Historic Buildings

It's been a long time coming

We first visted the 1500 block of Parrish Street over five years ago, when we shared the news that the Philadelphia Boys Choir and Chorale planned to buy a warehouse at 1521 Parrish St. and make their home there, moving from a space near Drexel's campus. Part of that plan also included the purchase of what we believe was once a stable at 1533 Parrish St., the demolition of said building, and the creation of a surface parking lot. But alas, that plan never came to fruition, the Boys Choir instead moved to a space near Broad & Spring Garden, 1521 Parrish St. got converted into apartments, and 1533 Parrish St. never got torn down. 

Gorgeous buildings on the block

We've directed your attention to the 1100 block of Chestnut Street in recent months, pointing to a major project from Brickstone that's bringing down some unattractive buildings and replacing them with a plethora of apartments and retail. Another notable aspect of this project is the rescuing and restoration of the old Oppenheim Collins building which is being returned to its former glory. When that project is finished, a combination of the old building and a new structure will bring much needed new life to the block.

Close by, the 700 block of Chestnut Street already has a collection of amazing buildings, and great retail options mixed in with some middling stores and vacancies. We've loved walking this block over the years, but the other day an under-construction storefront at 716 Chestnut St. caught our eye. It turns out this space has been empty for quite awhile, but soon a dentist will be moving in. It ain't a glamorous tenant but it's far better than a vacant space. As you can see, the building the dentist will occupy is wonderful, saying nothing of its neighbors.

New construction condos in Old City

Over the last several months, a new four-story building has appeared on the 100 block of Race Street. This quadplex, which has been dubbed Race Street Square, is replacing a surface parking lot at 138 Race St. that was previously associated with the building next door. Since cars had to go up on the sidewalk to access said parking lot, the new building certainly seems like a safer alternative.


The new building

It looks like three of the four condo units are still on the market, with prices ranging from $369K for a 1 bed/1.5 bath unit to $439K for a 2 bed/3 bath unit. And you can't argue with the location. Just down the street, past the Race Street Connector, is the wonderful Race Street Pier. And the surrounding blocks have all the Old City goodness with galleries, bars, restaurants, and so forth. And it's far enough away from the weekend rigamarole south of Market Street that the block is pretty quiet, outside of bridge and Patco traffic across the street. Our only regret on this project is that we wish they would have gone for something a little more creative architecturally, given then rich history of the area.

Back in June, we told you that a demolition permit had been issued for the Engine 46 firehouse. A month later, we learned that the property owners had agreed to meet with Councilman Mark Squilla, and Pennsport neighbors. Additionally, we recently learned that neighbors are organizing in another way to preserve the endangered Flemish-style firehouse.

The other day, a reader gave us the heads up about a couple of zoning notices they noticed at 1715 McKean St., but when we made our way over to check 'em out it was the building itself that really caught our attention. Have you ever seen this place in person?

Awesome building

According to the PHMC Cultural Resources Database, this building was constructed in 1921, and designed by W. Timm. And while it was a very impressive home for Abbott's Alderney Dairies, it apparently wasn't their only location in town. A City Paper story from last year (from our old friend GroJLart) tells the tale of another (and also very cool looking) Abbott's building at 30th & Chestnut. According to that story, Abbott's consolidated all their operations at 7th & Packer back in 1964, meaning this structure has stood for nearly fifty years after outliving its original use. And we must say, the outside of the building has held up remarkably well.

Another piece of Philadelphia history seems as though it will soon be demolished. A 25-story mixed-use high rise featuring apartments, retail and office space is planned for 38th & Chestnut next to the Philadelphia Episcopal Church in University City. Last summer, the Historical Commission granted the Church permission to demolish two historic brownstones located on Chestnut Street to make way for the new building. The Church has hired Radnor Property Group to construct the building, which could be completed by 2015, according to The Daily Pennsylvanian.

The aesthetically pleasing townhouse at the corner of Bainbridge and American Streets is a private residence today, listed as 221 Bainbridge Street.  However, in its earliest incarnation, as 625 Guilford St. (today American St.), this corner has seen a host of occupants, both in the commercial and public capacities.  Its history began as part of the industrial sector permeating the Queen Village neighborhood. According to Samuel L. Smedley’s 1862 Philadelphia Atlas, the building that occupies this corner was a sugar refinery in the mid-19th century.

Over the summer, we broke the news that the Church of the Assumption, the classic structure built over 150 years ago, was under contract with developer John Wei. The church is architect Patrick Charles Keely's oldest remaining building, and the subject of its demolition has tied up in the courts since it was approved for demolition by the Historical Commission a couple of years ago.

The church

Two months ago, Judge Idee Fox ruled against L&I for overturning the Historical Commission's permission to demolish the church, paving the way for the destruction of one of the oldest buildings on Spring Garden Street. At the time, the new owner of the property insisted to Plan Philly that he didn't know what he was going to do with the building, suggesting the possibility that the property could yet survive.

A couple of readers have checked in recently, noting that the historic but blighted Purvis House at 1601 Mount Vernon St. was experiencing some changes of late. We finally made it over to the area yesterday.

A year ago, we first told you about the likelihood that the Fortieth Street ME Church, located at 125 S. 40th St. would be demolished sometime soon. The church, which was built in 1872 and designed by Sloan & Hutton, housed three different congregations over 135 years. The currently empty building was purchased in 2007 by P&A Associates, the folks who built the Murano, the St. James, and have been doing other development in Philadelphia for many years.

The church

According to a story in today's Daily Pennsylvanian, it seems this beautiful church will, in fact, be torn down by the end of this year. Replacing it will be a one-story, ultra contemporary structure designed by CANNO Architecture + Design, a firm that designed the Artisan Townhouses on Bainbridge Street. We gave you this elevations drawing last time we checked in on this project, and today we have a rendering, thanks to the DP article.

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