Home Improvements that Pay Off

If you’re a homeowner or landlord preparing to sell a property, consider which improvements will give you the best return on your investment. In this guide, we’ll cover some of the best renovation and home improvement projects that will add value to your property. Many of these upgrades will yield immediate benefits and enjoyment even if the sale date is years away.

Exterior: Consider Curb Appeal

Think of the exterior of your home as your profile picture. It’s the first thing prospective buyers and tenants see. Does it look attractive, safe, and well-lit? Or is the sidewalk cracked, the front door chipped and the siding in need of repair?

A brightly painted door, shutters, and planters add curb appeal to a brick Philly rowhome.
A brightly painted door, shutters, and planters add curb appeal to a brick Philly rowhome.

Repainting an old front door or replacing it with a new one will result in an instant return on investment. Especially if you also replace the exterior light fixture, repair damaged shingles, or have brickwork cleaned and re-pointed. If you have shutters, make sure they match your new front door, and consider adding window boxes.

When it comes to exterior siding, the material you use is a factor in not just curb appeal but selling price. Surprisingly, manufactured stone veneer in the front of the home yields a higher return on investment than vinyl or fiber-cement siding.

Vinyl Siding

Which Interior Home Improvement Projects Offer The Best Return on Investment?

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the top five projects that add the most value to the sale of your home are refinishing hardwood floors or installing new ones, upgrading insulation, adding a bathroom, renovating closets, and converting a basement to a living area.

Adding Livable Space

When it comes to adding livable square feet, don’t just think about your basement. Consider adding living space on top of your roof. Many Philly row houses are increasing their square footage by building up, not down. Besides increasing your property’s value, you are creating space for a home office, art studio, or enlarged master bedroom.

Refinishing or Replacing Floors

Refinishing hardwood floors or installing new hardwood yields over 100% cost recovery when you sell.  However, luxury vinyl tile and luxury faux-wood vinyl plank flooring are equally popular and offer equally high returns on investment.  Not all vinyl is soft, and some offer extreme scratch-resistant and pet-proofing qualities.  By contrast, carpeting, laminate flooring, and linoleum offer a lower return. 

Upgrading The Kitchen

Instead of totally renovating the kitchen, think about a kitchen remodel at half the cost. Just replace cabinet doors, hardware, and countertops. Adding Energy Star appliances will start saving electricity costs as soon as you plug them in.

Another way to add value to your home and reduce energy bills is to install insulated vinyl windows that retain heat in the winter and keep it out in the summer. Plus, new windows instantly make a property appear desirable. 

Unless your bathroom hasn’t been upgraded in over twenty years, you may be able to do just lower-cost cosmetic improvements such as replacing shower doors and painting. If the fixtures are old and inefficient, however, you’ll want to replace them.

Energy Efficiency

Take advantage of the home energy audits offered by PECO and PGW, which can help you prioritize improvements that will save you money while keeping the environment in mind. Starting in 2023, the energy-efficient home improvement tax credit offers credit for up to 30% of your expenses, capped at the limits below, for energy-efficient home improvements. 

  • Exterior doors ($250 per door, $500 total)
  • Exterior windows and skylights ($600 total)
  • Insulation and air sealing ($600 total)

Air sealing and insulation are just some ways you can improve energy efficiency in your home or investment property. For a list of 5 energy-efficient improvements to consider check out our article.

Kensington Yards

All of these improvements ultimately pay for themselves by increasing the sale price of your property, but that doesn’t mean you should put them off until you are ready to sell. Consider the benefits of making these changes while you can still enjoy them, along with your lower energy costs.

Architectural Luminaries of Philadelphia

When it comes to world-class architects and architectural styles, Philly has a rich history. From 19th Century Colonial design through 20th Century modernism, our City is a showcase of outstanding architectural luminaries. While this list isn’t exhaustive, we encourage you to use this guide to acquaint yourself with some of the great architects who have shaped our beloved city of Philadelphia and beyond.


Benjamin Latrobe – Known as the “Father of American Architecture, Benjamin Latrobe (1764-1820) was born in England and came here in 1796. He was a NeoClassical architect, known for designing the Bank of Pennsylvania, America’s first Greek Revival building, which was destroyed 60 years later. He also designed the South Wing of the U.S. Capitol and the Old Baltimore Cathedral (aka Baltimore Basilica) the first cathedral in the nation.

Benjamin Latrobe’s Bank of Pennsylvania, from the 4th edition of William Birch’s Views of Philadelphia, 1827–8.

William Strickland – A student of Latrobe, William Strickland (November 1788 – April 6, 1854), was a proponent of the Greek Revival style. He designed the Second Bank of the United States, 420 Chestnut St.; the Merchants Exchange, 143 S. Third St.; Independence Hall, 520 Chestnut St.; Old City Hall, 5th & Chestnut; St. Peter’s Church 3rd & Pine St.; and Walnut Street Theater, 9th & Walnut.  

William Strickland’s work: Philadelphia Merchant’s Exchange. Image: Bruce Andersen, Encyclopedia Britannica.


Frank Furness – A master of Victorian architecture, Frank Furness (1839-1912), designed over 600 buildings, including the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Broad & Cherry St.; Fisher Fine Arts Library, 220 S. 34th St.; Ritz Carlton Hotel, Broad and Chestnut; Centennial National Bank, 32nd and Market (now the Paul Peck Center of Drexel University); the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia, 2125 Chestnut St; and the Baldwin School in Bryn Mawr, originally designed as a resort hotel in 1890. These are just a sampling of Furness buildings, homes and interiors to be found throughout Greater Philadelphia 

Gilded Age

Horace Trumbauer – A native Philadelphian, Horace Trumbauer (1868-1938) is most well-known for the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  However, he also designed palatial estates for the wealthy robber barons of his day, such as the Georgian-style 110-room Lynnewood Hall in Elkins Park and Grey Towers Castle in Glenside now the campus of Arcadia University. He also worked with developers to design homes for many middle-class planned communities, including the Overbrook Farms.

