Blocks We Love: 2700 South Street

If you’ve ever sat on the fence, unable to decide between bustling downtown living or a more relaxed neighborhood set up, the 2700 block of South Street might peak your interest. Philadelphia is such a great city because it settles somewhere in the middle of skyscrapers, high-rises, and all of the action they denote, and the low-rise, neighborhood scale that comes from the city’s immense stock of rowhomes.


Sometimes referred to as Devil’s Pocket or “The Pocket” for short, this little nook is situated in the middle of beautiful, historic Fitler Square and hip Graduate Hospital, at the nexus where Center City gives way to University City. This stretch of seven petite, colorful rowhomes feels quaint and intimate, yet right in the midst of the beating heart of city living in Philadelphia.



Each home sports a matching door, pediment, and cornice, painted in a color unique from the others in the row. The overall impression is one of cohesiveness. Despite the multitude of hues represented amongst the twelve rowhomes, the uniformity of the doors with their unique pediment and continuous cornice line puts forth the image of a united front.


The simple pediment above each home’s door harkens back to the Colonial period. While it is unlikely that these houses are quite that old, it is possible that they date as far back as 1895. The style of the housing stock, particularly as evidenced in earlier photographs which show simple, unadorned, three-story brick structures, suggests a turn of the century construction. The pediments were likely added at some point in the past half century as a cosmetic upgrade or as part of more significant renovations.


Two photographs from the mid-1900s of the area: Facing West on 27th Street in 1953 showing the row of homes on the 2700 block and the South Street Bridge (Above); Taken from Schuylkill Ave in 1949 showing the irregular parcel shape of the corner property from behind (Below). Source: PhillyHistory.org. http://www.phillyhistory.org. Philadelphia Department of Records (accessed August 26, 2017).


On historic maps of Philadelphia there are parcels indicated on this block as early as 1895, with eight parcels outlined. The correct number of slots, seven, don’t show up until 1942. Possibilities to explain this difference in parcel count include that the homes were combined at one point to form larger properties, the end unit alone was transformed from two to one to compensate for the unconventional angle taken at the corner, or the homes could have been raised and rebuilt entirely. A remaining explanation comes down to a simple error in transcription from on the ground surveying to mapmaking.


Two historic maps of Philadelphia: 1895 Bromley Atlas showing 8 parcels (Above) and 1942 Works Progress Administration Land-Use Map showing 7 parcels (Below). Source: Greater Philadelphia GeoHistory Network Interactive Maps Viewer, http://www.philageohistory.org/tiles/viewer/.


Over time, each homeowner has imbued the facades with their own personal flair, through paint colors, “front lawn” furniture, and a variety of well kept plants and flowers.


We love this block for its historical significance, charming facades, one of a kind location at the core of three major parts of the city, and proximity to great Philadelphia mainstays like the South Street Bridge, Schuylkill River Trail, and Fitler Square Park.


Blocks We Love: 2000 Delancey Street

Walking down the 2000 block of Delancey Street can feel like taking a stroll into the 19th Century.  Or maybe a movie set. The stately homes, all built by 1870, have changed very little since their original construction. Perhaps for this reason, the 2000 Block of Delancey Street is the most filmed residential block in the city, boasting scenes from at least six films and one TV show.


The nine unconnected blocks of Delancey Street, named after  William Heathcote DeLancey, provost of the University of Pennsylvania from 1828-1834,  were all built during the mid 19th Century. The 2000 block of Delancey Street included home styles of the earlier Federal Period (1785–1815), characterized by red brick facades, white marble trim, and semicircular fanlights above the doorways, as well as  Second Empire (Victorian) styles. The Victorian style homes  were faced in all white marble, including 2019 Delancey, owned by Nobel Laureate Pearl S. Buck in the 1950s and 1960s.

2019 Delancey Street



The homes are each four or five stories, but often the top floors are set back with dormers, giving the illusion of more modest 3 story homes, and allowing more sunlight onto the street. This thoughtful architectural decision provides these truly grand homes a sense of intimacy and human scale. And enough sunlight to reach the ornate windowboxes and planters.


