THE PHILADELPHIA CHAPTER OF THE
AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF ARCHITECTS
A LIST OF ENDANGERED HISTORIC STRUCTURES IN THE GREATER PHILADELPHIA
As a way to mark Preservation Week, the Historic Resources Committee has
produced a list of endangered and threatened historic structures in the
Philadelphia area that are worthy of concern by the architectural community.
The impetus for this list is a desire to be able to track the status of
endangered historic structures before they are subject to an imminent threat
of demolition or disfigurement. This is a lesson learned by the loss in
the recent past of several historic structures.
Compiled by Charles A. Evers and initially published in May 1997 inThe
[LOSSES] [RECENT SUCCESSES]
The destruction of some of the following buildings could possibly have been
forestalled or prevented if the preservation community was able to foresee
the threats facing these buildings and assisted or encouraged their reuse
or appropriate adaptation into larger developments before the threats became
realized. The diversity of the structures and the reasons for their destruction
are emblematic of the problems facing Philadelphia's historic structures.
Ridge Avenue Farmers Market, 1875, Davis Supplee, architect. Empty
for years, this unique market structure partially collapsed in a wind storm
and was demolished this past winter.
Cannon Ball House, c. 1668 to 1715, Fort Mifflin Road. One of the
city's oldest dwellings, a survivor of the battle of Fort Mifflin, the building
was demolished last fall after it had been left to decay for over 20 years
on moving blocks the result of uncompleted move started in an attempt to
Loft Buildings, North side of 100 block of Walnut Street, demolished
one-by-one by real estate investors who declared they were unfit for adaptation
for new commercial and residential uses.
Laning Hall at the Philadelphia Naval Home, 1868, John MacArthur,
architect. This wing of the former Navy facility was demolished after becoming
too dilapidated to be suitable for rehabilitation.
Smith Hall , 1891, South 34th Street, Collins and Autenrieth, architects.
This historic laboratory building at the University of Pennsylvania was
presumably protected by its inclusion in a historic district.
Quaker Lace Factory, c. 1880, 4th Street and Lehigh Avenue. A magnificent
19th Century mill complex at that was among a series of Philadelphia's historic
industrial buildings demolished as a result of arson.
In spite of the losses, there are many preservation success stories in the
city. Some of the recent ones follow:
Ridgeway Library, 1871-77, Catherine and South Broad Streets, Addison
Hutton, architect. Currently undergoing restoration as part of the new High
School for Creative and Performing Arts.
Knowlton, 1880, Verree Road and Rhawn Street, Frank Furness, architect.
The county home of William Rhawn, one of the most intact examples of Furness's
country houses, is under negotiation to be adapted as catering hall.
Philadelphia City Hall, 1871-1901, John MacArthur, architect. Major
restoration work on the east central pavilion has been completed as part
of the master plan.
Reading Terminal Head House, 1891-93, 12th and Market Streets, the
Wilson Brothers, architects. Work has resumed on the repair and reuse of
this building, as work progresses on the construction of a restaurant on
the ground floor level and discussions are underway for reuse of the building
as hotel rooms.
Calvary United Methodist Church, 48th Street and Baltimore Avenue.
After the controversial sale of a set of Tiffany windows to fund maintenance
of the structure, the windows were donated back to the church by the purchaser.
College and Logan Halls, 1871-72, 36th and Spruce Streets, Thomas
W. Richards, architect. These Collegiate Gothic buildings at the University
of Pennsylvania are under going a lengthy and major restoration.
ENDANGERED: at risk
There are many buildings in the city that are vacant and suffering from
demolition by neglect including important and historic structures. A primary
factor in many of the cases listed below is the lack of demand in the commercial
real estate market. With no existing or foreseeable tenants, the owners
cease making repairs to the buildings. The list below is of historic structures
that are "endangered" by their poor condition and are at risk
of loss if not stabilized or restored soon.
United States Naval Asylum (Naval Home): 1827-33, Greys Ferry Avenue,
William Strickland, architect. Amasterpiece of the Greek revival style,
the Preservation Alliance is assisting the owners in preparing a feasible
plan for its redevelopment and adaptation to new uses.
The Victory Building, 1873-1901, 1001 Chestnut Street, Henry Fernbach,
architect. Built as a branch office of the New York Life Insurance Company,
this was the first building in the city designed in the Second Empire style.
Widener/Elkins Development Houses, 1500-1524 North 17th Street, 1886,
Willis Hale, architect. Part of a development of 29 twin dwellings built
speculatively by the industrialists P. A. B. Widener and William Elkins,
they were designed by the imaginative and neglected Philadelphia architect,
University Avenue Bridge, 1925, University Avenue crossing of the
Schuylkill River, Paul Cret, architect. An important commission of the architect
Paul Cret, this handsome bridge is neglected and graffiti scarred.