Lynnewood Hall. Image: Wikimedia Commons
Lynnewood Hall. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Julian Abele Julian Abele (1881-1950) was the first African American to graduate from Penn’s School of Architecture in 1898. He apprenticed Trumbauer and worked with him on the Philadelphia Museum of Art, then went on to design the Central Free Library, Penn’s President’s House, Harvard’s Library, and many buildings at Duke University.

Horace Trumbauer and Julian Abele perusing an architecture book in the mid 1930's. Image: Free Library.
Horace Trumbauer and Julian Abele perusing an architecture book in the mid 1930s. Image: Free Library.


George HoweGeorge Howe (1886-1995) introduced the International style to Philadelphia in his 1932 design of the PSFS building, 12th & Market, now a Lowes Hotel. It was considered to be the first truly modern building, not just in our City, but in the nation. He later collaborated with Louis Kahn and Oskar Stonorov.

Louis KahnLouis Kahn (1901-1974) is best known in Philadelphia for his creation of the Richards Medical Research Laboratories, 3700 Hamilton Walk on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, and Esherick House, 204 Sunrise Lane in Chestnut Hill. He is internationally revered for the Salk Institute in La Jolla, CA, and his 1982 floating National Assembly Building in Bangladesh.

Margaret Esherick House
Margaret Esherick House. Image: Jeffrey Totaro via Docomomo.

Edmund Bacon – Known as the “Father of Modern Philadelphia,” as well as the actual father of actor Kevin Bacon, Edmund Bacon (1910-2005), served as Executive Director of the Philadelphia Planning Commission. He was the driving force behind the creation of Penn Center, Market East, Penn’s Landing, Society Hill, Independence Mall, and the Far Northeast – all of which removed large segments of the City in order to bring it into modernity.

Photo of Bacon with a model of Society Hill Towers (about 1960). Edmund N. Bacon Collection.
Photo of Bacon with a model of Society Hill Towers (about 1960). Edmund N. Bacon Collection.

Oskar Stonorov – Oskar Stonorov was a German Jewish immigrant who managed to flee Germany in 1929, just before the rise of Hitler. He worked with Philadelphia architects Louis Khan, George Howe, and Robert Venturi on many projects. In 1954, Stonorov was chosen by the Quakers as “the most socially minded architect in Philadelphia” for his redevelopment of Fairmount Avenue. His mid-century modern apartment buildings include Hopkinson House, 607 S. Washington Square; Casa Fernase, 13th & Lombard; and Cherokee Apts, McCallum St & Wolcott Drive in Chestnut Hill.

Post Modern

Robert Venturi – Robert Venturi and his wife Denise Scott Brown are among the major architectural figures of the 20th Century. Venturi served as Louis Kahn’s teaching assistant at the University of Pennsylvania School of Architecture and went on to teach at Yale and Harvard. He is best known for the post-modern Vanna Venturi House in Chestnut Hill, built for his mother in the early 1960s, and Guild House, 711 Spring Garden St.

The Guild House in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, designed by Robert Venturi, on Spring Garden Street and 7th. Image: Smallbones, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons.
The Guild House in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, designed by Robert Venturi, on Spring Garden Street and 7th. Image: Smallbones, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Romaldo GiurgolaRomaldo Giurgola (1920-2016) was an Italian architect who taught architecture at Penn before becoming chair of the Columbia Architecture Department in 1966. Along with Khan, Venturi, and other contemporary architects, Giurgola was considered part of the Philadelphia School of architecture. His buildings in Philadelphia include the Penn Mutual Tower, INA Tower, and United Fund Headquarters. 

Romaldo Giurgola. Image: Arquitectura Viva


Eugene Kohn – Contemporary architecture is a combination of many styles, including high-tech, deconstructivism, neoclassicism, and sculptural. The term high tech may be applied to buildings designed by architect Eugene Kohn, a native Philadelphian whose internationally acclaimed firm, KPF,  is based in New York City. Kohn’s local work includes Arthaus, the 47-story glass tower, 301 S. Broad St.; the 60-floor Four Seasons, 1 N. 19th St.; Children’s Hospital; and a new terminal at the Philadelphia Airport.

ArtHaus Condominiums. Image: Arthouse phila.
Eugene Kohn’s ArtHaus Condominiums. Image: Arthouse Phila.

Looking Ahead

A city with Philadelphia’s rich architectural history needs to focus on the balance between preservation, sustainability, and the long-term health impact of the built environment. If the recent expansion of the Schuylkill River Trail and green spaces along the Delaware River is any indication, we are hopefully headed in the right direction.

Want to learn more about Philadelphia’s architecture? Check out our articles on Beaux Arts architecture, the reuse of historic bank buildings, or find out about 5 Philly architectural details hiding in plain sight.

Neighborhood Histories: Pennsport

One of the oldest parts of Philly, Pennsport, is also one of the least understood, but that’s about to change. Major investment in its waterfront, revitalization of its neighborhoods, and an influx of new small businesses, eateries, and bars are shining a new light on this section of the City. Read this guide to learn its history and discover what makes Pennsport a great place for renters, homeowners, and a night on the town.

Pennsport Neighborhood Badge illustrated by Greg Dyson.


