Historic Elfreth’s Alley house in danger of demolition

In real estate, the balance between development and preservation is a delicate one. But some historic buildings in Philadelphia could face demolition from a new foe: foreclosure.

Elfreth’s Alley is America’s oldest neighborhood, established as a residential street more than 300 years ago. Although a must-see for tourists, one of the houses along the quaint street is now on the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia’s list of endangered sites.

The building was in the midst of renovations when the owners walked away from the mortgage, putting the house in foreclosure.

“You can peer into the windows from the sidewalk. It’s taking on quite a bit of water,” said Ben Leech of the Preservation Alliance. “You can see mold growing. It’s uninhabitable. It’s crazy to think something as well known as Elfreth’s Alley would have properties as vulnerable to foreclosure as anywhere else in the city.”

The Elfreth’s Alley Association is trying to determine which institution holds the deed to the property to ask for basic maintenance. Leech said he included it on the list of endangered buildings to highlight the effects of foreclosure.

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