In a city full of architectural curiosities, the log cabin at 872 N. Lawrence St. is one of the more unusual and unexpected buildings you’ll see. We’ve wondered about it for many years, confused about how a home fit for Abraham Lincoln landed on this Northern Liberties corner. Now, thanks to a recent story from Philly.com, we finally have some answers.
You might think that this building was constructed back in the early 1800s, but you’d be off by nearly two centuries. It turns out, the log cabin only dates back to 1985. An artist named Jeff Thomas built the cabin in 1985 after having built a similar building in West Virginia during the prior decade. Thomas has lived in the home ever since, but now he’s ready to move on to the next adventure, so the home is listed for sale.
A good rule of thumb in the development business is that most buyers are attracted to homes that look like other homes that they’ve seen before. That’s why so much new construction looks the same. It goes without saying, a log cabin looks like no other home in Philadelphia, so the pool of potential buyers is somewhat limited from the start. The $639K asking price further limits the number of potential buyers, as the building only has a little over 1,000 sqft and we’re not sure that it will appraise for the asking price because it’s impossible to comp. So a person that wants to buy it and intends to live there would probably need some extra cash in order to close.
This is a long way of saying that we don’t believe that the person that buys this property will do so with the expectation of living in the log cabin. Instead, we think it’s much more likely that a developer will purchase the property with a plan to demolish the cabin and build some town homes that look like so many other town homes around town. The parcel covers almost 2,500 sqft, so it could comfortably accommodate 2 new homes, or it could probably squeeze in three new homes. We don’t see a world in which the community group would support that plan, so figure two homes would probably be the outcome. A developer will probably blanch at a cost basis of $320K per lot in Northern Liberties, so it’s possible that this property will sit on the market for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, even if you’re not looking for a new home, you might want to schedule a showing to see for yourself what it looks like on the inside. While you still can, that is.