 Pennsport was originally Lenape land known as Moyamensing which means “place of judgment” or “place of pigeon droppings,” depending on your intonation. Today, it is bordered by the Delaware River to the east, 4th Street to the west, Washington Avenue to the north, and Snyder Avenue to the south. In 1684, the Dutch turned the area over to the British, but it wasn’t incorporated into the City of Philadelphia until 1854. Its access to the River made it a natural center of shipbuilding and trade, as well as a location for troops during the Revolution. In 1801 the country’s first naval yard opened on the Delaware River at the end of Federal Street. 

Old Swedes Church. Image: National Park Service

Pennsport is also home to Old Swedes Church (Gloria Dei), 929 South Water Street. Founded in 1700, it is the oldest brick building in Philadelphia, the oldest church in Pennsylvania, and the oldest congregation in continuous existence in the United States. In the adjacent cemetery are sea captains and Revolutionary War soldiers.

If your ancestors were immigrants, chances are they arrived in Philadelphia via the Washington Avenue Immigration Station, now Pier 53. This was where over one and a half million Eastern European Jews, Italians, and Irish first set foot on American soil from 1873-1915. 

Mummer’s Parade. Image: Kevin Burkett via Wikimedia Commons

In 1901, a thriving Irish community started the annual New Year’s Parade that is now known as the Mummers. Previously, a blue-collar neighborhood, Pennsport became known as “Two Street” to its predominantly Irish residents. Today, South 2nd Street is still the place to catch the Mummers strut their stuff following the Parade on New Year’s Day. South 2nd St. is also where you’ll find many Mummers Clubs and the Mummers Museum, 1100 S. 2nd St. Visit the Museum to learn how to do the Mummers strut and view their elaborate costumes.

If you think Eastern State Penitentiary is scary, you’ve never seen Pennsport’s most notorious landmark, Moyamensing Prison. Built in the Gothic fortress style at Passyunk and Reed in 1832, one of its most famous overnight guests was Edgar Allan Poe who was detained there for insobriety. The prison was demolished in 1968 to make way for the Acme Market Shopping Center. Moyamensing was renamed Pennsport in the early 1970s when the former working-class neighborhood transitioned into a middle-class community.

Waterfront Attractions

In 2014 Pier 52 at Washington Ave and Columbus Blvd reopened as Washington Avenue Pier after a $2.15 million renovation. This public space protects the surrounding wetlands with eco-friendly plantings and an elevated boardwalk from which to capture panoramic views. Adults and children will enjoy climbing the 55-foot spiral staircase Land Buoy by artist Jody Pinto which honors the immigrants who arrived via this Pier.  

A mile and a half from Washington Avenue Pier you can also find Pier 68 which has been transformed into a waterfront oasis ideal for fishing, lounging, and embracing nature. Serving as the southern terminus of the Delaware River Trail, this is a great picnic space with trees and greenery in addition to river views.

Green Space

Jefferson Square Park. Photo by M. Fischetti for Visit Philadelphia.

Jefferson Square Park

300 Washington Avenue, was originally constructed in the early 19th century when the area was part of the Village of Southwark. During the Civil War, the park was used by the Union Army as an encampment site.  Thanks to urban revitalization in 2002 which replaced decaying homes surrounding the park with new homes, a renovation of the park began in 2007. Today, the community hosts a monthly clean-up of the park on the second Saturday of the month.

Dickinson Square Park. Photo by M. Fischetti for Visit Philadelphia
Dickinson Square Park. Photo by M. Fischetti for Visit Philadelphia

Dickinson Square Park

1600 E. Moyamensing Avenue, features a playground, chess tables, basketball, and shade trees with three acres of classic turn-of-the-century park design, dating back to 1900.

Food & Drink

Here are a few of our favorite restaurants and bars in Pennsport today:

  • Ginza Sushi & Ramen, 1100 S. Front St. is is the hot spot for Sashimi, “Lobster Cha Cha Roll,” Poke Bowls, Ramen and Noodles.
  • Pho Saigon, 1100 S. Christopher Columbus Blvd., Vietnamese food and drink featuring Pho, Buns, Rice Noodle Soups, Bubble Tea, and Vietnamese Coffee.
  • Grindcore House, 1515 S 4th St, is an all-vegan heavy metal-themed coffee house serving delicious coffee, beer, and pastries.
  • Pennsport Beer Boutique, 242 Wharton, offers 500 varieties of beer plus a year-round, heated, outdoor beer garden.

While adjacent neighborhoods are awash with construction, hip eateries, and new bars, Pennsport remains a quiet family neighborhood where you can still find great rental and homeownership values, along with that most desired commodity in South Philly – a parking space! If you would like to know more about purchasing a home or investing in Pennsport, drop us a note.

This blog post is part of a series titled Neighborhood Histories where we discuss the history of our beloved Philadelphia neighborhoods, their architecture, and communities. We’ve written about FrancisvilleFitler SquareRittenhouseNorthern Liberties, and more. Have a favorite Philly neighborhood you’d like us to write about next? Let us know!

Holiday Traditions: Light Shows, Celebrations and Things To Do in Philadelphia

This is the season when Philly turns on the bright lights and there are exciting holiday events all over town! From City Hall to South Philly, from the Zoo to the Delaware River, you’ll find day and nighttime magic in the city this month. Whatever your usual holiday traditions and celebrations are, we hope you will add some new ones this year and take advantage of all Philadelphia has to offer. 

Smedley Street Spectacular

Not to be outdone, for 50 years the 2700 block of South Smedley Street has been known for its Christmas Lights Spectacular. From blow-up decorations to trees covered in lights, these neighbors do festive nights right. New for 2022: candy cane lane archways, teardrop lights, and Olaf from Frozen in the trees. Don’t miss the chance for big bear hugs in the white-picket-fence-enclosed Santa’s Workshop. Again, after the light show, keep the party going by heading up to East Passyunk for drinks, dinner, and even Santa sightings.

