately concerned that this building won’t stick around much longer without getting some attention posthaste. After all, fifty years of vacancy is a really long time.