A few readers have reached out to us over the years, wondering about the history of the large building at 508 Moore St., which is presently home to a retirement home called Our Mother of Good Counsel. It's a unique building for any neighborhood in Philadelphia, but it especially sticks out in this part of South Philly which is dominated by generic row homes.
At first glance, you might guess that this building was originally constructed as a school, and you'd actually be onto something. According to an article from the Jewish Daily Bulletin, this building was constructed in 1928 and opened as Jewish Educational Center #1. The more famous Jewish Education Center #2, also known as the Stiffel Center on Porter Street, was designated historic in 2012 and opened at the same time. JEC #1 wasn't as conveniently located as JEC #2 and as a result it changed into the Downtown Jewish Home for the Aged in 1941, according to the book 'The Jewish Community of South Philadelphia.' Somewhere along the line, the building transitioned from one faith to another, but it has seemingly maintained its function as senior housing since the 1940s.
We're sorry to say we couldn't find any historic images of the building. But we'd have to guess that over time, the exterior of the building has undergone major changes. We'd have to guess that the stone details on the upper floors once had some Hebrew details that were filled in at some point, similar to what happened to the former synagogue at 6th & Kater. The top story doesn't look original to the building, as the bricks seem to have a different hue than those on the lower floors. Also, at some point someone thought it would be a great idea to build an addition on the first floor which is now clad in vinyl and stucco. Ew.
Despite the changes to the building over the years, you can still see much of what made this structure great. It definitely adds to the architectural diversity of the neighborhood and at the same time it provides an important service and a link to the history of South Philadelphia. Check it out the next time you're in the neighborhood.