Thursday, August 28, 2014
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On the Market: Society Hill townhome designed by Cecil Baker for $2.18M

This Society Hill townhome, designed by renowned architect Cecil Baker, is on the market for $2.18 million.
This Society Hill townhome, designed by renowned architect Cecil Baker, is on the market for $2.18 million. Richard Barton
This Society Hill townhome, designed by renowned architect Cecil Baker, is on the market for $2.18 million. Gallery: On the Market: Society Hill townhome designed by Cecil Baker for $2.18M

On the Market profiles homes for sale in the Philadelphia region.

Renowned architect Cecil Baker’s work can be found throughout the Philadelphia region – from townhomes to condo buildings, universities and more – that he’s designed over the past four decades.

But at 640 Spruce Street, a townhome that recently hit the market for $2.18 million, some of Baker’s earliest and latest work blend together.

Baker, who studied under Louis Kahn at the University of Pennsylvania and is designing the “glass needle” condo building that will go up at Fifth and Walnut Streets, designed this Society Hill townhome in 1974 and returned just a few years ago to do a major renovation; something the current owners say he was thrilled to undertake.

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  • “He said it’s a very rare chance that you get to work on one of your early works,” current owner Molly Napolitano said. “He was so nice, and just so talented. He’s so easy to work with. We just really respect his design.”

    Molly, a health and fitness expert and founder of JustYouOnlyBetter.com, and her husband, Frank, CEO of Black Dog Partners, LLC, purchased the home in 2006. Coming from Ambler, the couple was ready for city living and already knew they wanted to be in Society Hill.

    But the Napolitanos weren’t immediately drawn to the corner property, which at the time Molly says was “bulky” with a lot of walls. They wanted more of an open layout with larger rooms.

    “We liked it but we didn’t love it at first,” Molly said.

    A few months passed by after the couple first viewed the home and they continued to look for other properties, until one day when Molly had a dream about the Spruce Street home.

    “I told my husband, ‘we need to go back and see the house,’” Molly said.

    So they came back and viewed the home for the second time, and ultimately decided to move there.

    They completed two rounds of renovations; one in 2006 when they moved in, and a more extensive project in 2011 with the help of Baker.

    In 2006, they expanded the master shower, tore down some walls, renovated the basement level, added a built-in closet in the guest room, and renovated the powder room.

    In the second round of renovations five years later, they hired Baker to help them customize the home.

    “The second renovation was really just to make the house our house by adding space and making that whole first level an indoor/outdoor space,” Molly said.

    The couple tore down the back of the house and changed the entire outside façade. They installed a Nanawall – a type of sliding glass door – that leads to the courtyard.

    The 30-foot courtyard is bordered by Mexican river stones, has a granite slab entrance, Brazilian ipe wood floors, a stainless steel waterfall, and a Japanese maple tree in the middle.

    “When the Nanawall is open the main living area and the outside space become one,” Molly said. “It’s a very peaceful spot in the middle of a busy city.”

    Other renovations that year include an expansion of the master bedroom, two large decks off bedrooms on the third and fourth floors, and new rift sawn white oak flooring in the dining and living room.

    Additional luxuries include a media room, a 500 bottle wine cooler, a gym, and a two-car garage.

    “We put so much heart into the renovation,” Molly said. “We thought, ‘this is going to be the place we’re going to live the rest of our lives.'”

    But because of Frank’s job, the couple is relocating to San Francisco and they have put the home on the market.

    “I love the Society Hill neighborhood,” Molly said. “The parks, all the little streets. You see something different every time you walk around.”

    Click to view listing >

    Lauren Mennen Philly.com