Susta i n abl e Ph i l a d elp hi a
march 2013 / issue 47 gridphilly.com
Changing of Face Preservation Deacon Lloyd Butler and the 19th Street Baptist congregation do-it-themselves
Overbrook Farmâ€™s fight for (and against) historical recognition
In the Dark
Growing, cooking and pickling oyster mushrooms
Investments you can believe in
c spe ial
What if leftovers were never really left over? We recycle food. Now thatâ€™s a fresh idea.
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Nathaniel Popkin Co-editor of Hidden City Daily and senior writer of the film documentary Philadelphia: The Great Experiment
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SEED SWAP! Alex Mulcahy Grid Publisher
DRINKS PROVIDED BY
FREE heirloom seeds and plants for your garden this season. The Philadelphia Seed Exchange, winner of Best of Philly’s 2011 Best Garden Club Award, will be hosting a swap and information table. Everyone is encouraged to bring seeds, bulbs, tool and plants. Help build local food resiliency with open-pollinated heirloom seeds and plants!
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What’s Going On
Bookmarks for your web browser, events for your calendar
aving already written some thoughts on preservation introducing the cover package on page 17, I thought I’d catch you up on some Grid happenings. Before I do, let me say how much we enjoyed collaborating with Hidden City Daily. It’s likely many of you already know about their excellent journalistic work, but if you haven’t visited hiddencityphila. org yet, I urge you to do so. Their love for the city, its buildings and people, shines through in every story, and I look forward to partnering with them again. Speaking of websites worth visiting daily, gridphilly.com has been redesigned and relaunched. There’s a much cleaner interface (thank you to our designer, Danni Sinisi) and we’re in the process of ramping up our content production. We have to; there are just too many stories (and too few magazine pages) to do justice to Philadelphia’s rapidly expanding sustainability scene. We’d love to hear your thoughts on the new site, and if you learn of a story you think we should cover, please contact us at getinvolved@ gridphilly.com. We get a lot of good ideas from readers. March 7 will mark the return of Grid Alive, and I’m pleased to announce we have a sponsor for the show: Clean Currents, an independently owned renewable energy company. They’re just getting their footing here in Philadelphia (they’re based in Silver Spring, Md.), but I’ve met one of their co-founders, Gary Skulnik, a former Sierra Club and Greenpeace lobbyist and organizer, and they’re committed to helping make Philadelphia a better place. I’m excited to have them in the community. Food lovers, you probably have the Brewers Plate on March 10 at the Constitution Center on your calendar—and it you don’t, you better quick because this local beer and restaurants event that
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Bernard Brown Grace Dickinson Marisa McClellan Leah Pillsbury Courtney Sexton intern
Alex Jacobs benefitting Fair Food usually sells out. Just five weeks later on April 14 is the Philly Farm and Food Fest at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Last year was a smash; more than 2,000 attended this spectacular gathering of farmers and local food purveyors. This year promises to be even bigger and better. Be sure to buy your ticket now and to check out an exclusive event guide in our April issue. When you’re there, don’t forget to stop by the Grid booth and say hello.
Neal Santos Gene Smirnov Emily Wren Albert Yee illustrators
Melissa McFeeters Jim Tierney ad sales
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18 Layered Questions The challenge of deciding what to preserve and how those choices shape our city’s future
TH E FU TU RE OF TH E PA ST
20 Accidental Preservationists An ambitious developer and former dancer find themselves invested in projects on North Broad Street 22 Saving Grace 19th Street Baptist takes a DIY approach to save their church 24 Historical Dispute A proposal for historic designation causes upheaval in Overbrook Farms 30 Material Issues The science of restoring the outside of Philadelphia’s historic buildings 32 Modern Love The surprising appeal of a Northeast Philadelphia Thriftway 33 Preserving Magic Protecting Isaiah Zagar’s mosaic wonderland 34 Undisputed Champions Temple architecture students fight for Joe Frazier’s gym
36 Preservation Madness The allure (and addiction) of home renovation
This section is a partnership between Grid and Hidden City Daily. 10 Green Living Common Ground: Socially conscious, energy efficient community to break ground in Chester County 12 Food The Whole Food: Oyster Mushrooms | Real Love: A local chocolate maker shows the process from organic bean to sustainable bar
38 Urban Naturalist Bird Bath: Swallows find an unusual home in the off-season 40 Events Plenty of workshops to get your spring garden growing, plus two local food and drink festivals and an annual film festival
Writers from Hidden City Joseph G. Brin Jacob Hellman Stefan Kamph Dominic Mercier Nathaniel Popkin, co-editor Peter Woodall, co-editor To read more stories by Hidden City, visit hiddencityphila.org
46 Dispatch A Penny Saved: How one reader used her savings to power good
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Three Groves Ecovillage will have 37 LEED Platinumcertified homes. below A view from the common house where members will share meals and facilities, including a gym and laundry room.
