Featured Business: Shane Confectionery

This is the season when Shane Confectionery, America’s oldest continuously operating candy shop, offers scrumptious holiday treats made with 100-year-old recipes in vintage molds, using local and traceable ingredients. Take a journey back in time with us as we visit this historic Philadelphia candy shop.

Stepping through the front door of Shane’s at 110 Market is a form of time travel. In 2011, the exterior and interior were restored by the current owners, the Berley brothers, to replicate the shop’s original Victorian appearance. This not only earned Shane an award by Preservation Alliance; it also attracted a new generation of customers who were charmed by, not just the confectionery’s Back-to-the-Future appearance, but by its commitment to combining vintage recipes with ethically sourced ingredients.

Shane’s prides itself in using cocoa beans imported by Uncommon Cacao. They then sort, roast, and grind the cocoa beans into chocolate used for all their products, including historical drinking chocolates and homemade ice cream served in their Chocolate Cafe.

Other commitments to the environment and sustainability include Shane’s partnership with The Philadelphia Bee Co., providing locally produced bee products including honey, wax, and pollen all gathered from hives within city limits. How local? Beehives were installed on the Confectionery’s rooftop! Jars of honey are also available for sale in the shop. They also source locally whenever possible. Their maple syrup is from PA and distributed by Lancaster Farm Fresh Co-Op and their large hand-twisted pretzels are from Shuey’s Pretzel Factory. a family-owned business based in Lebanon, PA since 1927.

Winter Candies. Image: Shane Confectionery

Nowhere else will you find a large selection of handmade chocolates and candies using ingredients, molds, and techniques that have been passed down for generations. This includes hand-pulled candy canes, nonpareils, jelly fruit slices, historic clear candy toys, and a mouth-watering selection of chocolate bonbons, cordials, and buttercreams. All gifts are boxed and wrapped elegantly in Victorian perfection.

Eric and Ryan Berley. Image: Shane Confectionery


When the confectionary first opened at 110 Market Street in 1863, it was owned by the Herring family who ran it as a wholesale business. At the time, Philadelphia was already the most active port in the country with ships delivering cocoa, sugarcane, fruits, and spices at the Delaware waterfront. All the prominent names in American chocolate and candy – Goldenberg’s of Peanut Chew fame, Wilbur Buds, Hershey, and Whitman Chocolates – had their first shops in Philadelphia which were synonymous with its high quality.

The shop passed through several owners, before acquiring the Shane name in 1910. That is when the Baltimore firm of Reinle & Salmon, the finest drugstore cabinetmaker of their day, installed the shop’s charming Victorian decor with curved glass showcases, marble countertops, and beautiful cabinetry which continues to draw visitors today. 

The neighborhood changed throughout the sixties and seventies, and fewer people frequented the store. Yet year after year, customers would line up at Christmastime and Easter. However, in 1983, the grandson of the original Shane owner, took over the business for the next 25 years, refusing to implement modern production techniques and insisting on the old-fashioned handmade methods that had created the confectionery’s reputation. 

In 2010, Shane’s was sold to the Berley brothers, owners of The Franklin Fountain, a Victorian-style ice cream parlor at 116 Market that also sources ethical and fair trade ingredients. They were in sync with the confectionery’s historic chocolate and candy-making traditions and reintroduced Shane’s to a new generation. 

Find your inner Willy Wonka

Candy making process. Image: Shane Confectionery

Shane Confectionery hosts public programs, tours, tastings, and private parties. They offer two varieties of tastings, Traditional Craft Chocolate Tasting and Chocolate Taste & Paint Workshop. Every Friday Shane welcomes the public into their 150-year-old building to sample chocolate and confections while exploring their historic shop, kitchens, and production spaces. Learn about the antique equipment and recipes still in use today, while admiring the building’s architecture, decorative arts, and businesses, and immersing yourself in early chocolate and candy-making culture. For more information, contact Laurel@FranklinFountain.com

Fall Foliage: Leaf Peeping in Philly

Philly is at its best in the Fall. From parks within the City limits to scenic destinations in adjacent counties, trees are ablaze with color, along with hiking, biking, and dining options. Peak foliage runs from mid-October through early November, but if you want to hit the sweet spot, we recommend hitting the foliage trail on the third week in October.

