Delicious Donuts Plus Some History at 39th & Chestnut

If you want to be a hero at work, one of the best ways is to show up with a dozen donuts from Beiler’s. They’re delicious, they’re relatively inexpensive (11 bucks for a dozen!), and for some added comedy, the Fruity Pebbles donut has been known to provoke the occasional office brawl. But alas, if you don’t live or work near Reading Terminal Market, Beiler’s has represented a neigh impossible dream.

But no longer. About a month ago, Beiler’s opened up a new location at 3900 Chestnut St., on the first floor of the¬†Chestnut Hall¬†apartment building. Now, Penn students, Drexel students, and the tens of thousands that work on this side of the river have easy access to Beiler’s and new office heroes are emerging every day. The donuts are just that powerful. We didn’t even dare walk in the door, for fear we’d be unable to resist the urge.

Beiler's Donuts

But enough about donuts. Let’s shift gears and talk about history. Specifically, we’d like to consider the history of Chestnut Hall. Did you know that this building is designated on the National Register of Historic Places? Well now you know. The building was constructed in 1922, and designed by Clarence E. Wunder, per Wikipedia. The Renaissance Revival building was a hotel for many years, first known as Hotel Pennsylvania (such a lovely place), then the Hotel Philadelphia, and finally the Penn Sherwood Hotel. At some point the hotel was converted into apartments and now the building is almost entirely student housing, as you might expect.

View of Chestnut Hall from the south
Looking up
View from the north

Years ago, this building was on the northern edge of where students were looking to live. Today, there are student housing projects under construction half a dozen blocks to the north and this location feels much more central than it once did. Considering the growth plan for the University City Science Center in the near future, it’s possible that this building will start to transition away from students and might draw more young professionals. Then again, as long as Cavanaugh’s continues to operate across the street, the students will probably stick around.