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Monday, 17 May 2010

Morris House

'A Building Saved is a
Building Earned'
By Richard Carreno
Junto Staff Writer Bio
According to architect David S. Traub, the Morris House, a former 18th century residence in Society Hill now retooled as an upmarket boutique hotel, is one of Philadelphia's best examples of architectural conservation.

And to underscore that point, Traub, who's also a leading building preservationist in Philadelphia, arranged for about 30 like-minded people to tour the three-floor brick structure last week, and, to a person, everyone seemed to agree with Traub's glowing assessment.

'It's beautifully done,' Traub said, after he and his cohorts, members of the advocacy group Save Our Sites (SOS), got an exhaustive trip Friday through the hotel's public rooms and oasis-like garden, located on 8th Street between Locust and Walnut streets. (Only a glimpse of the garden is available from the street).

Traub also noted that the reclamation of the Georgian-style building, once in foreclosure and unoccupied for three years, is also a 'poster child' for the kind of preservation efforts too often, unfortunately, required in Philadelphia: Rebirth from a near-death experience.

SOS's 'tour guide' Gabriela Buresova, the hotel's general manager, said that resurrection wasn't easy, and involved three years of renovation and restoration by the hotel's new owners Michael DiPaolo and Eugene Lefevre. The real estate developers finally opened the hotel in 2005. 

For most of its history, the property, built in 1787 by John and William Reynolds, was home, for about 120 years, of the Morris family, a civic-minded Philadelphia family. (These Morrises were not related, however, to the Revolutionary War financier Robert Morris, another notable Philadelphian of that era).

Traub told his group that what has resulted, because of DiPaolo and Lefevre's pains-taking work, is a model for others seeking to revamp old, important buildings with updated adaptions and repurposing. It's also consistent with one of the group's guiding mottoes, Benjamin Franklin's contention that 'a building saved is a building earned.'

Those interested in joining SOS can contact Traub at davidstraub@verizon.net. Membership is free.