Macy’s Christmas Light Show, Image: J Fusco, Visit Philadelphia

Macy’s Christmas Light Show

Generations have attended this annual holiday display of lights and music in the Grand Court of Macy’s going back decades since it was known as Wanamaker’s. Characters from the Nutcracker and Frosty the Snowman dance to a soundtrack from the famous Wanamaker Organ narrated by Julie Andrews. 13Th & Market St.

Dilworth Park & City Hall Celebrations

Don’t miss the Deck The Hall Light Show on the western facade of City Hall every hour from 5-9 pm each night as stunning technicolor projections are synchronized to sound effects.  While there, lace up your skates and take a spin on the Rothman Orthopaedics Ice Rink in Dilworth Park and visit the Made in Philadelphia Holiday Market, locally made arts and crafts, Friday-Sunday on the west side of City Hall. For kids, there is a double-decker Christmas Carousel, Ferris Wheel, and a train.

Christmas Village in LOVE Park

This open-air European wonderland returns for 2022 with more than 110 different vendors set up in brand-new wooden huts. Modeled after an open-air German Christmas market, here you’ll find local and international gifts such as ornaments, accessories, and wintry apparel, along with sandwiches, spiced wine, apple cider, strudels, and more seasonal treats. LOVE Park, 15th & Arch Streets

Comcast Center

The Comcast Holiday Spectacular is a free 15-minute seasonal show on one of the world’s largest continuous LED video walls. It features impressive visuals, sing-along holiday tunes, and performances from the Philadelphia Ballet. The show kicks off at the top of every hour from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day. Want a bite? Visit the Food Court on the lower level featuring Philly’s favorite eateries. Also back from 2022 is The Universal Sphere, a free cinematic experience (advanced reservations encouraged) created by Steven Spielberg, DreamWorks Animation, 1701 John F. Kennedy Boulevard. 

Franklin Square Light Show

PECO presents a free show featuring more than 200,000 twinkling lights, running every 30 minutes from 5 p.m. until closing. Food, local brews, and hot beverages at Ben’s Sweets and Treats plus, outdoor fire pits and an indoor heated tent; Chilly Philly Mini Golf; and the Liberty Carousel. 200 N. 6th St.

Menorah lighting at the Betsy Ross House in Old City. Image: Betsy Ross House
Menorah lighting at the Betsy Ross House in Old City. Image: Betsy Ross House

Betsy Ross House Menorah Lighting

On December 18 at 4:30 pm head to Old City for a community menorah lighting celebrating the first night of Hanukkah. The Old City Jewish Arts Center and Betsy Ross House will join together to light the menorah and will offer traditional Jewish foods like latkes and doughnuts. 239 Arch St.

Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest. Image: Delaware River Waterfront
Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest. Image: Delaware River Waterfront

Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest

Visit Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest, the City’s largest outdoor ice skating rink and you’ll encounter lots of twinkling lights, a holiday tree, warming cabins, and fire-pit stations — all while overlooking the Delaware River. Plus, there are carnival games and holiday markets on select dates. 101 S. Christopher Columbus Boulevard 

LumiNature at the Philadelphia Zoo.Photo: Georgi Anastasov Photography
LumiNature at the Philadelphia Zoo.Photo: Georgi Anastasov Photography

LumiNature: Philadelphia Zoo Multimedia Spectacle

The Zoo lights up at night with more than 1 million holiday lights in 14 distinct zones. New displays include a 15-foot-tall glowing blue gorilla and an under-the-sea-inspired holiday tree, plus familiar favorites like a 100-foot-long aquarium tunnel and a 21-foot-tall brilliantly bright snake. Timed tickets are required. 3400 W. Girard Ave.

Chanukah on the Avenue

Starting at 3pm on December 18, East Passyunk Avenue in South Philadelphia will host their annual Chanukah extravaganza at The Singing Fountain. This family-friendly event will have activities for kids and adults of all ages. At 4:30pm they will have a “make-your-own” chanukah lantern and story time for kids. At 5pm, the festivities will kick off with live music, chanukah games, a menorah lighting and more. Passyunk Ave And 11th St.

Boat House Row Holiday Lights

The historic rowing clubs of Boathouse Row constantly change their colored lights, celebrating Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa. Two great spots to catch the colors: Fairmount Water Works or driving along West River Drive.

Miracle on South 13th St. Image: Guide to Philly
Miracle on South 13th St. Image: Guide to Philly

Miracle on South 13th Street

Starting Thanksgiving weekend, the 1600 block of South 13th Street, between Morris and Tasker, goes all out with holiday lights, garlands, inflatable snowmen, and other fun decorations. For more than 20 years, this annual display outshines every other neighborhood earning the name: The Miracle on South 13th Street. Located within walking distance from popular East Passyunk Avenue restaurants like Barcelona Wine Bar and Cantina Los Caballitos.

One of our personal favorites, Miracle on 13th street is a true community-run holiday display put on by a group of neighbors for the neighborhood to enjoy. A true testament to the holiday spirit in Philadelphia and a lovely way to bring people together. Solo Real Estate wishes you a happy holiday with your family and loved ones.

Why You Should Renovate and Restore: A Case For Historic Preservation

Many Philadelphia homes and neighborhoods have been designated for historic preservation. What does that mean for homeowners? If you have an older home that has not yet received a historic designation, what are your obligations? We spoke with experts in Philadelphia to get their perspectives on the topic of historic preservation in our city.

“Historic preservation is about stewardship and pride,” said Robert P. Thomas, founding partner of Campbell Thomas & Co., an award-winning firm of architects and planners dedicated to sustainability, community, and preservation. “Buildings are part of a community and it’s the key to the success of a block. The goal is to integrate modern needs with a historic property.”

