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Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Wrecking Ball Tolls?

SOS Cites Sites
Thompson Street site, right --->
Save Our Sites (SOS), a city preservation group, has issued its 2010 list of endangered buildings, streets, and other sites in Philadelphia that face destruction, neglect, or possible demolition.

The list cites 15 sites, locales, and streetscapes that SOS defines as having special architectural, historical, or aesthetic value, but otherwise are "poorly maintained, inappropriately used, vacant, largely unknown, or uncelebrated." Designated sites need not be threatened by imminent demolition, although, sometimes they are, according to SOS.

The sites, in no particular order, are:

* Arch at Penn’s Landing
The concrete arch at Penn’s landing was built as part of an aerial tram system that was never completed. The arch's location has significance in that it sits on the site where Pennsylvania was founded, and can be seen from I-95, the Delaware River, and from New Jersey. The arch and its immediate surroundings might be developed to commemorate the state's founding..

* Metropolitan Opera House, 858 North Broad Street
The Metropolitan Opera House, developed by impresario Oscar Hammerstein, was built in 1908 and designed by architect William H.McElfatrick .Currently the opera house is deteriorating and in need of restoration both on the exterior and interior.

Family Court Building on Logan Square
The Beaux-Arts-styled Family Court Building on Logan Square was built in 1938-41 and designed by architect, John T. Windrim. Since the Family Court facility will be relocated, the city is seeking a private developer to put the building to a new use. Determining an appropriate new use is a matter of great concern to the community.

* Reading Viaduct
The Reading Viaduct begins at Vine Street, terminating at Fairmount Avenue. It is an ideal location for re-use such as an elevated, linear park similar to the High Line in Manhattan. This part of the city does not have adequate parks and recreational services.

* Eakins Oval, fronting the Philadelphia Museum of Art
The present use of the site as a surface parking lot is most unfortunate. Ideas for appropriate redevelopment of the site need to be generated.

* Commercial Building at Overbrook Train Station, 2135 North 63rd Street
The striking commercial building adjacent to the Overbrook Septa train station resembles in style some of architect Louis Sullivan’s smaller buildings in the Mid-west. Currently the building is in bad condition and needs restoration.

* Musical Arts Club on 1800 block of Ranstead Street, Center City
Designed by Architect Will Price of Price and McLenahan, this clubhouse for the defunct Musical Arts Club is a treasure tucked away on the alley-like 1800 block of Ranstead Street. Adorned with Mercer tiles, it begs for restoration.

* Northeast Manual Training School, 7th and Lehigh, Fairhill
The Northeast Manual Training school in North Philadelphia and was built in 1905 and designed by Architect J. Horace Cook. This massive, neo-Gothic-styled structure is the oldest manual training school. Currently the building is vacant, deteriorating and threatened by the prospect of demolition.

* 1200 69th Avenue, East Oak Lane
This eccentric Tudor Revival mansion on an expansive site was built circa 1895 and designed by architect, Horace W. Castor. It is presently unoccupied and is in a deteriorating condition, serving only to blight the immediate surrounding neighborhood.

* West Maplewood Mall , In Germantown near Chelten and Germantown avenues
Maplewood Mall is a quaint, vehicular free Victorian Street closed off and redeveloped in the 1970s. It was formerly lined with many viable shops and restaurants, but those that remain struggle. The city has sorely neglected the valuable site. Today, it is in much need of renovation.

* Letitia Street House, 3400 West Girard Ave; Hatfield House, 3201 West Girard Avenue
The Letitia Street house, owned the city was one of the earliest houses built in Philadelphia between 1703 and 1715. Although it was previously used as an office for the zoo, the house is now vacant and is deteriorating. The prominently located Hatfield House, also city owned, was built in 1760 as a farmhouse and renovated in the early 1800s with the addition of a Greek-Revival façade. The non-profit that occupies it has recently put a coat of paint on the exterior, but otherwise it is in dire need of restoration.

* 700 Block of Chestnut Street, including the Union Trust Co. and Quaker City National Bank buildings
The Union Trust Co and Quaker City National Bank in the 700 block of Chestnut Street were built in 1888 by architect Willis Hale and are among the many fine buildings that line both sides of this block. When more of these buildings are renovated, it will stand as one of the finest blocks in the city with great potential for attracting the best occupants.

* Church of the Assumption, 1100 Block of Spring Garden Street
The church was designed and built in 1848-49 in the Gothic-Revival style. Its architect was Patrick Charles Keely. The Philadelphia Historical Commission named it to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places in 2009, but on September 10, 2010 the same commission approved demolition of it by its present owner, Siloam, a non-profit.

* SS United States, moored at South Columbus Boulevard
The SS United States was built in 1952 and used for trans-Atlantic service until 1969. It is currently docked in Philadelphia on the Delaware River. The ship was the fastest and largest passenger liner to be built in the United States. An organization is currently devoted to finding money to buy the liner and have it restored.

* Thompson Street Houses , 1821-1833 Thompson Street, 1619 Thompson Street
Thompson Street is one block north of Girard Avenue in North Philadelphia. The 1800 block houses display elaborate, multi-colored brick work and decorative, terra cotta insets .The eight houses are in dire need of restoration. No. 1619 Thompson Street appears to have been once an artist studio. It displays interesting brick patterns framed by exposed wood timbers. It is one of the most picturesque houses in central Philadelphia. It is also in need of repair.

(For more information about SOS or about these sites, telephone 215.232.2344, or 215.990.7832).