Where to See Fall Colors in Philadelphia

Photo by Cory J Popp. Philly Fall

Center City

Make it a point to have lunch in Rittenhouse Square when the Maple, Elm, and Oak trees will be in their full glory turning hues of red and orange before they start fluttering down. Pick up a picnic lunch at Di Bruno’s or dine at one of the Square’s sidewalk restaurants while admiring the fall colors. In nearby Washington Square, the leaves on Poplar, Black Locust, Maple, Redwood, and Birch trees are just starting to change color. For a nice stroll in the area, we recommend grabbing a tasty wrap or salad at  Talula’s Daily and visiting the breathtaking Maxfield Parrish class mosaic “Dream Garden” in the Curtis Building at 6th and Walnut.

Bikers and hikers can take to the Schuylkill River Trail, Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and go down Kelly Drive for a veritable kaleidoscope of Fall color. Pack a lunch and make a day of it to enjoy the scenery and cool weather.

fallen leaves in philadelphia rowhome

South Philly

Another great place for leaf-peeping in the city is South Philly, where you can visit FDR Park‘s 40 acres of kayaking, fishing, and canoeing. Take a leisurely hike in the South Philly Meadow Trails and bring a camera to capture the landscape.

Southwest Philadelphia

Bartram’s Garden, part of the Schuylkill River Trail in southwest Philly is yet another local foliage paradise within the City limits. The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia is hosting free biking days through November!

Also, in southwest Philly, you’ll find The John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum with 10 miles of trails and binoculars and fishing rods available for loan, free of charge. The refuge supports a diversity of habitats, including freshwater tidal marsh, open waters, mudflats, and woodlands that hundreds of species call home. 

On Saturday, October 21st Laurel Hill Cemetery East is hosting a Fall Fun Day from 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm. This family-friendly day of outdoor autumn festivities includes crafts, live children’s music performances, games, prizes, story times, mini cemetery tours, and more. Pre-Halloween costumes are encouraged. RSVP to attend this free event. Or take a ticketed Fall Foliage Tour of the cemetery led by its arboretum manager on Sunday, October 22, 10 am-12 pm.

Northwest Philadelphia

If you want to experience New England foliage without leaving town, head to the 1,800 wooded acres of Wissahickon Trail in the Northwest section of Fairmount Park. There, you will find 40,000 miles of trails for all levels of biking, hiking, dog walking (on leash only) or simply strolling along a pathway under a lush canopy of trees. Popular with artists and photographers, you can stroll through covered bridges, fish in Wissahickon Creek, and enjoy brunch, lunch, or dinner at Valley Green Inn or the more casual Cedars House. Nearby attractions include Morris Arboretum and Woodmere Museum. 

Hit the Road: Buck’s County, Kennett Square, Media, and More

A short drive from Philadelphia is New Hope in Bucks County, a charming town on the Delaware River filled with shops, art galleries, and cafes. Experience an autumn journey by hopping on a historic train at the New Hope Railroad or walk across the river to Lambertville, an equally alluring little town lined with antique shops. On the way home, drive along Route 32 from New Hope to Washington Crossing for magnificent fall foliage. Or make it a weekend and stay in one of the area’s historic BnBs such as the Inn at Bowman’s Hill. For a scenic view of the county’s fall colors, climb to the top of Bowman’s Hill Tower.

Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square is one of the best places in the region to view fall foliage with over 1,000 acres of woodlands, meadows, and formal gardens. Nearby is the Brandywine River Museum containing works by local artist Andrew Wyeth. Birdwatchers will want to head to the John James Audubon Center in Audubon, PA for nature walks and a visit to their museum.