Thomas recalls renovating his Powelton Village home with his wife in 1978. “We got a tremendous amount of space with fireplaces, mantels, and moldings in what had previously been a building containing three slum apartments.” The result was an affordable property accessible to the City in what is now a historically designated neighborhood. “Since the 1980s, Powelton has been nationally registered. Now, we are in the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places. That protects homes from demolition and offers tax credits on rehabbing rental properties,” he said. 

Thomas and his partner James Campbell took the same approach to their office at 1504 South Street which had been just a shell when they bought it. “It had previously been The Postcard Club, a black jazz club in the 1940s. I always advise people there’s an edge in real estate. Go two blocks beyond the edge to find the best values,” said Thomas. 

To better understand the benefits of historic preservation, consider some of the many projects Thomas led. He restored the 95-year-old, five-story mansion at 4150 Parkside Avenue in West Philly which had suffered a partial collapse, turning it into 18 modern, affordable apartments with stunning architectural detail. Thomas applied the same restoration and preservation techniques to The Brentwood Apartments, a German Baroque building at 4120 Parkside Avenue which the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission termed one of the most ambitious rehabilitation it has ever overseen. It is now used for senior housing.

4150 Parkside Ave.
4150 Parkside Ave.

However, it was Thomas’ plan to build an entire block of solar homes for National Temple Community Development Corporation on the 1500 block of Thompson Street that caused the Redevelopment Authority to question his logic. “They couldn’t imagine it would work but it did,” he said. Those first-time homebuyers never received bills from PECO because all their homes faced south and lined up with the solar grid.

Thomas credits Philadelphia Mayor Kenny with creating a task force on historic preservation. “There are tremendous resources for homeowners, including the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia which offers seminars and classes. University City Historic Society also has programs and many area contractors have programs open to the public. 

What can the Preservation Alliance do for you?

The Preservation Alliance’s Neighborhood Preservation Program has been helping Philadelphia residents discover their neighborhood history by identifying landmarks and architectural characteristics that give their neighborhood its own unique sense of place. 

The Drake Tower. Image: John W. Cahill
The Drake Tower. Image: John W. Cahill

The Alliance’s easement program preserves historically certified properties and residences, such as the Drake Tower in Center City, the Alden Park Apartments in Germantown, and more than 240 other historic properties. Current and all future owners of a property protected by an Alliance preservation easement promise not to demolish or inappropriately alter, and to maintain the historic character of the property. In 2011, the Alliance published How to Look at Your Neighborhood: A Guide for Community Organizations

Alden Park. Image: Graboeyes.com
Alden Park Apartments. Image: Graboyes.com

What does it mean if your home is registered as historic?

Listing on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places protects a building from adverse alteration and unnecessary demolition. Listing on the National Register of Historic Places can provide financial incentives for rehabilitation. 

About those financial incentives – the Pennsylvania legislature recently passed the Whole-Home Repairs Act, a new program designed to assist residents and landlords to preserve older homes while creating jobs. The Whole-Home Repairs Program was introduced by Pennsylvania State Senator Nikil Saval and passed into law in July 2022 with an unprecedented $ 125 million appropriation in the 2022–2023 state budget.  This program is the first of its kind in the nation. Applications for the Whole-Home Repairs Program are coming in Spring/Summer 2023.

Historic Victorian in Spruce Hill designed in 1886 by architects George Watson Hewitt and William Dempster Hewitt.
Historic Victorian in Spruce Hill designed in 1886 by architects George Watson Hewitt and William Dempster Hewitt

Get More Information on Historic Properties

You can learn how to research properties on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places. You can also contact the commission at (215) 686-7660 or preservation@phila.gov. It’s important to note that the local register is different from the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). The NRHP is a nationwide list maintained by the National Park Service. However, your property could be listed on both registers. For a guide on how to research your Philadelphia home’s history read our article.

To learn more about the impact of historic preservation in Philadelphia, the Preservation Alliance offers private, group, and self-guided walking tours in many historic areas of the City. Saturdays & Sundays, May-Oct.

Historic preservation is of particular interest to Solo Real Estate’s broker and owner Deborah Solo, who studied architecture. Deborah took several classes with John Milner who also does historic preservation projects and taught at the University of Pennsylvania while she was getting her master’s in architecture. Interested in investing in a historic property or want to talk about architecture and historic preservation with Deborah? Drop us a note!

FABSCRAP: Philly’s Textile Recycling Center

First came Slow Fashion, a global movement championing concern for the environment over cheap, disposable goods made by underpaid foreign workers. But how can we counter the constantly rising tide of textiles from American manufacturers of clothing, drapes, upholstery, and bedding?  The answer is FABSCRAP, a textile recycling center located at the Bok Building, 1901 S 9th St.

Originally launched in 2016 in Brooklyn to meet New York City’s commercial textile recycling needs, FABSCRAP, a 501(c) 3 nonprofit, is celebrating its one-year anniversary at its Philly warehouse this November. 

“The concept was started by FABSCAP founder and CEO, Jessica Schreiber, who was working in New York City’s Municipal Waste Department and noticing that manufacturers wanted to recycle their textile waste,” said Haven DeAngelis, Philly Reuse Coordinator. Materials that traditionally would have gone to the landfill are now being properly recycled and made available for reuse.


The variety of fabrics available for sale at FABSCRAP is as diverse as the textiles used by the local brands that recycle. “In NYC, we have 700 brand partners. Here in Philadelphia, we have 27, including Urban Outfitters, QVC, J. Jill, and sustainable local brand Lobo Mau whose design studio is also at the Bok building. 60% is reusable and available for sale in our mini storefront and online. The other 40% is recycled into commercial insulation and carpet padding.” This means you will find a huge assortment of prints and solids, knits, corduroy, mesh, and just about every weight of fabric from tulle to leather. You can make an appointment to come to the warehouse to shop for scraps. Larger pieces are sold online. Smaller ScrapPacks for crafting, quilts, and doll clothes are also available. 