Royal Theater, 1524 South Street, Frank E. Hahn, architect, 1919
A landmark of the Jazz age, the redevelopment of this theater is hoped to
act as a stimulus for the economic improvement of the street west of Broad.
Mercantile Library, 1964, 1021 Chestnut Street, Sidney Martin, architect.
Owned by the Free Library of Philadelphia, this home-grown version of International
Style architecture was awarded a Gold Metal by the Philadelphia Chapter
of the AIA in 1954.
Baptist Temple, 1889-91, Broad and Berks Streets, Thomas Lonsdale,
architect. A sort of "Old Main" for Temple University, this auditorium
building is the companion to the original classroom building.
Cecil B. Moore House, 1708 Jefferson Street. The home of an important
politician and civil rights leader, the building has been designated by
the Philadelphia Historical Commission.
Row Houses, 217 to 223 South 9th Street. This row of early 19th century
dwellings across from Wills Eye Hospital on 9th Street are designated by
the Philadelphia Historical Commission. Though not individually distinguished,
their status is representative of the gradual erosion of the edges of Washington
Square West by the large institutions of Center City.
Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Horace Trumbauer, architect. [...]
Metropolitan Opera House. Stabilized? [...]
New Jerusalem Baptist Church, 2017 Diamond Street, Hazelhurst and
Huckel, architects. A major religious landmark in North Philadelphia, just
a few blocks from the Church of the Advocate, this churchhas been recently
occupied by an active congregation that is eager to restore and preserve
the building. The Preservation Alliance has provided grants to help with
engineering studies for the tower, which has serious structural problems.
The congregation is currently raising funds to stabilize the tower.
Old City Loft Buildings. Although Old City can rightly be considered
an urban renewal success, there are many important and ordinary loft structures
that are vacant and endangered. Examples of decaying structures abound.
In a survey conducted by the Preservation Alliance, over forty loft buildings
in Old City were classified as being in poor condition. Of these, over a
dozen were put on a list of endangered designated historic properties. Among
these buildings are several of the historic Girard Warehouses, 18 to 30
North Front Street. Built for Stephen Girard in 1810, who was the wealthiest
man in America when he died, they are some of the oldest and most handsome
warehouses in the city. These and many similar buildings in the area are
important components of the urban fabric that makes Old City unique.
Philadelphia Civic Center. Since the Pennsylvania Convention Center
opened, the old Philadelphia Civic Center, a complex of five or more buildings,
has been closed and ready for redevelopment. The Civic Center evolved out
of a series of buildings dedicated to expanding trade which began with the
National Export Exhibition in 1899. There are two important buildings on
the site that should be studied for reuse. The Commercial Museum, built
in 1899, is one of the original exposition buildings. The Municipal Auditorium
(Convention Hall), built in 1931, Philip H. Johnson, architect (not that
Philip) . The site has been host to national political conventions in 1900,
1936, 1940 and 1948.
U. S. Naval Hospital, 1933 to 1935, 1400-1909 Pattison Avenue, Walter
Karcher and Livingston Smith, architects. One of the finest Art Deco buildings
in the City, the now vacant hospital sits on a 48 acre site adjacent to
Roosevelt Park. The imaginative design creates the illusion that the 13
story building is much larger, making it a major landmark of South Philadelphia.
Fairmount Park Historic Structures: The Park has hundreds of historic
structures, most of which are not the famous twelve mansions and most of
which are not in East and West Parks. Many of these structures are threatened
because of the absence of maintenance funding and the lack of a long term
and appropriate use. A few examples of endangered structures in Fairmount
Park are as follow:
- Logan House in Hunting Park, an 18th Century structure that is in desparate
need of repair
- Eden Hall Chapel , dating from the 1840's, is all that remains of the
a former Catholic convent and girls school which is now Fleuhr Park.
- Verree Road House in Pennypack Creek, the last of an historic grist
mill village, "Verreeville," dating from the late 17th and early
- The Music Pavilion, this 19th Century structure at Strawberry Mansion
is one of the last of the music shelters that once graced the park.
THREATENED: Status Pending:
A number of historic buildings in the city do not seem to be in danger of
being demolished, however, they have been vacant for some time. Some are
in a deteriorating condition, while others are threatened because adaptation
for reuse may severely compromise their original design .
Centennial National Bank, 1876, 32nd and Market Streets, Frank Furness,
architect. One of the few remaining of Frank Furness's flamboyant 19th Century
bank buildings, this one is awaiting reuse by Drexel University.
