New Digs: The Penn’s Landing in Old City

This past Friday we stopped by Cindy & Chris Penn’s new digs at 144 Vine Street. On such a gloomy, muggy summer day, the facade of 144 Vine Street, tucked away in a corner of Old City, truly pops against a backdrop of grey skies. That’s because the building’s facade is an Isaiah Zagar original.


If you live in Philadelphia, chances are you’re already well versed in the mosaic masterpieces of Zagar. A Philadelphia based mosaic muralist, Zagar is famous for his Magic Gardens on South Street. Less known, however, is that he has adorned a number of residential facades as well.


Zagar’s Magic Gardens at 1020 South Street



His work on the facade and side of 144 Vine, which Cindy explains was “the cherry on top” of the property for her and her family, is magic and then some.


Its fitting that Cindy & Chris landed on this property. As artists of all sorts themselves, they were attracted to the quirky facade, the historical property, and the opportunity for retail space.


After living in Brooklyn for eight years, the pair decided it was time to buy. Yet, after a yearlong search for something in their native Brooklyn failed to produce results, Cindy decided to take a look in Philadelphia, just for fun. She immediately found Solo Realty’s listing for 144 Vine and the rest was a done deal.


Cindy & Chris enjoy a morning coffee in their future events space


As a multi-use property with commercial/office space on the first floor and residential taking up the rest of the building, the spot had already checked off Cindy’s main requirement. Throw that together with the walkability of Philadelphia, the burgeoning art and gallery scene in Old City, the reasonable price, the historic aspect, and the Zagar facade, the opportunity was too good to pass up. It was on to Philadelphia for Cindy’s family of five and the group has been loving their first months here.


In addition to being artistic people in general (most recently Chris has been working in drone photography while Cindy drums in a Brazilian marching band), the two are interested in gadgets. This interest is reflected in their groovy aesthetic in decorating the house, and in their keen interest in the historical workings of the home such as exploring the evidence of fireplaces and furnaces past.


While they knew the Philadelphia rowhome was old, they didn’t realize just how old until after they bought the house. Dating a house in Philadelphia can be quite the feat, but they have concluded that the house, along with its four neighbors on the block, likely dates back to the late 1700s. This is evidenced in the brickwork and beams the couple are exposing, not to mention the outdoor privy still standing in the rear.


Uncovering historical features of the home: wooden beams in the front commercial space (above) and brick foundation in the basement (below)



So far the beams have been exposed, the kitchen recreated on the first floor, the bathroom overhauled with a new funky modern aesthetic, and the floors refinished on the second floor. Next up is exposing brick where the existing walls can come down easily, tackling the third floor, and finishing up the commercial space. With the difficult aspects of the project largely behind them, such as moving the kitchen to a different part of the house and reorienting the bathroom, the final vision has taken shape and is within reach.


A modern tub, historic exposed brick, and whimsical sink mesh together in this artsy bathroom


Cindy and Chris plan to use the front area of the house as a creative rental space for anything ranging from yoga studio to pop-up gallery to event space. They’re also playing with the idea of putting a mock speakeasy in the basement.  


This historic rowhome is rooted in local history and tradition on every level: The past of people named Cindy occupying the space (the previous owner of 144 Vine and its neighbor 142 Vine was named Cindy), the classic 18th century structure, and the city’s famed Isaiah Zagar facade. 144 Vine is evocative of Philadelphia heritage in every sense.


Cindy & Chris are the perfect duo to have stumbled upon this fixer-upper. Creative thinkers and artistic makers, they have some amazing ideas for modernizing the space while constantly keeping its historic roots at the forefront of their process. We at Solo are so happy to have helped facilitate such a magical match and we’re looking forward to seeing how Cindy & Chris continue to upgrade and transform this unique space.


Photographs (from top to bottom): More Isaiah Zagar mosaic dons the interior courtyard; Exposed brick fireplace in the 2nd floor bathroom; Refinished wood floors; Exposed ducts; Winding stairs; Fully redone kitchen w/ new appliances and floors; Two neighboring historic homes; Big, open park right across the street; 140-146 Vine Street facades; Two more snapshots of the intricate Zagar mosaic facade; A view of the Ben Franklin Bridge from the street corner.


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