Reams of fabric at the FABSCRAP warehouse

Don’t see what you want online? Virtual shopping via Zoom is available in thirty-minute time slots for $75 minimum orders. Shopping appointments at the FABSCRAP Warehouse are one-hour time slots with a limit of one person per appointment. If you would like to shop with a partner, you will both need to register in advance.

“The service fee covers operational costs and allows us to give away fabric to students, artists, local designers, and crafters for reuse,” said DeAngelis who has her own side business, Stitch and Destroy, which upcycles used textiles into eco-friendly punk rock-inspired clothing.

The impact of FABSCRAP

Volunteer at FABSCRAP

“We offer volunteer sorting sessions and have a good group of repeat volunteers, including school groups and corporations,” said DeAngelis. “This month, Philly FABSCAP celebrates its one-year anniversary with a special volunteer sorting session that will include drinks, giveaways, and a party atmosphere.”

A graphic showing FABSCRAP’s process

Each session is three hours long with morning and afternoon sessions. They include an intro to FABSCRAP, how to sort fabric scraps, how to separate unusable scraps, and the process of removing staples or cardboard from swatches. After the session, you are welcome to 5 pounds of free fabric, plus a 30% volunteer discount on any additional material.

Attend a Workshop

Once a month, FabScrap Philly invites a creative professional to skill share with the community, offering both digital and in-person workshops. Past events include: Mend Your Knits, Intro to Patternmaking, and Mixed Media Embroidery. A donation of $10 is suggested to view recent demos on video. Have a craft skill to share? Fill out their online form to apply.

“I love working here and educating others about why we need to recycle clothing and textiles,” said DeAngelis. “Our goal is to provide these saved-from-landfill materials at an accessible and affordable rate to our community of makers.” 

Solo Real Estate congratulates FABSCRAP Philly on its one-year anniversary and welcomes their efforts to help our City achieve its sustainability goals.

Haunted Histories

Why visit a staged haunted house with ghost actors this Halloween, when you can explore some of Philadelphia’s many historic sites that locals believe to be haunted? You don’t have to be a professional Ghostbuster to enjoy these sites on your own or with a local walking tour company that can share both the site’s history as well as its hidden stories.

Solitude House. Image: Wikipedia
Solitude House at the Philadelphia Zoo. Image: Wikipedia

Philadelphia Zoo – 3400 W. Girard Ave.

The spooky happenings at the Zoo are not inside the animal enclosures. They are in the three houses built before the Zoo existed in West Fairmount Park and are now located inside the Philadelphia Zoo grounds. Solitude House, also known as the John Penn House, a Federal-style mansion built in the mid-1780s, is said to be haunted by the spirit of a woman in a long dress who stands at the top of the staircase. Zoo staff has reported seeing apparitions, the sound of music playing, and a light in the attic that likes to turn itself on. Other supposedly haunted buildings at the Zoo include the Treehouse Building, Pennrose Building, and the Shelly Building. 

American Philosophical Society. Image: Wikipedia.
American Philosophical Society. Image: Wikipedia.

American Philosophical Society – 105 S. 5th St.

The American Philosophical Society was founded in 1743 by Benjamin Franklin with the purpose of “promoting useful knowledge” and continues to support his original mission today.

Not all apparitions are scary. In death, as in life, the vivacious ghost of Benjamin Franklin has supposedly been seen climbing down from his statue above the door at the American Philosophical Society and wandering with an armload of books through the Philosophical Society Library and dancing in the streets. 

Christ Church Burial Grounds. Image: Visit Philly

Christ Church Burial Ground – 340 N. 5th St.

Want to spend more time with Franklin’s ghost? Head over to his grave at Christ Church Cemetery where it is rumored his playful spirit steals pocket change from visitors. Christ Church Burial Ground, established in 1719, contains 1,400 grave markers and is home to the graves of many famous Philadelphians.

Pennsylvania Hospital – 800 Spruce St.

Another ghost that is said to climb down from his statue is William Penn. He reportedly comes down from his pedestal and visits the garden of Pennsylvania Hospital, founded by Ben Franklin in 1751. Can’t blame him. This is one of the loveliest walled gardens in Center City.

Laurel Hill Cemetery – 3822 Ridge Ave. 

One of the oldest cemeteries in the nation, Laurel Hill Cemetery contains the graves of many of Philadelphia’s most notable citizens and according to some their ghosts too. Situated overlooking the Schuylkill River in Fairmount Park, the Cemetery offers a variety of tours in which you will learn about its infamous inhabitants and unusual monuments reported by visitors which include angels prying open caskets and lifting the deceased toward heaven.

Mutter Museum – 19 S. 22nd St.

Located inside the College of Physicians, the Mutter Museum is not for the faint of heart. Its exhibits contain an array of death masks and abnormal anatomical formations preserved in jars of formaldehyde, as well as 17th-century medical instruments. These specimens were collected by American surgeon Thomas Dent Mütter, MD, and were first exhibited in 1863. While the museum itself may not be haunted, it definitely fits the bill as a historic site with a scary past, and some suspect that several artifacts on display might indeed be haunted.

Baleroy Mansion. Image: Guide to Philly

Baleroy Mansion – 111 W. Mermaid Lane

Built in 1911, this 32-room estate in Chestnut Hill once earned the title “Most Haunted Home in America” due to many reports of paranormal activity.  Supposedly three people who sat in the same chair in the Blue Room died within two weeks. It is now believed that anyone who sits on a chair will die shortly after. The ghost of Thomas Jefferson is among the several ghosts believed to haunt this home. 