Just 16 miles from Center City, Ridley Creek State Park in Media offers over 2,000 acres of lawn and forest including several formal gardens, horse stables, and trails, plus the historic 1789 Hunting Hill Mansion. Tyler State Park, located 33 miles from Center City in Newtown, PA offers nature fans hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails. Just a forty-minute drive from Philly, Valley Forge State Park provides 3,500 acres of rolling hills steeped in American history. 

As we head into the fall season, it’s the perfect time of year to check out our stories on how to be more sustainable this fall and Fall in Love with Philadelphia. If like us you’re also getting ready to prepare your home or urban garden for the winter ahead, we also have some Philly fall gardening tips for you.

The Secret Life of Buildings: Gilded Era Landmarks in Philadelphia

From the 1870s to 1910, Philadelphia flexed its industrial muscles, generating a new class of elites: Robber Barons, railroad and steel magnets, real estate developers, and business tycoons. Eager to display their wealth, they engaged the leading architects of their day to design lavish estates and palaces of culture to rival those of Europe. Come with us on a tour of Gilded Age landmarks that remain beautifully preserved in Center City and the surrounding suburbs.

City Hall, Broad & Market 

City Hall, the intricate and iconic building that turns driving into a white knuckle competition is a prime example of Gilded Age architecture. William Penn planned it in the 17th century, but it took 200 years to happen and another 30 years to be completed. Designed by John McArthur in Second Empire style in 1871, all of City Hall’s 250 sculptures were designed by Alexander Milne Calder, including the 27-ton statue of William Penn atop the tower. (Yes, Calder is the grandfather of contemporary sculptor Alexander Calder.)

At 548 feet high, City Hall was the tallest structure in the world until 1908 and remained the tallest building in Philly until 1986. However, it is still the largest municipal building in the United States. Regardless of how you feel about its exterior design, the inside of City Hall is worth seeing for its Gilded Era grandeur. For guided tours, including City Hall Tower, visit the Philly Visitor Center. You can also read more about City Hall and its history in our feature here.

Union League, 104 S. Broad St.

The curving double stairs at the entrance to the Union League announce an era where form no longer followed function but instead announced opulence. Originally designed by John Fraser in Second Empire style in May 1865, additions in the Beaux-Arts style were made in 1905 by Horace Trumbauer, expanding it to a full city block. Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, the Union League is one of the few existing buildings that reflects the architectural elegance of Broad Street during the Gilded Age. Its exterior and interior grandeur were meant to showcase the power and wealth of the City’s industry scions. It closely resembles the same style of architecture used in Paris at that time. 

PAFA, 1900s. Image: Old Images of Philadelphia

Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA), 118 N. Broad

The oldest art academy and museum in the nation, PAFA was designed by Frank Furness and George Hewitt in the Gothic Revival style in 1871-1876. Here, is an opportunity to literally step inside the elegance of the Gilded Age and marvel at the beauty of the Museum’s second floor with its gilded walls, stained glass windows, cathedral arches, vintage light fixtures, and marble floors. Plus, it showcases American Art. It’s no surprise that PAFA is one of the City’s most popular wedding and event venues. 

Lippincott Mansion Interior.

Lippincott Mansion, 507 S. Broad

Built in 1886 and designed by architect George Pearson, this magnificent mansion was originally the home of James Dundas Lippincott and his wife Alice. It is one of the last remaining mansions of South Broad Street’s “Millionaires Row.” The grand home was once owned by religious leader Father Divine. Since 2008, it has been the showroom and workshop of Frederick Oster’s Vintage Instruments. (This is where the Rolling Stones come to check out a new guitar.) Amazingly, all of the original architectural grandeur is intact. The interior woodwork was milled and carved from oak, chestnut, and mahogany. The stunner? A 10 x 20-foot stained glass skylight can be seen from every floor due to the mansion’s atrium design. 

Charles Ellis Mansion. Image: The RowHouse City

Ellis Mansion, 1439 N. Broad

If you wanted to own a Gilded Age property you had your chance this past May when the mansion, originally owned by streetcar magnate Charles T. Ellis was sold at auction. It was designed by William Drecker in a mix of Romanesque, Gothic, and Classical elements and constructed in 1890 when North Broad Street was a prestigious address. In 1952, it became another home of Father Divine who invested heavily in real estate and whose organization retained ownership until the recent auction.

