Art Deco Corner To Be Revived in Germantown

5700-04 Germantown Ave. has had a long and interesting life at a major crossroads within Germantown’s main commercial strip. With a few recent L&I violations to pair with the graffiti and broken gates, this building that was most recently a Villa Shoe Store has certainly seen better days. But we are very pleased to report that based on a recent zoning permit, it looks like this building that has anchored the intersection for ages will be getting a facelift and a new use soon enough.

Current view 5700-04 Germantown Ave.
Looking up at the chamfered corner

Constructed in 1859, the building was originally known as Langstroth Hall, a general store that served the growing population of the area along this key corridor. Thanks to a 2017 historical nomination, we also know that this building was altered in 1899 and 1925, later becoming an office, an opera hall, a branch of the Philadelphia Free Library, more commercial spaces, and a host of other uses. Given this building is well past its 160th birthday, these varied functions are rather typical of the life of a historic building in Philly. Less typical, the building was originally built in the Italian Renaissance style, and was then updated to its current Art Deco facade in 1925 by Philadelphia architect Frank E. Hahn, who also designed the recently redeveloped Royal Theater. Fun fact: Hahn was once shot in his office by a client over a debt dispute, though his injuries were minor. Let’s hope the redevelopment here goes more smoothly.

At the turn of the century, prior to the facade update (courtesy of Germantown Historical Society)
1871 map showing the intersection (courtesy of Greater Philadelphia GeoHistory Network)

Coscia Moos is handling the architecture and we are excited to see what they have in store. Expect to see 16 units on the second and third levels, with 5,800 sqft of commercial on the first floor and basement. Based on the permit, we should see a grocery store of some type – never a bad thing for the immediate neighborhood. Given that the property is on the historic register, the designs will need the blessing of the Historical Commission, so figure we’ll be able to share more specifics at some point before construction begins.

Vernon Park next door to site
Gorgeous church next door on Chelten
A mix of architectural styles across the street
Another Art Deco building catty-corner to the site

Sitting between the Chestnut Hill East and West lines along a bustling stretch with cobblestones and wonderful historic architecture makes this a rather appealing location with major upside. This project is directly next to Vernon Park and just a few blocks from Germantown Friends School, so there is already plenty going on in the area. With all of the development along this busy corridor lately, we are excited to see this building make a comeback as the surrounding corridor works to recapture some of its old glory.