Eastern State Penitentiary at night. Image: Sean Kelly, courtesy of Eastern State Penitentary.

Eastern State Penitentiary – 2027 Fairmount Ave.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the famous Eastern State Penitentiary. Opened in 1829 as a “model” prison, Eastern Pennsylvania State Penitentiary was the first to enforce solitary confinement, putting prisoners in cells by themselves, under the mistaken belief that this would lead to rehabilitation. Tours of these bleak cells, which housed famous American mobsters such as Al Capone, are available throughout the year. However, in October and early November, the prison presents Halloween Nights, an immersive experience with five haunted houses, live music, and themed bars.

Whether you believe in ghosts or merely are a fan of Philadelphia history, we invite you to take one of the many self-guided or small group ghost tours of our City with Nightly Philly Ghost Tours, Ghost Tour, or Grim Philly Tours this October. You can also check out our “Secret Life of Buildings” series to learn about the history of Philadelphia’s charming alleys and historic sites like Boathouse Row, among others.

Family-Friendly Fall Activities in Philadelphia

The air is crisp, the sun is shining, and the leaves are just starting to turn — what a perfect time to take advantage of Philly’s many family-friendly activities! In this post, we’ll go over just a few ideas for fall events and activities in Philadelphia that are great options for families with kids.

Mural Arts Month

Common Ground / Espacio Compartido © 2022 City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program / Calo Rosa, Eakins Oval. Image by Steve Weinik.

October is Mural Arts Month in Philadelphia with family-friendly events all over the city, including mural painting for kids at the Please Touch Museum, Mural Arts Fest in Love Park, Self-Guided Mural Tours, and Trolley Tours. Come celebrate the over 2,000 murals that make Philly the “Painted City.”

Treetop Quest Philly

Pack a picnic lunch and take the kids, age 4 and up, to Treetop Quest, 51 Chamounix Drive in Fairmount Park, Philly’s first “aerial adventure park” with zip lines and obstacle courses that run through the trees. Once you’re equipped, they’ll teach you how to safely swing through each course as many times as you want for two and a half hours. While many of the activities are geared toward teens and adults, there’s plenty of fun for younger children. 

Philadelphia Zoo

Photo by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia

The Philadelphia Zoo is America’s first zoo and is renowned for innovation in animal care and commitment to wildlife. It also features Zoo360, a first-in-the-world aerial animal travel system, where tigers and orangutans saunter overhead in see-thru bridges overhead. Exhibits include Big Cat Falls, the McNeil Avian Center, the PECO Primate Reserve, and KidZooU, an interactive wildlife academy of dynamic displays, rare breeds, and indoor-outdoor learning. The zoo is also hosting its annual Boo at the Zoo event this month which features costumes and fall treats for kids of all ages.

Please Touch Museum 

As the name implied, this is a museum where kids are free to explore and touch everything! Housed in Fairmount Park’s Memorial Hall, this kid’s attraction includes two full floors of interactive exhibit zones plus a fully restored century-old carousel. Kids can play and pretend amid Alice’s Wonderland, River Adventures, and other hands-on fun. 

Franklin Institute

The region’s most popular science museum has a full city block of kid-friendly exhibitions, such as the iconic walk-through Giant Heart, Space Command, SportsZone, Sir Isaac’s Loft, Amazing Machine, Electricity, Train Factory, and Changing Earth. The museum’s 53,000-square-foot Nicholas and Athena Karabots Pavilion features the 8,500-square-foot exhibit Your Brain, along with rotating special exhibitions. The attraction also houses the Fels Planetarium. 

Franklin Square

Image: R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia

One of William Penn’s five original squares, Franklin Square, 200 N. 6th St, is a modern, fun park, with a Philly-themed miniature golf course, playground, carousel, and restored marble fountain. When hunger sets in, burgers, fries, and shakes are available on-site.

Adventure Aquarium

What’s more fun than viewing 15,000 aquatic animals?  Located just across the river at 1 Riverside Dr. in Camden, Adventure Aquarium has a Shark Bridge to cross, hippos and penguins to meet, and stingrays to touch. Plus a 760,000-gallon tank of sea turtles, stingrays, schooling fish, and sharks, including a seven-foot Great Hammerhead.  

Eastern State Penitentiary

Older kids and spooky-season teens will love the pre-Halloween tours of Philly’s nearly 200-year-old, supposedly haunted, prison at 2027 Fairmount Ave. Eastern State Penitentiary‘s annual fall offering Halloween Nights is an immersive experience featuring five haunted houses, live entertainment, and more. Recommended for kids 12 and older. Children under the age of seven are not permitted during Halloween Nights.

Spruce Street Harbor Park

Image courtesy Delaware River Waterfront Corporation via VisitPhilly

Spruce Street Harbor Park is an outdoor oasis on the Delaware River waterfront at 301 S. Columbus Blvd. Provides a waterfront view with tree-slung hammocks, cargo container arcades and food trucks from the City’s most popular restaurants is a delightful getaway for parents and children of all ages.

Woodmere’s Straw Maze

Located at 9201 Germantown Ave. in the Chestnut Hill section of the City, Woodmere Art Museum’s spectacular straw maze has returned to delight kids. After the kids explore their way through the straw tunnels and zigzag spaces, head inside the museum for an exciting children’s exhibition, Inspired by Nature since tickets to the maze include admission to Woodmere.  And for all your Thomas the Train fans, nearby, at Morris Arboretum,100 E. Northwestern Ave., the popular Garden Railway display is ready to roll. 