Common Ground An intentional community plans to breaks ground in Chester County this spring by courtney sexton
our years ago a diverse group of people united in their quest for a healthier, more eco-friendly and socially responsible way of living. Together the group’s members, who include teachers, a U.S. Army contractor, a nurse, a geochemist and the president of Dansko, Inc., planned what they envisioned as an ideal community. Now, with guidance from Aye Partners, LLC and Re:Vision Architecture, the group is turning their plan into Three Groves Ecovillage. “I learned about this type of co-housing community, years ago and it filled a void that I saw in my life,” says Janet Hesselberth, a founding member. “I felt the need to connect with the people I live with and I felt a need to connect with the greater community and the environment.” Three Groves is designed with a focus on green space and communal living. It joins a group of planned communities, such as Dancing Rabbit in Missouri, Earthaven in Asheville, N.C., and EcoVillage in Ithaca, N.Y. The 37 LEED Platinum-certified homes in the village will have net zero energy outputs; outfitted with solar and thermal cells, they’ll ultimately generate sellable, renewable energy. But before Three Groves could begin the design process, they had the challenge of finding a suitable location. After a long search, they chose an area in Chester County just outside West Grove, on seven-and-a-half acres that was once part of a farm. However, when the group approached the town of West Grove with their 10
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proposal, they were met with skepticism. Residents in the area were nervous about the plan and the “hippie commune” connotations of communal living. “We have done a lot of outreach and educating in the town,” says Sandy Wiggins, a principal at Aye and chief developer on the project. “Nobody is in opposition at this point.” The group even succeeded in changing the town’s zoning codes to allow for co-housing. Now in the final stages of land development and a groundbreaking set for late spring, Three Groves is well on its way to opening its doors to families. The homes in the village will cost about $400,000 and include all common ameni-
ties. “When you think about your typical neighborhood, it’s the acre lot with a house on it," says Hesselberth. “The homes are isolated, they’re each their own little island. You drive down the road, you push the button, the garage door goes up and you never actually have to talk to your neighbors.” Three Groves will be a 10-minute walk from downtown West Grove, and is designed as an anti-suburbia, boasting green spaces in place of streets (harkening back to the “village green”), a permaculture landscape of medicinal and edible plants, a woodshop, an orchard and a common house where members will share everything from meals and laundry, to gym equipment and childcare. Ten of the homes have already been sold, and the village has a listserv of more than 1,500 interested participants. Places like Three Groves are satisfying a “broad hunger for community that many people don’t know how to articulate that they have.” says Wiggins. “[The communities] are putting new items on the menu of living choices.” To learn more about Three Groves Ecovillage, visit threegrovesecovillage.org
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The Wh ol e Foo d
Oyster Mushrooms Put ting the fun in fun gi story and photos by
grace dick inso n
e can find an estimated 10,000 kinds of mushrooms just in North America. Of these, only 250 are edible, but still—that’s a lot of options. Diversity can be an asset to the typical cook and eater, but what makes the mushroom a staple in the locavore kitchen is its adaptability to be grown outside and inside. Mushrooms are essentially available year-round, making them a popular local ingredient, even in the last few weeks of winter. This is especially true for Philadelphia, which is located less than an hour from Kennett Square, the “mushroom capital of the world.” Kennett Square farmers grow 65 percent of the mushrooms eaten in the U.S., and the area is home to large farms like Phillips (see p. 11)—the first successful indoor shiitake grower in the country. One of Phillips’ best sellers is oyster mushrooms, which are sold by large supermarket chains like Wegman’s and Nutrition 101 Nutritionally, mushrooms are high Giant as well as local vendors who rein minerals. Oyster mushrooms in distribute to Philadelphia restaurants. particular are a good source of iron, Though easy to buy locally, mushniacin, potassium and riboflavin, and rooms can be grown at home too. Local have less than 40 calories per cup. gardener Anna Herman suggests starting with the popular, but unique, oyster mushroom. What to look for Oyster mushrooms perish easily, so look for key signs of freshness, like a smooth cap and tight gills, and be sure to use them quickly. Choose mushrooms that are firm with plump white stems, and avoid those that feel slimy.