Lynnewood Hall, 920 Spring Ave, Elkins Park

With 110 rooms, this is the largest surviving Gilded Age mansion in the Philadelphia area. Designed by Horace Trumbaurer in the Neo-Classical Revival style when he was only 29 for Peter Widener, founder of the City’s trolley lines and one of the 40 richest men in America of his time. Built-in 1897-1900 in limestone, the gigantic mansion was dubbed “the last of the American Versailles.” Note: Some of the furniture at Lynnewood Hall actually came from the Palace of Versailles!

Supposedly, Widener instructed Trumbaurer to create a home where his children would be “comfortable.” Somehow, that resulted in 55 bedrooms, an immense art gallery, a ballroom large enough for 1,000 guests, a swimming pool, wine cellars, a farm, carpentry and upholstery studios, and an electrical power plant. This required a house staff of 60, plus another 60 full-time gardeners. 

All of this opulence foreshadowed a great tragedy when, in 1912, Widener’s son and grandson were among the passengers who died on the Titanic. Three years later Weidener died and his invaluable art collection was gifted to the National Gallery. The estate’s 480 acres were whittled down to 33, making way for the development of Lynnewood Gardens Apartments as well as a separate development of single homes.

Shrouded in grief, the Widener family moved out in the 1940s and the estate changed hands several times and became vacant and overgrown until the Lynnewood Hall Preservation Foundation was established in 2022 with the goal of restoring it to its former breathtaking glory. In June 2023, the house’s sale was completed, and ownership passed to the nonprofit Lynnewood Hall Preservation Foundation. Their plan calls for restoration of the estate’s formal gardens which are to be open to the public as well as historic restoration of Lynnewood Hall for educational purposes.

These are just a sampling of Philadelphia’s Gilded Age architectural treasures. For information about walking tours, contact The Preservation Alliance, Virtuoso, or try a Self-Guided Walking Tour.

This article is part of a series titled “The Secret Life of Buildings” where we cover the history and architecture behind Philadelphia’s storied buildings. We’ve written about row house stylescourtyardsand star bolts, among other topics. What else would you like to learn about? Follow us and DM us on Facebook or Instagram to let us know!

Philly Spring Festival Guide

Nothing like an outdoor festival to kick off Spring Fever. This year, there is a street party almost every week throughout Philadelphia, offering great food, music, and opportunities to get to know local craftsmen and shops. If you are new to Philly, start by attending a festival in your own neighborhood to get to know your local community. If you are a Philadelphia native, we encourage you to venture to parts of the City you have yet to explore.

Flavors on the Avenue – Sun., April 30, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

Bring your appetite to this free-to-attend, pay-as-you-go, foodie, beer, and cocktail extravaganza along East Passyunk Ave. from Broad Street to Dickinson. Featuring culinary treats from over a dozen top restaurants, live entertainment, plus sidewalk sales, and a pop-up craft market displaying the creations of over 100 local makers. Bring the kids for free family activities up and down the Avenue.

Rittenhouse Row Spring Festival – Sat., May 6, noon – 5 p.m.

Touted as “Philly’s Most Upscale Street Festival,” this annual celebration of fashion, art, food, music, beer, and cocktails draws huge crowds. Get there early! Walnut Street from Broad to Rittenhouse Square.

South Street Festival – Sat., May 6, 11 a.m. -7 p.m.

“Hurry on down to the hippest street in town.” Dance around a giant Maypole, participate in an eating contest, or join in a German beer and dancing event. Enjoy international food and drink, live music, a family-friendly kid zone, crafts, and vendors. On South St. from 2nd to 8th St.

Girard Avenue Street Fest – Sat., May 6, 11 am-5:30 pm

This annual free family event showcasing businesses across the Brewerytown, Sharswood, and Fairmount communities features over 90 vendors and food from Brewerytown restaurants, games, DJs, live local bands, and a kid’s zone with bounce houses. West Girard Ave., 26th to 29th St.