Philadelphia has so much to offer! We encourage you to use this guide to visit parts of our city that are new to you and your children. If you’re looking for more parks and outdoor destinations, read our story on Philly’s Best Parks, Arboretums & Gardens or explore the gardens from our Five Historic Philadelphia Gardens To Visit.

Renting Guide: How to Find The Perfect Rental in Philadelphia

Renting is a great way to get to know a new city and familiarize yourself with a neighborhood. It’s especially suited for people who prefer the convenience of city living and don’t want to deal with the maintenance of owning a home. In Philadelphia, renting has become increasingly popular, especially with higher mortgage rates and an uptick in home prices. However, like home buying, finding a rental has gotten very competitive in recent years. How do you navigate the increasingly complicated rental market? Here is a rental guide with some tips to make it easier.

Create a budget and stick to it

Looking for a rental is like looking for love. Sure, sparkling hardwood floors and new appliances may make your heart race, but it won’t last if monthly payments gobble up your savings. For most renters, spending 30% of their monthly income on a rental is the sweet spot. But if you have student loans, are saving to buy a home, expecting a baby, or paying down debt, consider looking for an apartment that only takes 20% of your income. Make sure to include one month’s rent for a security deposit, another $200 to cover utilities, and then throw in additional expenses such as pet fees, parking, and laundry. Not sure? Use an online rent calculator like this one.

Do your research

Come prepared with a list of must-haves. Know how many bedrooms and bathrooms you require as well as the amenities. For some, that will mean off-street parking, a roof deck, and an on-site fitness center. Are energy-efficient appliances a must? How flexible is your budget? The clearer you are about what
you need, the better able your rental agent will be able to help you find your dream apartment. Don’t forget your ID and checkbook. You’ll need to act quickly to avoid losing the chance at the ideal rental.

Come with a checklist

  • Look for signs of roaches or mice in the kitchen and bathroom.
  • Check for smoke detectors.
  • Are the hallways and stairs clean and well-lit?
  • Is the front door secure or can anyone enter?
  • Is there a fire escape or fire safety plan in place?
  • Will noise from the street or adjoining apartments be an issue?
hands holding a map with some of the  best neighborhoods for rentals

The Best Philadelphia Neighborhoods for Renters

At one time, having a quick commute to work or easy access to public transportation was a priority. Now, with many people working from home, rental options have expanded, as well as the allure of many former “bedroom neighborhoods” that are now teaming with popular restaurants, nightlife, and shops. Here is a primer on a few of the most popular neighborhoods for renters.

Rittenhouse Square

Rittenhouse is considered one of the most desirable parts of the City due to its historic park, elegant architecture, restaurants, shops, theaters, and concert halls with easy access to the airport and trains. Rentals are available in a range of older and new hi-rises, townhouses, and, on smaller streets, in rowhouses and trinities.

Fitler Square

Fitler Square is a quieter neighborhood situated near the Schuylkill River with charming small streets and its own lovely park. This area attracts professionals, families, and graduate students who frequent the neighborhood’s many restaurants. You can read more about the history of Fitler Square in our recent “neighborhood histories” post.

Graduate Hospital

Located east of Fitler Square, between Bainbridge Street and Washington Avenue, and between the Schuylkill River and Broad Street, this neighborhood offers a choice of apartments in new and older buildings as well as on smaller streets, within walking distance from Center City.

Point Breeze

South of Washington Avenue, west of Broad Street, this is a former working-class neighborhood experiencing a lot of growth. While there are some hi-rise luxury apartment buildings, most apartments are located in former row houses. The axis of Broad & Washington is a focal point of new buildings and shopping.

Old City

Bordered by Vine Street to the north, Walnut Street to the south, 7th Street to the west, and the Delaware River to the east, Old City is a former industrial/factory area that has been renovated into residential dwellings. Filled with cafes, bars, restaurants, art galleries, and boutiques, it is a popular hangout for the under-thirty set and contains the first factory conversions in the City.

East Passyunk

South of Washington Avenue, on the east side of Broad Street, East Passyunk is the “Hippest street in town.” Once a solid Italian neighborhood of Mom & Pop eateries and shops, it now boasts some of the most popular restaurants and bars in the City with Passyunk Square as its focal point.

Northern Liberties

Located between Callowhill Street and Girard Avenue, and between 6th Street and the Delaware River, this was one of the first areas of the City to experience rapid development. Filled with bars, restaurants, cafes, and parks like Liberty Lands, it is popular with young professionals and families wanting an urban feel with quick access to Center City’s attractions.


Just north of Northern Liberties is a former working-class neighborhood that has shifted into high gear, attracting young professionals and families, to its burgeoning array of restaurants, boutiques, and beer gardens. This area offers a mix of renovated row homes, as well as new construction homes and condos in a lively neighborhood.

East Kensington

Located north of Fishtown, East Kensington is the home of Philadelphia Brewing Company, a brewery, and community gathering space now located in the former Weisbrod and Hess brewery, a restored 19th-century brewery complex. Another former working-class neighborhood, East Kensington has become a popular area for artists, families, and young professionals. Nestled around rowhomes and converted factory buildings, restaurants, tattoo shops, cafes and community gardens abound. This neighborhood also boasts its very own cooperatively-owned grocery store, the Kensington Community Food Coop (KCFC.)

These are just some of the many neighborhoods we serve. Other popular neighborhoods for rentals include Washington Square, Society Hill, Bella Vista, Queen Village, Art Museum, Brewerytown, and Pennsport.

If you’re looking to make Philadelphia your home and are looking for a great rental, visit our rent page to view our current listings. Solo Real Estate manages 450+ units across the city and we are committed to finding the right tenants to settle in and become active members of their community. For property management inquiries, please reach out.