Blocks We Love: 4000 block of Spring Garden Street

In West Powelton, tucked between the commercial corridors of Market Street and Lancaster Avenue, sits a residential block that is both majestic yet intimate, coherent yet diverse. A peak through the history books reveals how the lovely 4000 block of Spring Garden Street came to be.

 

Developed in the early 20th century, this swath of Spring Garden Street was originally called Bridge Street. The residential street ran between the commercial corridors of Lancaster Avenue and Market Street, which remain bustling with commercial activity to this day, as well as Haverford Avenue, which is now largely residential.

 

In the late 19th and early-to-mid 20th century the corridors boasted retail and industrial workshops, including wood and metal fabrication, foundries, and other such uses.

 

An 1836 map of West Powelton shows the street grid laid for the 4000 block of Spring Garden (then Bridge Street, bottom of map), but hardly any houses built

Post-1960s, this area saw the same urban decline and disinvestment that much of the City experienced. This pattern continued through the mid-1990s, until several organizations including the then-recently established People’s Emergency Center Community Development Corporation (PECCDC) began investing in the area.

 

PECCDC acquired several vacant properties on the 4000 block of Spring Garden Street and rehabbed them into permanent supportive-service rental housing and homeownership units for first time homebuyers.

 

500 North 40th Street, at the corner of Spring Garden & 40th in 1950 (left) and today (right)

Spring Garden Street is a wide thoroughfare that boasts larger homes than many of the smaller streets that run perpendicular to it, such as Sloan, Wiota, and Holly Streets. This block running between 40th and Preston Streets is remarkably preserved, representing a hybrid of Powelton Village’s Victorian and Queen Anne estates and the classic, dense Philadelphia rowhome.

The 4000 block of Spring Garden Street in 1927, as majestic then as it is now

A substantial number of historic details can be spotted: columned porches and decorative spindlework, brickwork and corbelling; steeply pitched gables with fishscale shingles; turrets; and ornate lintels and cornices. Despite the variety in these features property to property, the porch lines and gables keep a visual continuity throughout the block.

 

Plenty of Queen Anne-style detail to be found (top), even the simpler rowhomes (bottom) boast ornate cornices and brownstone lintels appearing like piped-on icing, especially when coated in pastel hues

Though the block is revitalized and and well-maintained, a large, historic apartment building sits vacant, catty-corner to it. 437 North 40th Street represents a huge and thus far missed opportunity: a 13,500 square foot, four-story apartment building that we’re sure residents of the 4000 block of Spring Garden would love to see rehabbed and occupied.

437 North 40th Street is a long-time vacant apartment building catty-corner to the 4000 block of Spring Garden Street

Overall, this is a stunning historic block in a neighborhood that is experiencing a rash of revitalization and new construction. That apartment complex likely won’t remain vacant for much longer.

 

Map courtesy of the Free Library of Philadelphia, historic photos courtesy of the Philadelphia Department of Records via PhillyHistory.org, 437 North 40th Street image courtesy of the Neighborhood Design Group.