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Thursday, 15 September 2011

Save Our Sites

2011 List of Endangered Sites

[Special to Writers Clearinghouse News Service]

The Philadelphia preservation organization Save Our Sites (SOS) has issued its 2011 list of endangered sites that its members nominated at its Spring General Membership meeting on March 29, 2011. Save Our Sites defines endangered buildings as those that are neglected, unmaintained, vacant, unknown or uncelebrated. They may not necessarily be subject to imminent demolition. They might be worth recognizing because of either their architectural, aesthetic or historic value. The 2011 list includes twenty sites throughout different neighborhoods of Philadelphia such as Francisville, West Philadelphia, South Philadelphia, North Philadelphia, East Oak Lane, Germantown, and Center City.
Unfortunately, just before the announcement of the 2011 Endangered Sites List, the Monastery of St. Clare, formerly number one on the list, was demolished. Although the convent, located at the corner of West Girard and Corinthian Avenues in Francisville, was listed on the Girard National Register Historic District, it was not on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places, therefore it was not protected against demolition. The Romanesque, stone chapel of St. Clare was designed in 1919 by the architectural firm Ballinger and Perot. It is flanked by two late-nineteenth century brownstones that housed cloistered nuns from 1918 until May 21, 1977, when they relocated to Langhorne.
Credits for Preparation of Following List:
Alanna C. Stewart, M.S. Historic Preservation, University of Pennsylvania
Zoe Draper, B.A., Moore College of Art & Design
David S. Traub, AIA, Co-Founder, Save Our Sites
Save Our Sites, 2005 Cambridge Street. Philadelphia, PA 19130
(215) 232-2344