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grace dickinson is a food blogger, photo enthusiast and recipe creator. These passions are brought together on FoodFitnessFreshAir.com , where she chronicles her experiments in the kitchen.
for The gardener
Anna Herman, local food writer and gardener, has been home-growing mushrooms for six years. Her experimentation with the fungi, which ranges from shitakes to maitakes, began with an oyster mushroom kit from a local permaculture workshop. Currently, she grows mushrooms on her Mt. Airy kitchen countertop where she has been experimenting with coffee grounds and wood chips as fertilizer, both she says have worked well. To get started in your own home Herman advises either buying a mushroom-growing kit or attending a workshop. “It’s something you can grow in the winter. And one of the most satisfying things is that they are an item you can grow without almost any light at all,” says Herman. “You can literally grow them in your basement if you wanted.”
from The Farm
Unlike other fruits or vegetables, mushrooms don’t contain chlorophyll, the chemical that enables most plants to take in energy from the sun and produce glucose. Therefore, when farming mushrooms, the grower must provide the substrate, or food source, for the mushrooms. At Phillips Mushroom Farm, one of the largest producers in Kennett Square, this substrate is cottonseed hulls and wheat straw. “We mix the two together, add water, pasteurize and then put all the contents into a bag—almost like a big garbage bag that has slots cut into it,” explains Jim Angeluccis, who started his 40th year as general manager of Phillips this past December. “Just before the cottonseed hulls and straw are put into the bag, we inoculate it with culture, or what they call spawn.” Angeluccis says it takes about 14 days for the spawn to colonize the substrate. “Then, it will start to fruit where the bags are slotted because you get a gas exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen.” Phillips’ farm assembles 3,500 of these bags per week. He agrees that the best way to grow mushrooms at home is a pre-made kit. “It is a very involved process,” says Angeluccis. “If you wanted to do a project, it would be to buy one of those kits and you’d get the principal.”
from the kitchen of Vedge
Oys ter Mu shr oom Ste w wit h Win ter Veg eta ble s (Serves 6 to 8) 2 ½ 2 1
1 1 ¾ 2 1 2 1
for The kitchen
For Washington Square’s vegan restaurant Vedge, mushrooms play an important role in the all-vegetable menu. “Mushrooms are our go-to, kind of a trailblazer against meat and potatoes,” says Richard Landau, co-owner and executive chef, alongside his wife Kate Jacoby. “Psychologically, people envision vegetables on the side of something. Mushrooms are a really great way to transition from that because they are meaty and they take on amazing flavor.” Landau, who buys all his mushrooms from a distributor based in Kennett Square, says he particularly likes oyster mushrooms for their delicate flavor. “Their greatest asset is when you get the feathery ones,” says Landau. “When that happens, I think it becomes one of the greatest mushroom vectors you could possibly eat ... the way it’s so crispy and just delicately nutty and earthy at the same time.” In the following recipe, Landau chose to play off the oyster mushroom’s chewy texture in a hearty, winter stew. Expect a summery corn chowder version in the Vedge cookbook, due out in June.
1 2 2 2
Tbsp olive oil cup diced onion tsp minced garlic lb oyster mushrooms, bases trimmed, roughly chopped tsp salt tsp pepper cup dry sherry quarts vegetable stock cup diced carrots cups diced celery root cup diced butternut squash tsp tomato paste tsp porcini powder tsp chopped thyme tsp chopped rosemary
Heat olive oil in a large stock pot until it ripples. Add onions and garlic, and brown for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms, salt and pepper, and brown for an additional 3 to 5 minutes. Add sherry and reduce by half. Add stock, tomato paste, porcini powder, carrots and celery root, simmer 10 minutes. Add the squash and simmer until tender—about 8 to 10 more minutes. Stir in the herbs and remove from heat. Serve immediately.