The Rosenbach Museum

Nine of the houses on the 2000 block of Delancey Street are on the National Register of Historic Places. Including the former residence of the rare book collectors, the Rosenbach brothers. Made into a museum in the mid 20th Century, the Rosenbach collection contains the only surviving copy of Benjamin Franklin’s first Poor Richard Almanac and the manuscript of James Joyce’s Ulysses. Every year on June 16th, the Rosenbach hosts a “Bloomsday” festival, in honor of the titular character of Ulysses. Hundreds gather to celebrate one of the world’s greatest novels, on what may be one of the city’s greatest blocks. But don’t wait until next June to visit the 2000 block of Delancey Street, the Rosenbach museum is open to visitors six days a week.

Blocks We Love: 500 South 45th Street

The 500 block of South 45th Street is nestled right between Baltimore and Larchwood Avenues in the Spruce Hill neighborhood of West Philadelphia. A section of the city known for its strong record on preservation of historic architecture and tucked right around the corner from West Philadelphia’s gem, Clark Park, the initial appeal of this block is readily apparent.


Most of this neighborhood is dominated by West Philadelphia’s iconic Victorian twins, decked out in grand front porches, larger plots of land, and colorfully painted bay windows. The stretch of rowhomes covering the western side of this block of 45th street, however, are distinct in their smaller footprint and attached nature. These rowhomes are characterized by boxy, glassed-in sun rooms, each painted in it’s own vibrant color scheme.



One of the most remarkable aspects of the colorful, leafy, streetcar suburb now known as University City, which encompasses Spruce Hill, is how each home is adorned in its own unique color pattern, yet no semblance of clashing hues ensues.


This row of houses follows a consistent pattern from one end to the other of alternating sets of four. The first set consists of gabled roofs while the second set sports a sort of mock-mansard roof with a semi-circular panel in the middle. Each home has the aforementioned glassed in sun room, a third story tripartite window, and, in keeping with West Philadelphia architectural tradition, a front bay window, in this case on the second story.






This block is memorable not only for its unique and striking aesthetics, but also for its proximity to much of the burgeoning activity in University City, notably Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania, the magnificent and expansive Clark Park, and countless restaurants and cafes. In fact, the block is bookended by dining options, with the lauded Marigold Kitchen on the north end and popular Milk & Honey Cafe to the south.


The mix of larger homes, lawns and porches, and ever more popular Clark Park with large universities, plenty of food and nightlife, and abundant shops and businesses presents residents with the best of both worlds – an active urban environment paired with spaciousness and greenery.


We love this block because it’s so one-of-a-kind in a neighborhood already bursting with character, and it is nestled right in the heart of so much that makes University City vibrant and distinctive.

Blocks We Love: 1500 Block of East Montgomery Avenue

The stretch of Montgomery Avenue right off of Fishtown’s main drag holds all of the charm and historicism that one comes to expect from a Philadelphia street. Not only does this block provide a solid sampling of grand, three-story row houses with well-preserved architectural detail and ample trees lining the sidewalks, it also has, not one, but two notable churches in its ranks.

When you first turn onto this street from Frankford Avenue, you are confronted with the block’s cornerstone: a striking rowhome with a two story square bay window and turret along the side, both clad in a blue-green matching that of the cornice. This house sets the tone for the rest of the row, all sporting simply decorated, well maintained cornices of varying colors and classic brownstone lintels.

Across the street stands the East Montgomery Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church, originally built in 1875 and converted into apartments in the early 2000s. The sandstone church is of a relatively modest design, but the red doors and window trim, both of which are in a pointed formation, recall a gothic style distinct to church design in the late 19th century.

The conversion of the inactive church into lofts was markedly ahead of its time. Many regard this transformation as a forebear to the current trend of preserving defunct churches by converting them to apartments, single-family residences, or workplaces. This early innovation was a large part of what saved Methodist Episcopal from demolition this past spring when a developer planned to build new construction on the lot. Immense pushback from the community and preservationists quashed those plans. The building, a vital piece of the neighborhood’s history and the character of the block, still stands today.

