Seven sites pass hurdle for city's historic designation

Edward-Corner-building
The Edward Corner building, at the corner of Delaware Avenue and Shackamaxon Street in Fishtown, is among seven properties recommended for historic designation by a committee of the Philadelphia Historical Commission.

The Philadelphia Historical Commission’s committee on historic designation voted on Wednesday to recommend that seven properties be added to the local register of historic places.

The vote sends a recommendation to the full Historical Commission, which will consider the nominations at its meeting next month. Buildings that are designated historic are subject to special protections contained in the city’s preservation ordinance.

The Edward Corner building, at the corner of Delaware Avenue and Shackamaxon Street in Fishtown, is currently owned by developer Michael Samschick. Samschick has been gathering properties in the area for years, including a former warehouse on Canal Street that will soon be reopened as a Live Nation music venue. Samschick has had various plans for the property over the years, and he has pulled demolition permits more than once.

Most recently, he proposed tearing the building down and building a 12-story apartment complex in its place. The Fishtown Neighbors Association voted against that plan.

The nomination for the building was written by Oscar Beisert. The committee recommended the nomination be approved because the building, a former marine merchandise warehouse, is a notable icon and exemplifies Fishtown’s historic maritime economy. On Wednesday, Patrick Grossi of the Preservation Alliance also noted that the building has some of the most iconic ghost signs in Philadelphia.

The committee actually had two historic nominations for Lancaster Mews, an intact row of brick houses with storefronts at 36th Street and Lancaster Ave. in Powelton Village. In the spring, the Inquirer reported that the row, which dates to the 1870s, was threatened by an early-stages development proposal that would have brought the buildings down and replaced them with student housing. The buildings have been consolidated into a single tax parcel, enabling the site’s demolition and possible redevelopment, and enabling a singular nomination for the entire row.

After hearing about the threat, the city started working on its own nomination for the buildings. Jon Farnham, the director of the Historical Commission, personally authored a nomination for the row. Powelton Village Civic Association, which had apparently been talking about protecting the buildings for years, also prepared a nomination.

On Wednesday, the committee voted to recommend the row for historic designation. It punted on the issue of deciding which of the two nominations to accept. The full Commission can accept one or both nominations, but Farnham said having two nominations on record could lead to some potential enforcement complications.

Earlier this week, George Poulin of PVCA wrote about Lancaster Mews and the development context in the neighborhood for Eyes on the Street.

The committee also recommended designation for:

The committee also recommended designation of First African Baptist Church, at 16th and Christian streets, which PlanPhilly reported yesterday.

PlanPhilly is now a project of WHYY/NewsWorks. It began in 2006 as an initiative of Penn Praxis inside the University of Pennsylvania School of Design. Though now part of WHYY, PlanPhilly still works closely with Penn Praxis in covering planning, zoning and development news.