Vedge, 1221 Locust St. vedgerestaurant.com
for The pantry
Mushrooms will keep up to a week when left unwashed and stored in a brown paper bag on the refrigerator shelf (not in the crisper!). To preserve for longer, try refrigerator pickling! Cover blanched oyster mushrooms with rice wine vinegar, black pepper, rounds of fresh ginger, and a dash of toasted sesame oil. Cut clean button mushrooms into wedges and marinate in a combination of red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, crushed garlic, red chili flakes, Italian herbs and coarsely ground black pepper. Let pickles rest in the fridge for 24 hours before eating. Serve them as a pre-dinner nibble. —Marisa McClellan Learn more about food preservation at McClellan's blog foodinjars.com
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Real Love N o two LoveBars are exactly alike. Wrapped in hand-painted designs by local artists, the single-origin bean bars are entirely crafted here in Philadelphia—from bean to bar. “We see the process through the whole way,” says Joe Bernstein, a partner in the company. “It’s more a labor of love.” The idea for LoveBar was born in 2008, when founder Tegan Hagy, then working for the Food Trust, had the opportunity to attend Slow Food International’s bi-annual conference in Italy. There she met some cacao farmers from Tabasco, Mexico who had just experienced terrible flooding. “I had spent the past five years of my life thinking about food access, thinking about sustainable food … living what I preached and really believing in it,” says Hagy, who has a degree in food anthropology. “I realized I had never really thought about chocolate. And that kind of blew my mind.” After Italy, Hagy started learning about “bean-to-bar” chocolate. While there are other chocolatiers in Philadelphia, she found out they 14
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1 One-of-a-kind chocolate bars begin with the bean by liz pacheco
purchase chocolate then, melt it down to make bons bons; no one was connecting the chocolate process from grower to consumer. So, using her connection with the Tabasco farmers, Hagy went to Mexico and learned from a small-scale cacao grower how to make chocolate. Today, much of the chocolate for LoveBar comes from that organic farm. When she returned to Philadelphia, Hagy and her friend Phillip Asbury, a visual artist, bought a grinder and started experimenting. “We would make chocolate in his little kitchen with these incredibly tiny, ridiculous machines, and wrap the bars and sell them in the galleries.” This April, LoveBar will celebrate its third year as an incorporated business. Hagy has since upgraded her work space to a more spacious kitchen in the renovated Globe Dye Works building in Frankford. There she, Bernstein and their third partner, Rachael D’Angeli, hand-make the chocolate bars in micro-batches, working with only one bag of beans at a time to ensure freshness. When the Mexican chocolate is unavail-
able, Hagy will buy cacao from certified organic or Fair Trade co-ops with whom she’s directly communicated. “We wanted to do something that we love,” says Hagy. “So it wasn’t a love story in the traditional sense, but a love story for really our city… we wanted to create something [for] everyone.” p hotos by albert yee
2 1 LoveBar chocolate is made entirely by hand in microbatches. Rachel Dâ€™Angeli and Joe Bernstein begin the process by sorting the beans, then roasting them and sorting again. 2 Once roasted and sorted, the beans are put through a cracker to separate the shell from the nib. The nib is used to make the chocolate. 3 The nibs are ground into a paste, and sugar and cocoa butter, if needed, are added. After grinding, the chocolate is tempered and poured into molds. 4 LoveBar chocolate comes in three varietals: 60, 70 and 80 percent ranges. The bars are wrapped in paper handpainted with designs by local artists.
LoveBar, $7-$9.50 at Capogiro (117 S. 20th St. and 3925 Walnut St. locations), Shane Confectionery (110 Market St.), Milk & Honey Market (4435 Baltimore Ave.), Pennsylvania General Store (Reading Terminal Market, 51 N. 12th St.),
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THE FUTUR E OF THE PAST
years. According to one study that’s how long it takes to recover the energy lost in demolishing a building and replacing it with a new, energy-efficient one. While we do need new buildings, and it’s thrilling to see structures built that incorporate green building practices, it’s essential that we understand the value of what already exists. Preservation is perhaps a quieter aspect of sustainability, but philosophically, it’s at the subject’s root. Beyond the sustainability concept of “embodied energy,” there’s also a strong community component to preservation. What do we value enough to keep? And what do these choices say about who we are? When we at Grid were planning to tackle preservation, we were immediately drawn to the amazing work already being done by Hidden City Daily, an online news organization that excels in their coverage of a special editorial the city’s neighborhoods and buildings. An idea emerged: Could Grid partnership and Hidden City collaborate? This section is the answer. The following stories look at some of the inspiring work being done by Philadelphians to preserve the buildings they love, ensuring that our city’s future will be filled with the treasures of the past. Learn more at hiddencityphila.org