A few doors down is another church, a simple stone construction, that is still active. Opened in 1894, the East Montgomery Atonement Lutheran Church remains a staple of community organizing and outreach, and provides numerous other resources in the neighborhood today.

East Montgomery Avenue jumps out among an abundance of historically relevant enclaves in Philadelphia. The street stands as a pillar of preservation in Fishtown, notable for its architectural style and grasp of the neighborhood’s roots and sense of community.

Blocks We Love: 700 North Bodine

Tucked away amongst the bustling commercial corridors, looming new condos, and new construction in progress on just about every street, one could easily miss the 700 block of North Bodine Street, an iconic mainstay of historic Northern Liberties.


Originally known as Brook Street, this narrow, secondary street was built upon a former streambed. During a period of expansion in the early 1800s, many streams were filled in to allow for more development in the area.


Today, while much of the formerly vacant land in Northern Liberties explodes into large, stylistically divergent new construction houses and condo buildings, Bodine Street harkens back to the style of 18th and 19th century Philadelphia.



Comparable to Old City’s famous Elfreth’s Alley, Bodine Street contains, in its short stretch, all of the charm that one associates with historic Philadelphia: classic narrow, three story homes with star bolts and anchor plates, colorful shutters, intact cornices, flags, and flower boxes. There is even a converted carriage house on the block, done up in a delightful pale yellow paint.


Bookending the block on the north end is an early 19th century neoclassical church, built by the architect William Strickland in 1815. Strickland, while not a Philadelphia native, is largely remembered for his numerous projects across the city. The church was originally built as St. John’s Episcopal, but, when the early 20th century saw high numbers of Romanian immigrants flocking to the neighborhood, the church split to serve two congregations.


Eventually, the Romanian cohort assumed full responsibility of the church, and in 1972 it became the Holy Trinity Roman Orthodox Church. This changeover is emblematic of how historic architecture can adapt and continue to serve changing neighborhoods and changing times in Philadelphia.


Rounding out the southern end of the block is another staple of the city’s past – a pedestrian-only residential court. Landing between Bodine and Third Streets, this off-road court consists of a series of trinity style homes.



If any block contains the imagery of historic Philadelphia most completely, it just might be this one. While one among many in a maze of tiny side streets and alleyways passing through the city’s larger blocks, we think Bodine Street really packs a punch when it comes to this city’s renowned architectural detail.  



Blocks We Love: 1800 West Girard Ave

Designed by Philadelphia architect Willis G. Hale in 1889, the houses at 1816-1834 West Girard Ave represent an iconic North Philadelphia style in the late 19th Century with ornate detailing, eccentric flair, and intriguing patterns.

The two sets of alternating mirror image pairs.

The houses are designed as sets of mirror image pairs that alternate between two facade variations. Each home shares some of the same qualities – three story construction done in brick with stone and wood trim, a triple pane window on the first floor with matching transoms, and a front door with a stone ogee arch frame and Tudor arched transom.

House numbers 1816-1818, 1824-1826, and 1832-1834 comprise the first form in the pattern with a third floor balcony and accompanying wrought-iron fencing set atop a second story bay window. Above the third floor windows and balcony are four blind Tudor arches.

Facade variation one with matching bay windows, balconies, and a quartet of Tudor style blind arches.

Setting the second variation in the pattern are the houses at 1820-1822 and 1828-1830 West Girard. These are constructed in a flatter format with a two bay facade arrangement on the second and third floors, continued from the first story. Each vertical pair of windows is separated by recessed panels and distinguished by diagonally laid bricks. The stringcourse along the bottom of the second story windows mirrors the continuous cornice line across the entire row. In contrast to the other facades in the series, these homes are topped with three blind ogee arches.

The second facade variation (top and bottom), with recessed panels, diagonally laid bricks, a blind ogee arch trio, and a continuous stone stringcourse along the second story windows.

Willis G. Hale, perhaps most widely known for his design of the Divine Lorraine Hotel on North Broad Street, was favored by prominent Philadelphia street-car moguls Peter A. B. Widener and William L. Elkins which led to the architect’s choice position among the city’s nouveau riche.

