architecture

Would fill in another vacant lot

It was just a couple of months ago that we last visited the 1900 block of Cecil B. Moore Ave., telling you about plans for 24 units on a large vacant lot. That project, at 1913-1919 Cecil B. Moore Ave., got approval from the ZBA shortly after and construction should be getting started sometime soon. We're generally fine with this, as it's almost always good when a vacant lot bites the dust.


Back in January

Our concern at the time, which remains with us still, was that the design of the new student housing project would be, uh, utilitarian, like so much of the other new construction we've seen around this area over the last number of years. And that (valid) concern remains. The situation is exacerbated on this block by a number of really attractive old buildings, including the cinema turned church in the image above. Unfortunately, as we've covered before, developers built some regrettable stucco boxes next door to that building a few years back which stand among our least favorite buildings in town.

Let us pray to the architecture gods

We were scanning the zoning calendar the other day, and discovered some upcoming development planned for the 1900 block of Cecil B. Moore Avenue. Currently, 1913-1919 Cecil B. Moore Ave. is a vacant lot that's about 6,000 sqft in size with mixed-use zoning. Developers purchased the property a few years back and are now looking to build a purely residential building with 24 apartments which will ostensibly target Temple students.


Large and snow covered

We haven't seen much student housing development this far west on this Cecil B., though there's one prominent example in a stucco-clad development that went up at the northwest corner of 19th & Cecil B back in 2012. This building is especially depressing because it sits immediately next door to the Temple of Praise Baptist Church, a handsome building that was originally built over a hundred years ago as the Vogue Theater. Let us hope that the planned project on the western side of the church doesn't take any architectural cues from the buildings to the east of the church.

Even stronger ties to Back to the Future than you'd expect

We've always kinda had a thing for 514 Fitzwater St., one of the more unique structures in Queen Village. Perhaps you've noticed it in your travels around town, it's really pretty striking with its painted bricks, colorful cornice, and use of tile and ice cube windows on the first floor. Oh yeah, and it also has a clock tower, just in case your Delorean happens to need a charge.


Check it out

Lower floors

Clock tower

View from the west

We don't have a ton to share about the property, but did find some interesting tidbits by combing through the Zoning Archive. First of all, believe it or not, this place is actually a duplex. At some point in its history, a former owner chopped out a section of the building on Randolph Street and created a one bedroom/one bathroom unit. So there's that.

Would make for an amazing rehab

Student housing has boomed across many sections of West Philadelphia, with tons of new buildings rising in Mantua in recent years. The construction has slowly crept northward, but it hasn't yet made its way to Ogden Street, where we will draw your gaze on this rainy afternoon. This part of Mantua is a bit of a mixed bag, with tons of vacant land and a number of blighted vacant buildings, but a decent number of intact blocks mixed in there too. There's some impressive architecture to be found in the area, but there aren't too many buildings that compare with what looks like a former mansion on the northwest corner of 41st & Ogden.

A couple years after its demolition by neglect

We featured the building at 1516 Green St. as our blight of the week in March of 2013, wondering how this wonderful building had fallen on such hard times. Doing some research, we quickly realized that it was under the careful watch of the Philadelphia Housing Authority that the building was allowed to fall into such horrendous disrepair.


In the past

Fortunately, PHA auctioned off hundreds of vacant properties a few years back, including 1516 Green St., and by 2013 it was in the hands of private developers looking to redevelop. They presented a plan to convert the building into six apartments, a project that would have entailed demolishing and rebuilding the rear of the building but maintaining its facade. Since the property sits in the Spring Garden Historic District, this plan had to go before the Historical Commission which unfortunately did not give its blessing. Within a year of our first story, the building was declared imminently dangerous and demolished. As you might expect, the property has been sitting vacant for the last couple of years. But hark, a reader told us the other day that construction has started here!

Amazing intersection continues epic run

We've visited the blocks around the 40th & Baring intersection perhaps a dozen times over the years, regularly providing updates on this booming part of Mantua. Way back in 2011, some new apartment buildings had recently finished in the north side of the 4000 block of Baring Street, with a large building under construction on the northwest corner. The surrounding blocks have filled in considerably over time, with new buildings regularly replacing vacant lots and outdated warehouses like the Blockley Apartment buildings on 40th Street. Less often, developers have fixed up existing buildings that had been poorly maintained, like the triplex turned duplex on the southwest corner.

Will be nicer looking than previous construction on the block

A reader tipped us off the other day about some impending construction on the 1200 block of N. 25th St. and we couldn't shake the feeling we'd visited the block before. But we couldn't quite figure out when or why. Looking at the Google Street View of the block from a couple years ago, we saw an image of the building that once stood at 1230-32 N. 25th St., and then the lightbulb went on.


In the past

We wrote about this building almost four years ago, shortly before its demolition. We were sorry to see the building come down as it had several unique architectural characteristics, most notable that it was too skinny to have a proper front door. As we said previously, we have to imagine that the entrance was at one point more attractive and elaborate than the shed pictured above, but it's now lost to history along with the rest of the building. The ten unit building that was constructed in its place doesn't exactly possess the same character as the old building, as you might expect. 

Point Breeze continues to hum

We promise, we'll eventually stop being surprised about the continual southern shifting of the development border in Point Breeze. But that day is not today, folks. Last spring, we visited the 1900 block of Fernon Street and noted that this street, formerly overrun by vacancy, had six homes under construction. Over the summer, we visited the 2000 block of Fernon, and discussed a batch of new homes under construction and a few rehabs to boot. We should not be shocked that similar things are happening on the 1800 block, and yet...

Home replaces a long vacant lot

We're not usually in the business of bringing a one-off project to your attention, but for the new home at 2251 Catharine St., we decided to make an exception. And it's not because this new home was constructed on a lot that was sitting vacant for decades.


In the past

In fact, we're bringing it to your attention because it's a remarkably handsome new home that's been built in a neighborhood famous for awful residential architecture. Even if you've never heard the term "Graduate Hospital Special," you're surely familiar with the homes that were commonly built in the neighborhood over the last decade or so, with stucco-bay windows as their most prominent feature. It's clear that the developers were looking to take this particular project in a very different direction. Perhaps a good moniker for this new home is a "Graduate Hospital Exception."


The home

Look at this place. You've gotta love the stone base, the brick work, the mansard, the lintels, the cornice, the little bay window, and the mansard. We especially appreciate that the developers bothered to continue the brick all the way to the rear of the property, given the prominence of the back yard to people coming down 23rd Street. Nice touch.

They don't build 'em like this anymore

The 1800 block of W. Thompson St. is a mixed bag of long-time residents, newer residents, affordable housing units, and a smattering of Temple students and young professionals. This makes a whole lot of sense, as it sits about a block north of Francisville and somewhat close to Temple's campus. But it's far enough away from both that it hasn't really seen the gentrification and redevelopment that have been so prominent in both areas. What it does have, though, is a row of eight homes that are quite unique, architecturally.


Awesome homes

Closer look

You can see, at least one of the homes in this row, 1835 W. Thompson St., has been lost to history. But the other homes have retained a number of architectural details, the likes of which you don't often see around town. On each home, underneath each window on the second and third floor, there's a 3x4 checkerboard pattern which is echoed on the gabled section up above. The homes also have strips of black bricks interrupting the mostly red brick facades, creating a racing stripe effect. Interestingly, the homes don't include any cornices to speak of, which is something you wouldn't expect for such impressive homes.

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