GRID + HIDDEN CITY
What in our past IS worth preserving, and how does it shape our city’s future? STORY by Nathaniel popkin
PHOTO by Peter woodall
as the architect Rem Koolhaas writes in Delirious New York, “creation and destruction are the poles defining the field of Manhattan’s abrasive culture,” in Philadelphia, it is adaptation and accretion that nourish our urban experience. We feed on the peeling and unpeeling of layers, on acts of discovery that bind us—in sometimes powerful ways—to the ideals and aspirations of those who came before us. At the heart of this grappling with our inherited streetscape is the confounding and deeply ambiguous practice of preservation. Historic—or landmarks—preservation came into modern consciousness in the 1950s after the demolition of two monumental icons of the railroad age, Philadelphia’s Broad Street Station and New York’s Penn Station, and the loss of countless neighborhoods to new highways and expanding universities and hospital centers. The preservation movement galvanized various democratic instincts all at once. In Philadelphia, it led to the nation’s first preservation ordinance in 1955, a well-intentioned but weak law that was strengthened in 1985 to protect historic buildings from demolition. But in many ways, the preservation instinct runs counter to the American mindset and those who have opposed it often base their argument in the mantra of private property rights. Though basic property rights are routinely regulated through zoning, height and use limitations, etc., it is preservation that draws this kind of ideologically narrow response. In a kind of opposite ideological tact, for decades progressive thinkers, including Koolhaas, have seen preservation as distinctly reactionary, 18 gridphilly.com
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steeped in nostalgia and myth. One of my favorite books to set up the conflict between the desires to preserve the old and build the new is the novel Return to Dar al-Basha, by Tunisian writer Hassan Nasr, about the emotional power of Tunis’ old city (one of the world’s largest sites of preservation). “That old house and all those old neighborhoods need to be torn down,” says a character in Nasr’s book, “so they can be rebuilt with structures that have the amenities that correspond … to modern life … These old neighborhoods were built on injustice … exploitation and tyranny … the oppression of women, on the expropriation of workers’ rights.” Part of the critique, which I share, is that preservation begs us to defer to this not so gentle past, whose building materials we assume were stronger and more beautiful and craftsmanship better. But the danger of quieting the equally powerful instinct to build anew is that it saps our own confidence and architectural vision. In Philadelphia, where developers, fearful of risk, so often pander to the past, the field of contemporary architecture has been stunted by mimicry. Originality has been shunted. As the past—as if it were architecturally uniform—forcefully weighs down on present-day designers, the regulatory mechanisms for preservation have withered, creating an odd reality: great old buildings are routinely demolished while new ones are made to look old. Developers have recently been exploiting loopholes in Philadelphia’s preservation ordinance; meanwhile the underfunded Historical Commission is hard
strapped to add new buildings and districts to its protected list (New York, the cradle of destruction, has more than 100 protected and promoted historic districts. Philadelphia has nine). But the broken system is an opportunity for Philadelphians to expansively reimagine what they hope to achieve with preservation and to decide within the scope of present-day desires, among them sustainability and green construction, how best to build on our past. There are very strong reasons for wanting to protect buildings related to the development of 20th century African-American culture, Italian-American, Chinese-American, and Jewish neighborhood life in particular and immigrant life in general, and the mills and factories that for 150 years defined the rhythms of city life and lend our present-day neighborhoods scale and density. There is emerging support for the preservation of large and small examples of mid-century modern architecture, perhaps especially those that emerged from the modernist instinct to break with the past. Very few of these kinds of buildings are at present protected in Philadelphia. How we go about preserving them within the collected layers of the Philadelphia cityscape is a wonderfully challenging and sometimes exasperating task that is likely to absorb us for years to come.
This former auto showroom was converted into an office building in 1963 and then a homeless shelter in 1987. Last summer, it was repainted and and restored as headquarters for Stephen Starr’s catering business.
nathaniel popkin is co-editor of Hidden City Daily, senior writer of the film documentary Philadelphia: The Great Experiment, and author of Song of the City: An intimate portrait of the American Urban Landscape and The Possible City: Exercises in Dreaming Philadelphia.