1. Northwestern National Bank – 1828 W. Girard Avenue (W. Girard and Ridge Avenues)
The Northwestern National Bank was designed in 1886 by Philadelphia architect, Otto Wolf. Wolf served as the vice president of the bank, as well as specializing in the design of breweries (one of his clients being Christian Schmidt). The bank is on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places, and is currently being used as the Smith Baptist Chapel. The building is in poor condition, mutilated by placement of glass block in existing windows.
2. U.S. Post Office - 900 N. 19th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19130 (N. 19th and Poplar Streets)
The United States Post Office was designed in 1936 by architect Victor D. Abel, during the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a part of his Works Progress Administration, WPA. Abel was joined by supervising architect Louis A. Simon, and Neal A. Melick, supervising engineer. Some alterations have been made, but the Federal government has neglected the building, and it is in need of an overall renovation.
The PNC Bank: 700 - 702 N. Broad Street (N. Broad Street and Ridge Avenue)
3. The PNC Bank, pictured at left, formerly the Northwestern National Bank, was designed by Philip Merz in 1917, of the New York firm, McKim, Mead & White. In 1929, additions were made by Clarence Edmond Wunder. Though it is currently a PNC bank, it is minimally maintained. This grand building is in a key location at this important intersection, which includes the Divine Loraine Hotel. The full restoration of this building could spark further restorations of this North Philadelphia neighborhood.
4. The Macedonia Free Will Baptist Church: 2036-2040 Cecil B. Moore Avenue (21st and Cecil B. Moore Avenue).
The Macedonia Free Will Baptist Church, previously known as Columbia Avenue Presbyterian Church, was built between 1891 and 1893 by architect J.W. Shaw. The chapel was constructed in 1870 by architect Henry Sims. The Romanesque style building contains stained-glass windows that were manufactured by Tiffany Studios. The church is in a serious state of disrepair, as the group who rents the property does not maintain it. Like many other churches in North Philadelphia, it is not receiving the attention it deserves.
5. Reformed Episcopal Church: 2229 N. 29th Street (29th and Fletcher)
The Reformed Episcopal Church was built in 1916. It was designed by architects Stackhouse and Street and was built by the Raymond A. Raff Company. It is currently known as Dauphin Street Baptist Church. This building is extremely unique, with fascinating architectural details such as the immense stone fanlight on the front façade. It has been altered with doors of an inappropriate style, and boarded up windows. It is located in a struggling area of North Philadelphia, and faces serious neglect.
6. House at 3619 Baring Street
The Victorian stone house at 3619 was built around 1874 for William C. Eliason. In 1905, a colonial revival porch was built, and a garage was added to the residence during the 1920s. This was also the residence of the Tetlows, the first producers of Talcum Powder. The house was added to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places in March of 1963. Although this building is in a serious state of disrepair, complete restoration would serve as a building block for more renovations in this deteriorating neighborhood.
7. Woodland Mansion: 4000 Woodland Avenue
Woodland Mansion was built in 1770, although the land was first purchased in 1735 by Philadelphia lawyer Andrew Hamilton. The house was rebuilt into a neoclassical style mansion between 1786 and 1792 by Hamilton’s grandson, William. In 1840, the landscape was transformed into a cemetery. Though this building is not completely under preservationists’ radar screen, it deserves more public awareness, and increased funding to completely restore this historic monument.
8. The Belmont Academy Charter School: 907 N. 41st Street (N. 41st Street and Westminster Avenue.)
The Belmont Academy Charter School opened in 1998 in the Mantua neighborhood of West Philadelphia. Its first use was as a dormitory and recreation center for train conductors traveling through the area, and then later used as a church. Although the school has great architectural details, the basement is condemned. The building should be recognized for its historic fabric and context.
9.West Philadelphia Title and Trust Building: 4000 Lancaster Avenue (N. 40th Street and Lancaster Avenue)
The West Philadelphia Title and Trust Co. was designed in 1897 by Walter Smedley. The brick and terra cotta building is not listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places. Although the massive billboards were removed from the façade of this historic landmark, it is in an extremely dilapidated state, with several convenient stores crammed inside of it. This building is in a key location that should be used as a rallying point to spark preservation further west on Lancaster Avenue.
10. Girard Farm House at Girard Estates (Near 22nd and Ritner Streets)
Stephen Girard purchased a small farmhouse located on 500 acres in Passyunk Township in South Philadelphia in 1797. He created additions to the building in 1800 and 1825. Although he never lived in the house, he worked on the farm daily, growing fruits and vegetables, and housing livestock. Girard left his estate to the city of Philadelphia, and the money was to be used to start Girard College, a school for orphan boys. The building is still maintained by the city of Philadelphia on a very small budget. However, with greater public interest, this historic site could be brought to its full potential as an important Philadelphia landmark.
11. St. Matthew Baptist Church: 2319-2321 Fitzwater Street (Grays Ferry Avenue and Fitzwater Street)
St. Matthew’s Baptist Church, formerly St. Anthony De Padua Catholic Church, was designed in 1892 by architect Frank Watson. The Romanesque, granite church contains at least thirty stained-glass windows and a striking tall campanile gracing the corner of Grays Ferry and Fitzwater. The owners of the church have put the building up for sale. Given its location in a rapidly redeveloping neighborhood, and in particular being across from the very successful Toll Brothers Naval Home development, it is vulnerable to being purchased by developers who might want to demolish it to make room for new townhouses.
12. Vare Elementary School: 1621 East Moyamensing Avenue (Morris Street and E. Moyamensing Avenue)
Abigail Vare Elementary School is a stone, vaguely colonial revival building. It was designed between 1903 and 1904 by James Gaw, who later added to the school in 1927. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on December 4, 1986. This building stands as a model for what school buildings in Philadelphia were at the turn of the century. It is in fairly good condition, but mechanical systems are in need of repair, necessitating it receiving heat from a building across the street.
13. Harry Asbury House: 970 W. Cheltenham Avenue (70th and W. Cheltenham Avenues)
The Harry Asbury House was designed by Amos J. Boyden in 1892. T. Henry Asbury had this colonial revival house built for his son, Harry. It was formerly one of the King’s View houses, and is now owned by a Korean Church. It is in extremely poor condition. The historic context should be recognized, and full restoration is in order to maintain the value of this historic neighborhood.
Oak Lane Reform Church : W. 66th Avenue and N. 7th Street, 19126
14. The Oak Lane Reform Church complex has one remaining building, a Gothic style sanctuary that was designed in 1905 by architect Valentine B. Lee. It is made of salvaged stone from the Fifth Street Reservoir. The church later became the Oak Lane United Church of Christ, which closed in 1984. Although the 1905 addition remains, the earlier structure was demolished, and the building is now neglected and in extremely poor condition.
15. Caroline Elizabeth Cope Farmer’s Cottage at Awbury Arboretum
The Caroline Elizabeth Cope Farmer’s Cottage, built in 1793, is one of twenty-four buildings at Awbury Arboretum. In the 1920s, the cottage was deeded to the City, who in turn sold the buildings to New Covenant Church. The Awbury Arboretum is now in a battle to buy back the building, since it is currently neglected and in very poor condition. There is an old Spring House in the back, which has also been neglected. These structures are in deteriorating condition, and located in a context in which otherwise the houses are well maintained.
16. Industrial Buildings at Wayne Junction
Wayne Junction constitutes an ensemble of various 19th century buildings gathered around the train station designed by famed Frank Furness, and serves as an important transportation node in Germantown. The group of buildings, mostly in deteriorated condition, has great potential for being turned into residential structures, given their close proximity to public transportation amenities. Among the buildings is the Wayne Junction Trust Company, at 4405 Germantown Avenue, designed by Thomas B. Lippincott.
17. 2023-2025 Rittenhouse Square Street (South 20th and Rittenhouse Square Streets)
This charming building was a former stable, now used as a car garage. The architect, if any, is unknown. It was placed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places on January 6, 1972. Note the relief sculpture of a horse’s head under the blind arch at the top center of the building. The stable is in deplorable condition, with spalling terra cotta, loose brick and broken windows.
East End of Irving Street (Washington Square West)
18. The east extension of Irving Street comes to a dead end between 11th and 12th streets. When the Philadelphia City Plan was created in the 19th century, this section of the street was not included. The adjacent neighbors have attempted to privatize it, which Save Our Sites opposes. Privatizing this little piece of street will make it more difficult for the public to use and enjoy.
19. Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore (PWB) Railroad (S. 15th and Carpenter Streets)
The Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore (PWB) Railroad buildings were constructed during the Civil War Era. The station, along with an adjacent hospital, made the intersection of Broad and Washington a major military transport center during the Civil War. The head house was demolished, but the remaining service building pictured here faces possible demolition by neglect. The building needs to be recognized for its potential for furthering development at this important intersection, as well as a landmark commemorating the Civil War.

20. Hermitage Mansion: 700 Hermit Lane (Fairmount Park)
Hermitage Mansion is located in the Wissahickon area of Fairmount Park. The Rosicrucians, or Hermits, emigrated from Germany in 1694 and were given 175 acres in Wissahickon Valley. After their leader Kelpius died few people remained, including Righter family. The Righters sold the property to Evan Prowattain in 1848, who built the mansion that still exists today. Currently, the Delaware Valley Opera Company is using the mansion, while maintaining the land and the house. The Opera Company continually attempts to raise money, but there is still a lack of funding needed to make repairs to this historic mansion.
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