The SRC voted to close down about two dozen public schools back in 2013, and as the wheels of bureaucracy slowly turn, those school buildings are starting to come back to life. A couple weeks ago, at a community meeting in Brewerytown, neighbors learned about a plan to repurpose the shuttered John F. Reynolds School at 24th & Jefferson. This Art Deco building was constructed in the 1920s, designed by renowned Philadelphia school architect Irwin Catharine, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Indeed, it’s a handsome building, and the entrance on 24th Street is incredibly striking.

View at 24th & Jefferson
Looking east on Stewart Street
Entrance on 24th Street

As part of the massive redevelopment plan for Sharswood, the Philadelphia Housing Authority has purchased this building and will work with HELP USA to convert it into an affordable apartment building for seniors and veterans. Instagram pal @genbrewerytown advised us about this, noting that the building will have 63 units, and architecture work will be done by Kramer + Marks. We’re optimistic that this project will proceed as planned, as the same partnership has been working on a similar conversion of the former Spring Garden School in West Poplar. While the Spring Garden School conversion is in the thick of the Richard Allen homes, the Reynolds conversion has brand new affordable housing across the street.

New PHA construction across the street

But this isn’t the only school building coming back to life in this area! When the SRC closed the Reynolds School, they also closed Vaux High School, just a block to the south at 24th & Master. PHA also purchased this building, according to, and has retained Big Picture Learning to operate a reopened school here. Despite the fact that the school will have an operator, it will still be a district school, and the building will also contain various community services including counseling and a health clinic.

Former and future Vaux School, a block away

In a development environment where it seems that we’re hearing about another amazing old building getting demolished every week, it’s incredibly encouraging to learn that these two buildings will be sticking around for the long term. We have to think that the preservation of these buildings was greatly aided by the tax credits that come from the buildings being designated on the National Historic Register. And we wonder whether other buildings in town could be saved moving forward with a greater emphasis on getting more buildings designated nationally.