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GRID + HIDDEN CITY
ACCIDENTAL PRESERVATIONISTS Beautiful buildings and fascinating history specting cast a spell on the unsu by Liz Pacheco The field of preservation is filled with people motivated by a passion for architecture or history. But not everyone starts out that way. In fact, some of the most interesting preservation projects in Philadelphia are being pursued by unexpected people. We call them “accidental preservationists.” Two such people, an ambitious developer and a former dancer, are hard at work on North Broad Street where they’ve found themselves deeply invested in reviving buildings that without their help might no longer exist. Eric Blumenfeld | EB Realty Management Eric Blumenfeld claims he’s been working in real estate since he was four years old. “All the other kids got to play on Saturday and my father used to drag me to work,” he says. But the former English major—who as a freshman decided not to study accounting, he says, because the registration lines were too long—didn’t formally join the real estate and development world until after college at his father’s behest. In the late 1980s, Blumenfeld had the opportunity to buy many of his father’s properties and founded his own company EB Realty Management. While the company has various projects—many involving historic buildings—throughout the city, North Broad Street is by far the greatest in scope. “Ten years ago I [would] show up on North Broad Street,” says Blumenfeld, “and I would take bankers down here and they would look at me, like ‘you’re out of your mind.’” But standing on the rooftop of the Thaddeus Stephens School of Practice at Spring Garden and Broad Streets, Blumenfeld’s vision now seems less laughable. Looking up the block, there’s the renovated and now rainbow-painted mid-century building where Stephan Starr has headquartered his catering company. There’s the deteriorating but magnificent Divine Lorraine Hotel, which when finished will become luxury apartments and restaurants. Across the street is Lofts 640, a former factory converted into luxury apartments, and whose neighbors include two Marc Vetri restaurants and a Stephan Starr outpost. Up another couple blocks is the Metropolitan Opera House, a beauty from 1908 that’s partially used as a church, and is slated to see the addition of a music venue, art gallery and restaurant as well. And don’t forget the 1926 Thaddeus Stevens School, where a two-story art school
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and luxury apartments are planned. That’s not all; Blumenfeld has also envisioned a new public school campus on the four acres he owns behind the Divine Lorraine. The plan is ambitious, and Blumenfeld speaks exuberantly about the possibilities. “Look where you are,” he says, pointing to a map of North Broad Street. “You’ve got Temple [University] and City Hall and you have a plethora of really beautiful old factory buildings that have suffered from obsolescence.” Many of these old factory buildings, as well as the school, opera house and hotel, are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, making Blumenfeld’s projects eligible for rehabilitation tax credits offered by the federal government. With this financial boost, the redevelopment of North Broad Street has become more realistic. No construction has begun, but Blumenfeld is nearing the final planning stages for the Thaddeus Stevens and Divine Lorraine buildings where he has already done significant clean up. “It starts with looking Divine at something like these Lorraine buildings. They tell stoHotel photo by: ries,” says Blumenfeld. Chandra “You can’t walk through Lampreich the Metropolitan Opera House without hearing the walls telling stories. Once you get sucked into that vacuum, there is no turning back. You can’t be for tearing that down. You have to be for how do we recreate it?”
Metropolitan Opera House photo by: Yves Marchand & Romain Meffre
Uptown Theater photo by: Yves Marchand & Romain Meffre
Linda Richardson | Uptown Entertainment and Development Corporation In the 1970s, Linda Richardson was pursuing a career as a professional dancer and actress. But the North Philadelphia native soon realized that communities of color and women’s organizations—both of which she was a part— didn’t have the networking connections to get funding for their work. In response, Richardson founded the African American United Fund, which provides grants to small social, economic and cultural organizations. As part of United Fund’s work, she helped create the Avenue of the Arts, which includes the North Broad Street Joint Venture—a coalition of African-American cultural institutions on the 2200 block of Broad Street. As Richardson began rehabbing rowhomes for the Venture, she heard from neighbors that the Uptown Theater, located on the same block, was deteriorating. Built in 1929 in the Art Deco-style, the Uptown Theater was once a hub for African-American pop culture, hosting acts like James Brown, Stevie Wonder and Martha and the Vandellas. But after closing in 1978 (with a brief reopening in the ’80s), the theater went from cultural center to deteriorating landmark. In 1982, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. “We were saving the Uptown,” says Richardson about her initial reasoning for taking on the project. “We didn’t consider ourselves preservationists in the traditional sense of the term because we thought of preservation [as]
stodgy—maintaining Independence Hall. But we are preservationists.” With support from the community, Richardson formed the Uptown Entertainment and Development Corporation (UEDC) in 1995. Under her leadership, the nonprofit raised enough money to stabilize the building, repair the roof and, in 2002, purchase the theater. UEDC is now finishing the Entertainment and Education Tower, a 19,000-square-foot space, which will be available for rent, while continuing to raise money to restore the auditorium and balcony. Richardson initially created UEDC to save the Uptown, but her vision has expanded. “I think that the building is just not a preservation in the traditional sense,” she says, “but a catalyst for community change, heritage, tourism, sustainability and more importantly, jobs for members of our community.” UEDC holds neighborhood clean-up campaigns and youth training programs for careers in the music and entertainment industries. They’re also developing an AfricanAmerican heritage trail that will link 21st century cultural sites along a walking and biking path. “We see ourselves not in the traditional preservation,” says Richardson, “but in sustaining a culture and history and development of heritage tourism.” Uptown Theater, 2233 Broad St., philadelphiauptowntheatre.org
