‘Historic Opportunities’ for preservation-minded developers

In the market for a turn-of-the-century clubhouse, a 1920s town hall, or a modernist house of steel? Your opportunity is knocking.

The Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia has added a new feature, “Historic Opportunities,” on its website, http://www.preservationalliance.com/advocacy/historic-opportunities.php. The page lists distinctive properties for sale across the region that need a preservation-conscious owner to rescue them.

The builders include some of the best architects in Philadelphia’s history. The sellers include the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation, the Nemours Foundation, Colliers International and other real estate agencies.

Among the properties are the University Club, built for an elite social group by Wilson Eyre in 1887 and listed for $1.7 million; Germantown Town Hall, designed by John P.B. Sinkler in 1923, on the market for $400,000;  a 1946 Harmon Steel House by modernist master Oskar Stonorov (needs assembly); the Weise House in East Norriton Township, built by Louis Kahn in 1950, offered for $995,000; and Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church of Germantown, designed by Furness & Hewitt in 1873, listed for $950,000.

One of the more challenging properties for re-use is Engine House No. 29, 1221-25 North 4th St. in the Kensington South neighborhood.

The building is attributed to the prominent Windrim architectural firm. James, the father, was responsible for many public buildings in Philadelphia, including post offices, police and fire stations, as well as the Academy of Natural Sciences, the Masonic Temple, and the Falls Bridge. John T., the son, designed the Franklin Institute and Family Court on the Ben Franklin Parkway, and worked with D.H. Burnham on the Wanamaker’s Department Store.

The brick and brownstone station was built in 1894, following a period of expansion for the Philadelphia Fire Department. The volunteer system had been replaced by a paid professional staff in 1871. The 14,440-square-foot Victorian station was designed in the Richardson Romanesque style, which was based on the Christian churches of France, Spain and Syria, according to a survey by the Philadelphia Historical Commission.

The building features “wide Syrian arch carriage openings, an arrangement of upper windows into bands and registers, carefully coursed rock faced stone, and Romanesque foliate carvings,” the PHS file states. Stone faces on the first level seem to emerge from carved flames, and a dragon tangled in a corner seems to represent the firefighters’ enemy. The ground floor decoration also includes “roundels of brownstone and white marble in daisy petal patterns.” A polychrome pattern also runs across the top of the facade.

The building received historic designation from the city in July 1989.

Low interest financing is available for commercial/industrial use of the handsome former firehouse, which is listed for sale at $1 million.

Contact the writer at ajaffe@planphilly.com.

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