Though we never set foot inside, we were always transfixed by the rounded Formstone-clad building at the corner of Frankford Avenue and Jefferson Street. According to Inga Saffron, the building at 1444 Frankford Ave. possessed a rich history, having been constructed as a red brick home in the 1860s or the 1870s. After about a hundred years, the building was converted into a bar called Dyer’s, with a rooming house upstairs. It was around this time that the Formstone covered the brick facade, as well. As the neighborhood started gentrifying in last decade, we imagine business started drying up for Dyer’s, resulting in a sale of the building in 2012 and the opening of a Tiki-themed bar called the Yachtsman in 2014. The bar closed its doors in 2017, and the building sat empty for the last couple years.
You’ll notice in the image above from a few years ago that the building, which was clearly designed to be part of a row, was freestanding. From what we can tell, the building next door was torn down in 1989, which means that the building at 1444 Frankford Ave. had vacant land next door for about thirty years. We have to think that this wore on the structure of the building over time, as did eventual adjacent construction, and by 2018 it was facing L&I violations for being unsafe. We can’t say we’re surprised that the owners elected to demolish the building at the end of last year, even with no permitted plan for a replacement building.
The disappearance of the Yachtsman building after 150 plus years is especially stark in the context of the new construction in the immediate area. Most obvious is the mixed-use building next door, which contains 10 apartments and a Doggie Style on the first floor and dovetails into the enormous City Fitness conversion just to the south. But there are several other sizable projects mere steps away, including the 24-unit Frankford Flats on the other side of Jefferson, where units are offered by the night through Sonder. And don’t forget the former Penn Treaty Metals site across the street, where maybe a Starbucks might open someday, but probably not.
We should be clear- all of these projects are wonderful additions to Frankford Avenue and dramatic improvements over vacant lots or light industrial uses. Sure, there will always be people that grouse about this development, given our natural fear of change and our predisposition toward parking easily and quickly at the end of a workday, but we think it’s indisputable that Frankford Avenue is a more vibrant place than ever. We just wish that the Yachtsman building could have stuck around to provide its unique architectural presence on this changing commercial corridor. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be- maybe the replacement building will at least include a curve at the corner as a tribute. We won’t ask for Formstone cladding rehash, though.