On the Market: I.M. Pei-designed Society Hill townhome
On the Market profiles homes for sale in the Philadelphia region.
For Bentley Saul, mid-century modern architecture was something that had always fascinated him.
An attorney with his own law firm based in Philadelphia, Saul was drawn to the “abundance of light and open floor plans” that usually accompanies this type of design.
So when he and his wife, Jane, were looking for a place to live right before they got married in 2005, they came across a Society Hill townhome designed by renowned architect I.M. Pei and immediately knew it was for them.
“We just loved the size, the location, and the fact that it had a garden and gated parking,” Saul said, “but what was especially intriguing to me was the fact that it was architecturally significant and special.”
The home, located at 251 South 3rd Street, was part of I.M. Pei’s master plan to construct the Society Hill Towers and the adjacent 37 townhomes in the community, which was completed in 1963. Pei, who is often called the “master of modern architecture,” has completed many famous projects including the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. and a glass pyramid for a courtyard in The Louvre.
The Sauls bought the four bedroom, three-and-a-half bath home knowing it needed many upgrades, but that was part of the appeal for them.
“The prior owners had the house for about 38 years,” Saul said. “We were glad [they] did not alter the design.”
So the couple moved in and spent six years on many renovation projects from the roof to the basement. All while keeping the integrity of the original architecture.
“We had appreciated what I.M. Pei had done and we didn’t want to change any of the design,” Saul said. “We only modernized, restored and renovated.”
The kitchen was renovated by prominent designer Joanne Hudson and includes state-of-the-art appliances. Hudson re-designed the home’s bathrooms, too.
The couple finished the basement, added new lighting, and refinished the flooring.
The home also features an outdoor patio - a common element in the Society Hill community. The Sauls redid the landscaping by replacing the cement.
One of the home’s defining features, which Saul refers to as an “I.M. Pei signature,” is the spiral iron staircase that goes from the basement to the third floor, and leads to a skylight.
“It’s a central feature of the home,” Saul said.
Now with two young children – ages 7 and 5 – the couple has to decided to relocate to the Main Line where their kids attend school. Their I.M. Pei home was recently put on the market for $1,290,000, but they've already found their next home and renovation: An architecturally significant home in Gladwyne designed by Vincent Kling.
While they enjoyed eight years of family living in the city, the Sauls feel like they still had a suburban feel in Society Hill.
“It’s a quiet neighborhood – it has everything. You don’t have to ride around the street looking for parking, and there’s plenty of green space," Saul says.