Developer Discovers A Cistern at Bloc23 Site

This may set a record for quickest followup post ever on Naked Philly, but here goes anyway.

Yesterday, we shared the good news that construction was underway for Bloc23, a four-story condo building at 23rd & Bainbridge. We were excited because the project has been in the works for several years and also because it's one of the more thoughtful projects we've seen come down the pike, especially in a neighborhood not exactly known for its excellent new construction architecture. After seeing our post yesterday, the developer reached out with news of an unexpected discovery on the site.

Future Bloc23

A hole in the ground at the site

You may be wondering what you're looking at. Here's a peek down the hole:

Looking down the hole

According to the developer, this hole goes down about fifty feet. It's an old cistern, and apparently similar cisterns are scattered all over town. This thing was apparently dug to help with stormwater management, something we still contend with today. A hundred years ago, water flowed into cisterns and when it reached the bottom where the bricks are laid without mortar, it was absorbed into the ground at a depth that didn't threaten surrounding buildings. A pretty cool thing to find on a construction site, and we can only be thankful that nobody accidentally fell into the hole before it was discovered.

Now that they know about it, the developers will have to fill it in, no small thing considering its depth. Still, it's just a speedbump on the road to this:

Project rendering

Gotta admit though, it's a pretty cool speedbump, allowing us to peer into some otherwise hidden history of Philadelphia.