These homes on the 1800 block of West Girard Ave, while notable for their exotic articulation and unique flourish, were likely inhabited by middle-class families, as suggested by their scale, typical of middle-class dwelling construction in the area during the late 19th century.

With the construction of Girard College between 1833-1847 and the prominence of horse car lines, this corridor began its rise as a busy and fashionable thoroughfare as early as the first half of the century. Not only was the juncture of Girard and Ridge Avenues significant commercially, the advent of cable and electric streetcars in the 1880s sealed the fate of Girard as a major transportation thoroughfare by the end of the century.

While much of the industry and commercial activity that dominated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries has since departed the area, the five-way intersection is still a busy one today with high traffic Girard & Ridge Avenues and the 15 trolley line.

As construction for all classes also picked up in the 1880s, aided by the new ease of transportation and the presence of both civic institutions and industry jobs, the position of this block of houses at an increasingly busy and commercialized intersection helped maintain a vital commercial-civic-residential mix at this hub of the neighborhood.

A close-up of the unique arch style that adorns these houses.

Since these houses are protected on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places we don’t have to worry about losing their distinctive design, and it will be interesting to see what sort of uses and cosmetic fixes descend upon the series of rowhomes in the upcoming years. Given the changing landscape of the surrounding neighborhoods of Francisville,  Fairmount, and Brewerytown – with new construction, rehabilitation projects, and businesses flocking to the area – it will be exciting to watch how the architecture of Hale’s homes blends in with surrounding developments.

While new construction in the city more often than not reflects a departure from the understated grandeur of these late 19th century homes, perhaps the style and historic significance of the homes will bear influence on the modernizing built environment in this part of Philadelphia.

Sitting at the eastern end of Hale’s stretch of houses, and built just before in 1886, the Northwestern National Bank bank was done in a High Victorian style by Otto C. Wolf. Wolf more widely known for his prolific resume of brewery constructions. The bank was later transformed into the Smith Baptist Chapel and remains open today.

Blocks We Love: 1900 Block of Waverly Street

Step right up…and up and up the unusual 9-step front stoops of the whimsically tall and narrow houses on the 1900 block of Waverly Street! Deeply historic, wonderfully urban, this block is one of the most unique in Philadelphia, in both appearance and in backstory. Step right up to step back in time!

The 1900 block of Waverly Street is comprised of 16 rowhomes, each 14 feet wide by 20 feet deep, with the above-mentioned elevated stoops accommodating a raised basement kitchen at street level.

Waverly is barely the width of a sedan, with no street parking. The skinny stature of the street adds to the Seussian nature of the block. But the Seuss comparisons stop there, as the properties themselves are a classic brick with stately window shutters and decorative elements.

The narrow cartway of the 1900 block of Waverly
The narrow cartway of the 1900 block of Waverly

When these properties were built in 1862, the street was called Ringgold Place, after Colonel Samuel Ringgold. Stone inlays bearing that name can still be seen on the corner properties. Construction during the Civil War era necessitated the small size and simple design of the houses, due to the scarcity of materials in wartime.

The small size was also due to their original use as workers’ housing, likely for the Berkshire Cotton Mill located on the next block at 20th Street and Ringgold Place.

Ringold Place sign context
The original street name, Ringgold Place, can still be seen on this ingraved, inlaid stone sign on a corner property

While 1,000 square feet may seem petite for one family, it is possible that multiple families may have occupied each rowhouse on Ringgold Place! The multiple door (basement and first floor) entries lend themselves to subdivision, and the tendency at the time was to squeeze workers into small quarters and to make the most out of existing housing stock.

A rendering of Berkshire Mills - the houses on 1900 Waverly were likely built to house its workers
A rendering of Berkshire Mills – the houses on 1900 Waverly were likely built to house its workers

By 1895 the Berkshire Mills was closed, and the homes promptly transformed into more fashionable abodes, largely encouraged by the growing influence of Rittenhouse Square.

In 1925, architect George Howe purchased the block, and proceeded to update the properties, clean the facades, and added some decorative elements. The corner property of 1900 Waverly served as his office while working on his acclaimed PSFS building. He sold the homes in 1934.

