Owners confirm plan to raze 1894 firehouse

Company representatives met with community leaders to discuss their failed attempts to find a new tenant for the landmark building.


The Pennsport community finally learned Wednesday what the owner intends to do with the landmark Engine 46 firehouse building. But it wasn’t what they had hoped to hear.


Three representatives of Cedar Riverview LP of Port Washington, N.Y., the firm that owns the site and surrounding properties, met with First District Councilman Mark Squilla and Dr. James Moylan, president of the Pennsport Civic Association, to talk about the company’s plan for the former Engine 46 firehouse, which was built in 1894 and in recent years was a popular South Philly steakhouse.


Demolition permits for 1401 South Water Street had been filed in January and February, and updated on June 10. The permit allows for “demolition of existing building as part of a secondary building.” Admirers of the building had hoped that the permit referred to a modern addition to the rear of the firehouse on Water Street.


But the owner’s plan is to raze both buildings, the firm’s representatives told Squilla and Moylan.


“We were told they have been pursuing a renter for the building for seven years. They hired a brokerage firm to help, but they came up with nothing. No one wants to use it,” Moylan said. “At this point, after seven years of trying, they said the best use for the site will be an open space that another tenant can come and utilize. They told us, ‘We are in the business to rent buildings. And an empty building is no good for anyone.’”


An updated demolition permit on the building states that demolition could occur on July 31 or sometime thereafter. The owner promised not to begin demolition until a meeting was held with the neighborhood group.


But Moylan said he and Squilla left the meeting with the impression that the wrecking ball would not show up immediately.


Moylan offered to solicit the neighborhood and the wider community for help in finding a new tenant to repurpose the old building. Leads can be sent to pennsport@aol.com. “Any suggested tenant has to be someone we can vet,” Moylan said.


The building at Water and Reed Streets is easily spotted from Interstate 95 from the west side, and from Columbus Boulevard on the east. It is one of the last High Victorian-style firehouses in Philadelphia, with a distinctive Flemish roofline and crenulated fire tower. It was occupied by the Engine 46 fire company until 1957. From 1996 to 2006, it was reborn as Engine 46 Steak House.


Since the first demolition notices appeared, the building has attracted the attention of the preservation community, as well as its longtime neighbors.


“We told them that they just can’t knock the building down and make a parking lot. People will go crazy,” Moylan said.


Contact the writer at ajaffe@planphilly.com.

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