African American Historic Preservation Trail Project Pilot
This panel discussion will discuss the economic and social impacts of neighborhood improvement, historic preservation and cultural enrichment. Hosted by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, the panel kick-offs the implementation phase of the African American Historic Preservation trail project. Tues., Feb. 26, 5:30-7:30 p.m., free, African American Museum, 701 Arch St. For more information, visit philadelphiauptowntheatre.org
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SAVING GRACE ion rolls up
A congregat THEIR sleeves and saves their church STORY by jacob hellman
PHOTOs by Peter woodall
ook around us— churches are
dropping like flies,” says Lloyd Butler, a deacon at 19th Street Baptist Church in South Philadelphia. It’s a familiar story in a city with some 200 vacant churches; shrinking congregations can’t meet maintenance costs for their old buildings, which sit boarded up until the rare chance they might be reused. In some cases a developer will buy out the congregation, knock down the church and build new housing. Butler says he witnessed four demolitions last year alone. But among endangered churches, 19th Street Baptist, designed by the firm of eccentric architect Frank Furness, stands out—as much for its green serpentine stone as the DIY strategy employed by the community to ensure the church’s survival. Early photographs show the steeple reaching well over one hundred feet high, but today only a section of the tower’s stone base remains, and a fence cordons off the entire building due to the crumbling façade. When the Department of Licenses and Inspections threatened 22 gridphilly.com
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The historic 19th Street Church was in serious disrepair before congregants took it upon themselves to repair the roof.
to demolish the church, a few members of the congregation decided their only alternative was to stabilize the structure themselves. Typically, before repair work can begin on a historic building, a preservation plan must be in place, engineers must be consulted, and fully insured contractors vetted. These were simply untenable prerequisites for 19th Street Baptist, where large patches of sky were visible through holes in the church’s roof, and plants had begun to grow up from the rotting floorboards. “Those of us with trade skills, we got together and said, ‘Look, how do we keep this building from falling down?’” recalls Butler. Aaron Wunsch, a University of Pennsylvania professor in historic preservation, explains that many of the city’s worthy buildings have been
lost because their stewards wouldn’t roll up their sleeves. “There is such a thing as a grassroots, hands-on approach to preservation that necessarily complements the institutional approach,” he says. Wunsch helped the congregation apply to the National Trust for Historic Preservation for a modest emergency repair grant. Then, last winter, Wunsch, Butler (a carpenter), parishioner Vincent Smith (an electrician) and Deacon Blackson filled a pick-up truck with sheet metal and lumber at Home Depot, and began to devise an ad-hoc system to patch the church’s roof. Over a few weekends, and with under $5,000, they sealed the roof, buying time to raise funds for a formal restoration (former Mayor W. Wilson Goode has helped with fundraising efforts). “It’s true, one of us could have fallen off the roof as we stripped off the rotten asphalt,” Wunsch admits. But the risk has paid off—the building is saved.
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historical ed dispute designation
Will the stall of Overbrook Farms be resolved? STORY by Stefan Kamph
PHOTOs by ALBERT YEE
early every detail —interior and exterior—of Larry
and Jean Andreozzi’s 10-bedroom house is precisely restored, as if time hadn’t touched the home since it was built in 1894. Actually much of Overbrook Farms, the West Philadelphia neighborhood tucked along the city’s border with Montgomery County, feels a lot like it did when tycoons, politicians and industrialists built it as the first Main Line suburb in the late 19th century. Stone houses with gables and manicured lawns sit on quiet, tree-lined streets. “The houses had their own individual architects, marvelous craftsmanship, and marvelous building materials,” says Andreozzi, standing near a door frame of quarter-sawn oak that he’s lovingly restored. Andreozzi is a master woodworker, and for the past 15 years this house has been his hobby. 24 gridphilly.com
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“people come to our house and see the value of restoration,” he says, looking up the original staircase at a huge stained-glass window. Andreozzi is one in a group of residents pushing for the City to designate the neighborhood as an historic district on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places. This recognition would prohibit demolition and legally require the owners of the more than 400 homes to keep their street-facing exteriors looking more or less the way they did a century ago. In 1984, the neighborhood was named a national historic district, but that designation doesn’t protect buildings from being torn down or altered. Since then, two architecturally significant houses have been demolished and others have been converted to boarding houses for St. Joseph’s University students. Despite the cultural value an historical designation brings to a community, the path to district recognition hasn’t been easy. Some residents and businesses worry that their freedom—and money— are threatened by well-meaning preservationists. Meanwhile, the Historical Commission, which City Council authorizes to protect the city’s architectural heritage, lacks the staff capacity or political will to take a stand.