Philadelphia Savings Fund Society Building, 1932, 12 South 12th Street,
Howe and Lescaze, architects. This monument of International Style architecture
is probably the most internationally famous building in Philadelphia. The
AIA declared it "the building of the century" in 1968. It was
recently announced that it will be converted into a hotel. Adaptation of
this building is to be applauded, however, there are important issues involved
in the conversion of such a significant structure. What is to be the fate
of the famous PSFS sign atop the building? How will the building be provided
with drop-offs, a lobby and other hotel functions? Where are the original
furnishings designed by the architects, and will they be returned to the
building? What is to be the fate of the well preserved, modernists public
spaces, including the 12th Street Lobby, the Second Floor Banking Room,
the elevator lobbies and hallways at each floor, and the top floor board
rooms and public observation decks?
The Evening and Sunday Bulletin Building, 1954, 3100 Market Street,
Howe & Brown, architects. The Bulletin building was the last major commission
by George Howe, and was famous for its "billboard" east elevation
facing 30th Street Station and Center City with its enormous letters spelling
BULLETIN and flash news board. The building is currently undergoing renovations
to adapt it as commercial office space. The work includes inserting windows
in the east facing facade, while the "flash cast" has been removed
during construction (It is reported that it will be replaced.) This may
be a successful adaptation in process, but since this building, like most
others designed after 1940, is not designated, the renovations are taking
place without review. The changes in the east wall will obviously make a
major alteration to the aesthetic integrity of the architects' design, and
we can only wait to see what the results are.
Broad Street Historic District:
Other significant buildings that fall into this category and are important
in creating the unique environment of late 19th and early 20th century architecture
that makes Broad Street and the City Hall area so special are the following:
- One East Penn Square (Ritter and Shay, 1930) is just one of many early
skyscrapers in this district that are being vacated as offices move west
of City Hall. An imaginative, art-deco skyscraper designed with Mayan-revival
details, this building is emblematic of the problem that is afflicting many
of the City's early 20th Century office structures: buildings that are too
far east and have floor plans too small or odd to be attractive in the currently
depressed real estate market. Fortunately, it is rumored to be a candidate
for conversion into a hotel.
Old Philadelphia Savings Fund Society Headquarters Building, 700-710
Walnut Street, Addison Hutton/Frank Furness, architects, 1868-1898, and
York Row, 712 to 716 Walnut Street, Joseph Randall, carpenter, 1807. Another
Furness bank that is empty, this one an addition to an Addison Hutton structure,
and adjacent to a row of fine, Federal style townhouses. Some time ago,
the Historic Commission approved a plan to adapt these buildings into a
high-rise condo development, but this project has not materialized.
- The UGI Building (1401 Arch Street) which is about to be vacated by
the City when it moves its offices to the former Bell Telephone Building
a block further up Arch Street;
- The former Girard Bank Tower (1401 Penn Square South), designed by McKim,
Mead and White in 1931, is to be converted into a luxury hotel when funding
- The former Girard Bank "Morris Building" (1410 Chestnut Street)
designed by Frank Furness in 1910, had been vacant before the rest of the
block was emptied after the Meridian tower fire; the Avenue of the Arts
Building (at Sansom Street) is moth-balled;
- The Packard Building (15th and Chestnut Streets, Ritter & Shay,
architects) is reported to be a candidate for hotel conversion after it
is vacated by its current tenant; while the building directly across the
street is vacant above the 1st floor, and, finally,
- City Hall Annex (Juniper and Filbert Streets) has been vacant for nearly
ten years. It has been reported that this building will be adapted as hotel
rooms as an annex to the Philadelphia Marriott Hotel. Until any of these
deals are final, the vacant buildings remain at risk.
Keystone National Bank, (Hale Building and former Baker Shoe Store),
1887 and 1890, south west corner of Juniper and Chestnut Streets, Willis
Hale, architect. A wild and wonderful Victorian pile that looks as if it
were designed by E. C. Esher rather than an architect. The upper floors
have been vacant as long as anyone can remember. The restoration and reuse
of this building would create a stunning landmark on Chestnut Street.
Liberty Bell Pavilion, 1975, 5th and Market Streets, Mitchell/Giurgola
Associates, architects. Designed as a free standing pavilion to house the
Liberty Bell when it was removed from Independence Hall, the design has
been controversial since it was built. Now this handsome structure seems
doomed as the Mall master plan calls for expanding or replacing the structure.
Jewish Community Center (Trenton) Bath House, 1955, Ewing, NJ, Louis
I. Kahn, architect. Although not, technically, in the eight county Philadelphia
area, everybody puts the Trenton Bath Houses on their list. The bath houses
themselves are not threatened, but the adjacent pavilions used by the day
camp are in poor condition and unused. Efforts are underway to raise money
to restore the structures and find an appropriate use.
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