As recently as a couple of years ago, Old City was brimming with sushi options, but some recent closings have whittled down the options some. At the corner of 3rd and Chestnut Sts. sits a gorgeous, old, and empty building, most recently occupied by Haru. The sushi spot shut it doors in May of this year, leaving behind a gem of a building.

A nice lookin' building

It wasn’t a total shock that Haru closed. The sushi was of decent enough at the Benihana franchise, but we suspect that the setting was as much of a draw for tourists and regulars. The soaring ceilings in the main dining room reveal old architectural details, and the walls are lined with 8-foot paned-glass windows that only add to the room. Two-person booths were raised up to the sills of these windows, giving some diners a voyeuristic view of the Society Hill Hotel’s Bar across the street, and on the right night it was almost like watching a Hopper painting come to life. Haru had its bar in the center of this main room, and the bottles still line the shelves. Behind the bar is a modern staircase leading to a barely-used second level with an impressive overview of the first floor. The sushi bar is tucked into a portion of the building that seems to have been an afterthought- its low ceilings made for a traditional sushi bar ambiance, but the silver beaded curtains in the windows were something of a distraction.

Wonderful doorway

Historically, we’re pretty sure that the building served as an office of the architectural firm of Frank Furness & George W. Hewitt. Heard of ’em? At a later time it was The John E. Hand & Sons Nautical Instrument Company’s Philadelphia Office.

Image from around 1940. Courtesy of Independence Seaport Museum

So what’s next for this handsome building? The owners of the building, who purchased it in 2006 for $1.7M, were getting over $10K/mo from Haru for the 6,000+ sqft. space. We’re not sure that they’ll be able to get a tenant so quickly at that price, but we’d imagine that the attractiveness of the building will certainly spur some interest. It’s also possible that the action surrounding the building will cause a new tenant to sign on sooner rather than later. The former Paradigm at 239 Chestnut St. is moving toward a new life as a bistro-looking spot with a spiffy new striped awning, consistent construction and a liquor license in the window. Also, we’re hearing about possible movement at the former Dolce at 241 Chestnut St.

If we had access to unlimited amounts of cash, we’d probably buy the place and turn it into the most amazing condo ever. And we might even keep the sushi bar.

-Lauren Summers