Industrial properties on Frankford Avenue in Fishtown recommended for historic designation

Four industrial properties on the rapidly changing Frankford Avenue Commercial Corridor in Fishtown were recommended for historic protection Thursday.

The Historical Commission’s committee on historic designation ruled that the former Morse Elevator Works/Otis Elevator Works, encompassing three properties at 1105-1127 Frankford Avenue, fit two criteria for historic status. The property has “significant character, interest or value as part of the development, heritage or cultural characteristics of the City” and “exemplifies the cultural, political, economic, social or historical heritage of the community.”

The properties sit on the row of Frankford Avenue between Wildey Street and Girard Avenue that serves as an entrance to Fishtown from Columbus Boulevard and the Delaware River. The buildings, two-story garage structures that have housed antique retail, a lighting store, and a bicycle shop in recent years, were nominated for historic protection by Oscar Beisert, an architectural historian, along with representatives of Kensington and Olde Richmond Heritage LLC and a group called Neighborhood Preservation Allies.

The owners of two of the properties questioned the nomination without opposing it outright. They suggested that the reason neighbors had become interested in the buildings is because the amount of improvements the owners have made over the last two decades.

Not so, said Ken Milano, an author and local historian. The buildings need to be protected because so much of Fishtown and Kensington is being demolished, he said.

Jason Nussbaum, of City Living Philly, which bought the property at 1115-1127 Frankford earlier this year, said that Beisert had been taking a “zealot approach” to historic preservation in Philadelphia. Nussbaum said that he and his partner, Roland Kassis, plan to preserve the property, but having it historically certified would just add an extra layer of red tape and delay to their work. The committee found it significant, and voted to approve its nomination anyway.

The committee also voted to nominate a fourth property, on the 1400 block of Frankford Avenue, that formerly served as the 10th District Police Station. The property was most recently the Bicycle Stable, which closed last year. It is reportedly being redeveloped as a Cheu Noodle Bar.

“It’s a strange building,” said Jeff Cohen, the committee chairman, in describing the structure, which looks a bit like the lovechild of a church and an auto garage.

It was nominated for its “distinguishing characteristics of an architectural style.”

Read the nominations for 1105-09 Frankford Avenue and 1111-1113 Frankford Avenue.

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