Boasting 14,000 square feet plus a basement, the Salvation Army building near 3rd and Walnut has been available for years. Sitting on a 136’x102′ lot, it was most recently used as a daycare center with plenty of outdoor space and social services offices. It has been shuttered since about 2004.

It seems surprising that the location, attractiveness and possibilities of this building have not yet attracted an investor. The exterior details and brickwork are amazing and apparently still in great shape, the windows are all intact, and no trees are growing out of the building. Perhaps the $5M price tag is keeping the developers at bay. In their defense, the owners of the property, SLKRC, paid $4M for the building in 2005, so it doesn’t seem they’re being super-greedy or opportunistic here.

There are even detailed plans on the seller’s website for 8 townhomes with room for parking garages and a courtyard. The site claims it can fit eight humongous 5,000 square-foot homes, but we’re not sure their math is correct. The site also suggests (with, sadly, no visuals) an insane single family home with a pool and tennis courts.

The area is a prime location: A half a block down from the Merchant’s Exchange Building and the beautiful park surrounding Carpenter’s Hall, with the Ritz 5 just around the corner. It’s at the intersection of 3rd and Willings, which is a quiet enclave despite being near Walnut Street. The front of the building faces the picturesque (and philanthropic) Episcopal Community Services, with the lofty Society Hill Towers in the background and mature trees lining the Society Hill block.

We couldn’t find much about the history of the property. A dedication stone on the front is dated for the year 1977, but that probably just indicates the year the Salvation Army took residence. The address, 222 S. 3rd Street, is in public records for gas, coal and coke (a fuel) companies, and at other times railway machinery. It may have also served as a boarding house and the Spanish Consulate at separate times. Anyone out there have more specific information?

Willings Mansion from 1856. Image from

Willings Alley is a single-block between 3rd and 4th and Walnut and Spruce. It was formerly the site of Thomas Willing’s mansion, which stood across the street from this building on the southwest corner. The block is the site of the nation’s oldest Catholic Church, Old St. Joseph’s. Also nestled off of Willings Alley are the homes of Bingham Court designed by I.M. Pei.

The Willings compound stretched to 4th St. The still-standing Willings Building on 4th Street was the original Reading Railroad headquarters, and is now luxury condos.  Thomas Willing founded The Bank of Pennsylvania, the first private bank in the U.S., was a co-founder of the first stock exchange, and was the mayor of Philadelphia beginning in 1763.

We hope someone builds the mega-house the seller refers to on their site and then invites us over for a swim. Ooh, swimming sounds good. It’s too hot today.

– Lauren Summers