Historical Commission’s Architecture Committee hears about windows

Windows, more windows, and some more windows.

On Tuesday morning, the Architectural Committee of the Historical Commission sped through an agenda filled with applicants seeking to replace windows, install new windows or legalize vinyl windows.

In all cases, the Committee recommended denial of the projects. Of course, the Historical Commission itself has the final say, assuming the  applicants decide to present their cases at the body’s August 12 meeting.

The most significant “windows” case was a request by the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul to replace all of the non-stained glass, double-hung wood frame windows in its rectory, which it says are deteriorating, with extruded metal ones.

Committee member Rudy D’Alessandro said there’s “no reason not to [attempt] repair,” saying that it’s eminently do-able and “normal” to do so. “Why is there always a rush to throw out,” he asked, rhetorically.

Two other agenda items drew the most attention, including opposition by John Gallery of the Preservation Alliance. One concerned — what else, windows! — on the 1904 Snellenburg Clothing Factory building on North Broad.

Staffer Randal Baron presented several illustrations of the building through the decades, most of which showed different window pane patterns. The Committee recommending approval of the work, provided Staff reviews the windows selected.

The biggest discussion centered on a project to construct a building on an empty lot in the Old City Historic District, and marked a return appearance by architects from the firm of Harman Deutsch.

Because the lot was developed (occupied by a building that housed a fabled umbrella store and which burned down in 2004) at the time the district was designated, any new construction comes under the Commission’s jurisdiction.

Although the new design met with the approval of staff, Committee members and Gallery still balked, expressing particular concern about the storefront entrance which smacked of 1950s modernism, and the building’s relatively plain facade. And so . . . back to the drawing boards for this particular architect and client.

Contact the reporter at jgreco@planphilly.com

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