Ringgold Place formally changed to Waverly Street sometime between 1895-1942, and the block was added National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

City Paper founder Bruce Schimmel and graphic designer Kate Maskar lived on the block from 1983 to 1995, and recount that the street wasn’t always tree-lined. “There were no trees- we had a barbeque fundraiser to purchase and plant trees on the block,” Schimmel recalls.

Today, much of the significant historic charm remains with their classic brick exteriors, raised basement-level kitchens, wood detailing, built-in features, and a wood-burning fireplace. Of it’s density, Schimmel remarks, “It seems close, but there’s intimacy…with privacy. Best stoops in the city.”

Doorways to the raised basement-level kitchens, with whimsically tall stoops arching above them
Doorways to the raised basement-level kitchens, with whimsically tall stoops arching above them

The properties simultaneously have modern appeal with a 2 bed/2.5 bath ratio,  granite counter tops,  and stainless steel appliances.

Moreover, these petite properties remain a relatively affordable sliver of Rittenhouse Square. In recent years properties have sold for less than $500,000, a steal considering prices in the area!

Historic rendering of Berkshire Mills image courtesy of The Necessity for Ruins.

Blocks We Love: 700 Block of Miller Street

One of Philadelphia’s few remaining “residential courts” can be found tucked away in the heart of Fishtown. Historically known as Miller Court, the 700 block of Miller Street makes for a vibrant and picturesque little block.

Residential courts were once a mainstay of Philadelphia’s historic architecture and urban design.

A handful of these residential courts are still scattered throughout the City, largely unnoticed by most passersby. Fishtown is home to eight of them.

Miller Court consists of five houses, each one painted a different bright, bold color. Several sport a small, picket-fenced front yard.

While the court may get passed over by those walking down the larger thoroughfares that flank this petite block, those that take notice are in for a treat; stumbling upon this charming row of homes is like being transported into a storybook.

The contemporary, candy-colored facades of the 700 block of Miller Street
The contemporary, candy-colored facades of the 700 block of Miller Street

Today Miller Court sports a single row of five homes, but up through the 1960s there was a row of five homes mirroring those still standing. The schoolyard of the Holy Name of Jesus Parish at 701 Gaul Street now occupies the space where those rowhomes once stood.

The Holy Name schoolyard now occupies the southeastern side of the block where five additional rowhomes once stood
The Holy Name schoolyard now occupies the southeastern side of the block where five additional rowhomes once stood

According to historical maps of the area, this little block actually predates the larger, more complete 600 block of Miller Street, which supports two full rows of houses, vehicle access, sidewalks, and parking.

The pedestrian-only hideaway of 700 Miller Street first appeared in the 1875 Philadelphia Atlas as Ridley Ave. At this time the 600 block was still fully occupied by a large Malt House & Factory, the Gaul Estate, and a German Burial Ground.

1875 map of the block (Ridley Avenue at the time), which predated the 600 block, pictured here occupied by a factory, cemetery, and estate
1875 map of the block (Ridley Avenue at the time), which predated the 600 block, pictured here occupied by a factory, cemetery, and estate

By 1895, Miller Street (still Ridley Avenue at the time) was extended into the 600 block, and rowhomes were built on the site of the factory, cemetery, and estate. By 1910 the Philadelphia Atlas showed the street with its present day moniker, Miller Street.

This 1910 map shows Ridley Avenue renamed as Miller Street and its extension into the 600 block, running between East Montgomery and Berks Streets
This 1910 map shows Ridley Avenue renamed as Miller Street and its extension into the 600 block, running between East Montgomery and Berks Streets

Today, the five houses stand out as unique among the traditional Fishtown style of brick two-story rowhomes and present a series of cheery façades in a secret alcove of the neighborhood.

In the Internet era, we can even get a peak at their contemporary interiors! Recent listings show exposed brick, skylights, random-width pine flooring, sunny kitchens, and cozy bedrooms.


Historic maps courtesy of the Greater Philadelphia GeoHistory Network. Green and red facade photos courtesy of Trend MLS

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.