Chestnut Hill Home & Garden Festival – Sun. May 7th, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

This festival is a breath of fresh air.  Enjoy an outdoor marketplace full of vintage goods, terrariums, and garden art with live music, food, and drinks. This upscale, Northwest slice of the City tends to be more family-oriented and dog-friendly. Germantown Ave., between Willow Grove Ave. and Rex St.

Fishtown District Kensington Derby & Arts Festival – Sat., May 13, Noon – 6 p.m.

Where else but Kensington would present a derby festival featuring fantastical human-powered kinetic sculptures running an urban obstacle course? This surreal and super fun event is combined with an arts festival, food vendors, and local musicians. Trenton Ave., Frankford Ave. to Norris St.

Ardmore Outdoor Beer Festival – Sat, May 13, 1-4 p.m.

Drink your way through 30 craft brews while listening to live music and chowing down on local food vendors in Ardmore. Tickets are $55 for general admission; $85 for VIP. The event will be held in Schauffele Plaza across from AMH on Cricket Ave., just off Lancaster Ave.

Made on American Street Festival Sat., May 20, 2-6 p.m.

This is the 17th year of this South Kensington-based beer and music festival with mini-golf, plus vendors of cocktails and wine. Olde Kensington Boutique has crafted a bustling market of local art vendors to shop and local restaurants and cafes will be offering food for purchase. A special VIP ticket offers early access to sampling, a one-of-a-kind tasting glass, and special pours. Tickets are $40-$250. American Street between Master and Cecil B Moore 

New Hope Pride Fest & Fair – Sat., May 20, 11 a.m.

While not technically Philadelphia, New Hope is a short drive away and is a small town that has celebrated its LGBTQ community long before most cities. This is why this annual event draws over 15,000 people! The festival features a grand parade from 11 a.m. to noon with over 1,000 participants, beginning in Lambertville, NJ, and crossing over the Delaware River into New Hope, PA. Presenting local and national marching bands, floats, and nonprofit organizations. After the parade, follow the crowd to Pride Park at the end of South Main St. for a craft fair and dancing to local and national performers. This is a family-friendly event. $5 suggested donation. Kids free.

Italian Market Festival – Sat. & Sun, May 20-21, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Bring the entire family and enjoy all the events, including live music, arts and crafts, the Grease Pole contest, the 12th Annual John Marzano Halfball Tournament, Cornhole At The Festival, the traditional Procession of Saints, and so much delicious food throughout the market. South 9th St, Wharton to Fitzwater.

Northern Liberties Night Market – Thurs., May 25, 5-10 p.m.

Come for an evening of shopping, eating, live music, art, and street performers under the stars with over 30 of Philly’s top food trucks. N. 2nd between Fairmount and West Laurel St.

Whichever festival you choose to attend, we encourage you to explore new neighborhoods, support local craftspeople and shops, chat with vendors, and make new friends.

Time to plant: True Love Seeds

There are many ways to explore your ancestral roots. You can take a DNA test, search a genealogical website, or plant heirloom seeds that represent your cultural heritage. That is the mission of True Love Seeds, a Philadelphia farm-based seed company dedicated to sustainable agriculture and returning pesticide-free, non-GMO seeds to their communities of origin. Before you plant your home or community garden this Spring, consider the rewards of using heirloom seeds that reflect your family’s history.

Seeds as Cultural Preservation

Have you ever wondered if recipes, passed down for generations in your family, actually taste
the same as when they were made fifty or one hundred years ago when people only ate produce in season? If you’ve ever bought tomatoes in February, chances are they are a far cry from the ones your Nana used to make her famous lasagna. But suppose you could plant seeds that would grow the very same San Marzano Tomatoes your grandmother used?

This is at the heart of True Love Seed’s mission. “Our farmers are recent immigrants, piecing together a fracture culinary history,” said Owen Taylor, co-founder of True Love Seeds.“It’s been a powerful journey to piece it back together and help them grow an ancestral food garden.” Their motto is, “Keeping seeds is an act of true love for our ancestors and our collective future!”

