An eyesore across the street from one of the oldest historic homes in Philadelphia will soon be nothing but dust.
Neighbors say the hulking warehouse at 18th and Courtland streets in North Philly has sat vacant for at least two decades, becoming a fire hazard, a tire dump and a haven for scrappers. By court order, the city’s Department of Licenses & Inspections has recently begun demolishing the warehouse, and now only a tower and a few other structures are left to tear down.
The warehouse went up in the early 1900s as the Fox Gun Factory, with a big trade sign of a firearm hanging over it. Right across the street is a legendary neighbor: Stenton, an 18th-century Germantown mansion, was originally owned by James Logan, William Penn’s secretary and the colonial mayor of the city. Stenton is on the National Register of Historic Places, and regularly holds tours and other events. Dennis Pickeral, Stenton’s director, expressed joy at the warehouse’s demolition.
“We’ve literally been in the shadow of this building for the last 100 years. It was a real issue in terms of blight,” he says. “It’s always a loss when a historic building goes down, but its removal could make a real difference in the neighborhood. It might attract developers.”
Triumph Baptist Church, located at Hunting Park and Germantown Avenues, owned the warehouse — and they disagree with Stenton over how their land should now be developed. Pickeral says he hopes it will be used for urban farming or community gardens.
But according to Fran Stallings, Triumph’s fiscal manager, they plan to put 110 units of senior housing on the site. Stallings said their plans are nascent, however, and they would “entertain” the idea of community gardens.
Pickeral also squelched a neighborhood rumor that Stenton was interesting in controlling the site.
“But we’d help support a community amenity going there,” he says.