Hale Building is on the Comeback Trail

By the time architect Willis G. Hale shuffled off this mortal coil in 1907, he had designed 115 buildings in Philadelphia. As much as it feels like we’re bad at preservation today, things were so much worse before. And as a result, only a handful of Hale’s buildings have survived through the years. A few famous examples of Hale buildings we have left include the Divine Lorraine (maybe you’ve heard of it), the town homes on the 1500 block of N. 17th St., and the Keystone National Bank at the corner of Juniper & Chestnut, more commonly known as the Hale Building.

Historic views of the building, from History's Aesthetic

This building was originally constructed in 1887, for use a bank, as the name suggests. Through the lens of 2018, you’d think the building must have been hailed as a masterpiece upon its completion. That wasn’t the case though, as Hidden City shares. One critic described the building as “higgledy-piggledy” at the time, and we’re pretty sure that was a major insult before the turn of the 20th century. The bank didn’t last very long at all, and the building went through a number of different tenants over the years who unfortunately mangled its facade beyond recognition. As recently as a few years ago, a Valu-Plus store occupied a portion of the 1st floor, while the rest of the building sat vacant and blighted.

The view on Chestnut in 2014
View on Sansom in 2014

In 2012, a developer was working on a plan to renovate the building and convert it to a hotel, getting far enough down the road that they presented to the Historical Commission. Those plans eventually petered out, and Brickstone Realty bought the property in 2014. This was a fortunate marriage, as Brickstone has considerable experience renovating historic buildings, having done the Lit Brothers Building awhile back. They’ve been working on the Hale building for a couple of years now, and it’s finally looking like it’s coming close to the finish line, at least from the outside. Check out the architectural details they’ve preserved and/or recreated in their effort:

Current view on Chestnut
Walking down Juniper
View on Sansom

The upper floors of the building will be occupied by office space, managed by a co-working company called Spaces. The ground floor will feature a pair of restaurants, according to Michael Klein, with a sports bar called Warehouse Bar & Kitchen on Chestnut Street and The Hale, an all-day cafe, on Sansom Street. Both restaurants will be managed by McGettigan Hospitality Group, which is based out of Dubai.

At this time, it’s still tbd whether a non-local company will be able to wrap its head around the wants, needs, and desires of Philly sports fans. Sounds like a fun social experiment to us, and we’ll be thrilled to observe from within the confines of this newly restored architectural gem. Please, just don’t call it higgledy-piggledy, polite people just don’t talk like that anymore.

  • Aidan

    If we are being picky, they could have done a better job with the entry way. Should have recreated the arch seen in those historical photos.

  • Karig2

    It’s not…take a closer look. Yes, huge improvement over what it was, but it’s not a true, historic restoration. Not bad, but could be better. That aside, I’ll take it at this point.

  • bem

    I have longed for the restoration of this gem for 25 years….Bravo.
    Shame it needs to be propped up with foreign money though.