Another historic building in West Philadelphia has met its ruin. Demolition wrapped up recently the Levy-Leas House, an 1850s Italianate mansion at 40th & Pine, marking the end of a long fight between neighbors and Penn officials who over the years have proposed various projects there, at times prompting neighbors to call on the school to be more responsible. We first covered this property over four years ago.
Penn purchased the building in 2003 and in 2008 claimed financial hardship, attempting to justify demolition. For that to happen, the Planning Commission decided they had to obtain all the necessary permits for a proposed apartment building. Even before that, a proposal envisioned an 11-story hotel. The Woodland Terrace Homeowners Association fought back against proposed demolition. In 2012 WTHA filed a lawsuit over the plans. Developers Equinox Management & Construction, along with Penn officials, presented a compromise plan in November 2013 that agreed to include part of the historic mansion in a new five-story project, Azalea Gardens. The WTHA voted against that plan too. Last December the Historical Commission voted to remove the stipulation requiring developers get all the needed permits before demolishing the mid-19th-century mansion.
The Mansion was built in 1856, designed by architect Samuel Sloan. It served as a nursing home during the 1940s. Despite several unattractive concrete additions to the building’s exterior throughout the 1960s, the building received individual historic designation in 1973. It remained a nursing home until 2003, when it was closed by the state due to inhumane conditions.
Demolition signs went up on the property last month, and by the end of August the building was mostly gone. For some amazing mid-demolition photos, check out this story from Hidden City. Now, with the building gone, the stage is set for more Penn student housing. Sadly, there's no chance that the new building will approach the character of the building that we've lost.