“Heirlooms are often the tastiest produce because seed varieties that didn’t taste great just weren’t saved. They are those lovely varieties that were bred by small farmers around the world before they had to worry about choosing varieties that kept for weeks and weeks or shipped well,” said Taylor.

Raised garden beds at Bartram's Garden. Image: True Love Seeds
Raised garden beds at Bartram’s Garden. Image: True Love Seeds

Since 2017, Truelove Seeds has worked with 70 farms from around the country with the goal of returning ancestral seeds back to communities who have lost them through removal from their land or other traumatic events such as slavery, war, and genocide. “We grow a lot of our seeds in Delaware County and we work with Bartram’s Garden, Pentridge Children’s Garden in West Philly, and Novick Urban Farm in South Philly,” said Taylor. “The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society buys seeds in bulk from us and distributes them to community gardens.”

Besides produce and herb seeds, True Love Seeds also sells heirloom flower seeds, such as Passionflower, Echinacea, Mountain Mint, Common Flax, and Fever Few among others.

True Love Seeds Cut Flowers. Image courtesy of True Love Seeds.

Heirloom Seed Collections

The below collections represent just part of the many herbs, produce, and flower seeds available from True Love Seeds online or at Riverwards Produce in Fishtown and Woodland Building Supply in West Philadelphia. Each collection tells the story of one of the many cultures that comprise our City:

The Philadelphia Collection honors the original people of our area, the Lenni-Lenape, the
Pennsylvania Dutch and the seeds were started by John Bartram in the 1700s. “We send many seed
varieties to Lenape groups and individuals each year,” said Taylor.

The African Diaspora Collection includes many crops that either originated in Africa or that
became important staples in the new world. Sankofa Farm at Bartram’s Garden produces sorghum, flowering sesame, okra, cotton, black-eyed peas, climbing gourds, and luffa. This collection was co-curated by Chris Bolden-Newsome, co-founder of True Love Seeds.

Seeds in the African Diaspora collection. Image: True Love Seeds
Seeds in the African Diaspora collection. Image: True Love Seeds

The Italian Collection offers Italian Frying Peppers, Wild Arugula, Broccoli Rabe, Winter
Squash, Rossa di Milano Onions, White Sicilian Eggplant, Fagiolina, Canestrino Di Lucca
Tomato and more.

In The Syrian Collection, you will find Palestinian Kusa Squash, Spotted Alepo Lettuce, Syrian
Cucumber, Syrian Red Bush Beans, Homs Tomato, and Syrian Pea. The Winter Collection
contains White Russian Kale, Vertissimo Chervil, Brown Winter Lettuce, Winter Spinach and

True Love Seeds at Woodland Building Supply. Image courtesy of True Love Seeds.
True Love Seeds at Woodland Building Supply. Image courtesy of True Love Seeds.

Seed Swaps & Community Education

Since 2015, True Love Seeds has organized and hosted several Seed Swaps per year with
the Free Library of Philadelphia as the Philadelphia Seed Exchange. At these swaps, gardeners and farmers from the region bring their extra seed harvests and half-used seed packets to trade with each other. “Throughout the year, we offer seed-keeping workshops on and off our farm to groups such as the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture, and Swarthmore College,” said Taylor. “For example, at the Sankofa Community Farm at Bartram’s Garden, we co-lead an African Diaspora centered seed keeping workshop each year for their community and also bring an intergenerational seed cleaning station to their annual harvest festival.” Mark your calendar – Taylor will be speaking at Wyck Historic House & Garden in Germantown on April 15th from 11 am-4 pm.

Even if your garden is just your kitchen window box, you can support True Love Seeds by purchasing their seeds or by donating to their fundraising efforts to grow their business. True Love Seeds is currently raising funds to purchase farmland that will serve as a permanent farm for preserving ancestral seeds and offer community education programs. Learn more about this initiative and support their gofundme here.

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.