Thanks to a reader tip, we visited 52nd Street earlier this week to investigate a potential student housing project in a building with some wonderful bones. It turns out the renovation wasn't aimed at creating residential units, but will instead result in a very large clothing store in a greatly improved building when all is said and done. As we were discussing that property, we mentioned that the Lincoln Theatre once stood next door, probably the reason it's known as the Lincoln Building. The Lincoln Theatre was demolished in the 1980s but we happened to notice a different old theatre very close by which has miraculously survived the ravages of time.
View in 1926, from Cinema Treasures
The Locust Theatre, on the northwest corner of 52nd & Locust, opened in 1914, according to Cinema Treasures, and originally showed a mix of moving pictures and vaudeville shows. By the 1930s, they nixed the live entertainment, and moved to movies only. In the 1970s, when many cinemas were closing their doors, the building was purchased by the Bushfire Theatre Company. The mission of the theatre company is to offer "greater opportunities to African American professional and non-professional actors, playwrights, directors and other theatre personnel." As a fringe benefit, the company has maintained this amazing building for the last forty years.
On the northeast corner of Broad & Snyder stands a building that hearkens back to another age and stands in direct contrast to the surrounding architecture. This building was originally home to the Beneficial Saving Fund Society, a precursor to Beneficial Bank. A bank named Beneficial occupied this building for over 80 years, until developers bought the property a few years ago. Almost three years back, we brought the building to your attention and noted that the owners had signed a lease with a mystery tenant.
In the past
Passyunk Post discovered that Wendy's would be taking over this building, and seemed quite distraught about the prospect. Many commenters were similarly upset and it seemed like people were going to come out in force against the project at the South Broad Street Neighborhood Association community meeting and at the ZBA. Despite the alarm, the project was granted a variance a little over a year ago. And now it looks like the Wendy's is approaching its opening date.
If you're in the restaurant business in Philadelphia, it's likely you've spent some quality time on 2nd Street in Old City, buying supplies and/or equipment for your establishment. A decade ago, which is roughly as far back as we can remember, there were three restaurant supply companies on 2nd Street, all of which had been operating there for many years. Trenton China Pottery was located at the northeast corner of 2nd & Arch, Economy was at the southeast corner of 2nd & Arch, and Swift Food Equipment was a little to the north on 2nd Street, almost at Race.
As you might know, TCP closed several years ago, and their building was converted to residential use. Economy and Swift are still doing their thing, but the combination of internet competition and a ridiculous real estate market may be conspiring to end the the reigns of both businesses in Old City. By this we mean Economy and Swift have both listed their bricks on the market.
June is here and we have ice cream on the brain. Thankfully, Philadelphia is chock full of options, from old school Bassetts to new school Little Baby's and many others in between. Potts ice cream no longer exists as an independent company, having been absorbed by Bassetts, but its former factory at 2001 North St. remains as a tribute to sundaes gone by. Until this Art Moderne beauty was bought by MJL Properties a couple years ago, it had been sitting empty for quite some time.
Former factory at the corner
Back in the summer of 2015, we told the property would be redeveloped, and in reading the zoning application we indicated plans to renovate the corner building into four units and construct an additional four homes next door. If you visit the property today though, you'll see that's not exactly what happened.
Perry World House opened to the public in September, shortly after the fall semester got started at Penn, after about a year of construction. In finally getting around to covering this building, we admit we're a little late to the party. But better late than never, we'd say, and this especially applies when sharing images of a building this excellent.
The finished building
We first told you about this project in the fall of 2015, shortly after construction got underway. At the time, we shared some of the history of the 3800 and 3900 blocks of Locust Street, where most of the buildings were demolished when Penn built the superblock section of campus in the 1960s. Only a few structures remained, including 3803 Locust St., a building that was designed by Samuel Sloan and dated back to the 1850s. The building was used by a fraternity for many years, but had been sitting vacant in anticipation of this project.
A couple of readers have reached out in recent weeks, wondering about the ongoing construction at 1425 Federal St., a building that was most recently the home of Mel Davis Used Cars. Just a few years back, when Mr. Davis was still doing his thing, there were two other auto centric businesses on the 1400 block of Federal, with Model Auto Body Co. and Dong's Auto Repair. Now only Dong's remains, as the Model building was demolished as part of an upcoming apartment project which we covered last fall.
In the past
If you visit this property today, you'll notice that it's under heavy construction. What gives?
A reader tipped us off recently that work is getting started on a project that will breathe new life into a currently unappealing warehouse on the southeast corner of 28th & Cambridge. We actually told you about this project a little over a year ago, right before it came before the community. The project apparently found favor, as it got approved by the ZBA a few weeks later. Checking in on the building today, we see only small signs that construction has gotten underway, like the presence of a construction fence and a hole punched in a former window openening. But we do see they got their first building permit last month, so construction efforts should soon grow much more apparent.
You're not going to believe this, but we have a story about a property in the vicinty of Temple University that doesn't involve student housing. We were up in that neck of the woods earlier today, and as we were meandering about the neighborhood, an old building with a historic marker caught our attention. At 1901 W. Oxford St. stands a building that was originally built as a prison or perhaps a police station, but has been used by non-profits in recent decades. In 1961, according to Phillyhistory, the building was sitting empty.
View in 1961
Amazingly, the building was not demolished, but gifted by the City to the Opportunities Industrialization Center, a non-profit dedicated to fighting poverty, illiteracy, and unemployment. Somewhere along the line, OIC moved its offices to North Broad Street, and a sign appeared on the front of the building that it would soon be the home of another non-profit, the Sultan Jihad Ahmad Community Foundation. This organization is all about youth services and combatting youth violence, and we're pretty sure that the organization has moved into the building even though it's still undergoing some renovation.
Desiring a return visit to Pizza Dads, we trekked to Brewerytown with a purpose this past weekend. After destroying a slice, we figured it would be responsible to try to walk off some of the calories and decided to check in on some development projects in the neighborhood. We were impressed when we got to the 1200 block of N. 27th Street, noting the significant progress since our last visit in October. This block is anchored by North Abbey at the corner of 27th & Girard, an attractive former church that was converted into apartments a couple years ago. Soon after, the same developers built a duplex next door, which was a sign of things to come.