The Threat of Designation In 2004, members of the Overbrook Farms Club decided to seek historic district recognition from the City. The process got off to a smooth start, and club members held a fundraiser to pay for a consultant to write the nomination. But after a blistering political battle over the historic designation of another West Philadelphia neighborhood, Spruce Hill, the commission’s work on the Overbrook
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Larry and Jean Andreozzi live with their family in a 10-bedroom home built in 1894. For Larry, a master woodworker, the home has been his hobby for the past 15 years.
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Rules & REGULATIONS When properties are listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places, owners must follow certain regulations. All exterior alterations must be reviewed by the Historical Commission before any work can take place. This includes: →→Demolitions (partial or complete) →→Additions →→Installation or alteration of decks, fences, awnings, signs and mechanical equipment →→Repair, replacement or removal of architectural features →→Replacement of windows, doors and roofing materials →→Masonry cleaning and repointing →→Painting of facades Historical Commission approval is not needed for: →→Interior alterations* →→Repainting wood and metal trim →→Replacing clear window glass →→Landscaping and tree trimming →→Seasonal decorations *Department of Licences and Inspections will refer all building permit applications to the Historical Commission to confirm that proposed interior changes do not affect the exterior of the building. Properties listed on the Philadelphia Register are not required to: →→Undergo restoration or reverse alteration made to the building before the time of designation →→Be open to the public
Farms nomination faltered. It was left unconsidered for seven years. Finally, in 2011, after renewed pressure by the Overbrook Farms Club and the Preservation Alliance, commission staffers began to review the nomination in preparation for the designation committee to vote on approval. At this late point in the designation process it’s typical for the commission to make sure property owners don’t suddenly alter or demolish their buildings. So, in September 2011, the commission informed homeowners by letter that they’d have to ask the commission for permission to make any substantial modifications to their homes, effective immediately. In a season where anti-government Tea Party protests dominated headlines, this was not good press for the preservation effort. RJ Krohn, a resident and the electronic musician known as RJD2, circulated a petition opposing the effort. Dozens of residents turned up to a November 2011 hearing to voice their opinions. One resident said he thought designation amounted to the Historical Commission “taking his property without compensation.” Another called the club members behind the nomination “Nazis.” V. Chapman-Smith, an historian at the National Archives, joined in opposition to the district. She says she appreciates her house’s historical detail—she spent $8,000 carefully restoring her front porch—but is worried that some residents wouldn’t be able to afford this burden. She also worries that the city wouldn’t let people update their homes for things like energy efficiency. “The original owners saw that house as an organic thing, never staying exactly the way it was when they first built it,” she says now, more than a year after neighbors began to organize against the district. Without such adaptations, she explains, a neighborhood would
become obsolete. “If we save everything, we kill ourselves.” One of the most vocal opponents to the district was the Talmudical Yeshiva of Philadelphia, a rabbinical school that has considered expanding its campus. The yeshiva owns several historic houses that are included in the nomination. While the school has already torn down one architecturally significant house, the historic district designation would prevent them from demolishing others. The grassroots effort soon drew the attention of the then-new Fourth District Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr., who represents a wide swath of West Philadelphia including Overbrook Farms. “People were divided on the issue of historical certification,” he says. “People that were against it expressed to me... that the recession was impeding their ability to repair their home. So I listened to both [sides].” Architectural details from homes in Overbrook Farms.
The All-Powerful City Council Jones has asked the commission to table the discussion until his constituents could get more information. “This is the kind of designation that once you do it, you have committed to a direction for the neighborhood,” he says. “Rather than act in haste, I wanted to give people another opportunity to discuss it, to reach a mutual compromise.” Five months later, following Jones’ request, Alan Greenberger, the City’s commerce director and a deputy mayor, sent a letter to the commission instructing them to put aside the nomination process until his office could connect with all the interested parties. That’s where the process stalled. In an old, unwritten custom called “coun-
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cilmanic prerogative,” City Council members almost always vote on specific development projects in agreement with the councilperson who represents the district in question. By consequence, these elected officials hold powerful sway over the physical development of their districts. Councilman Jones says that by nature he tends not to be heavy handed about making demands of City agencies and that his interest isn’t in derailing the process. “I have an opinion, and it’s just one of many. I’m thankful to them for respecting it.”
The reality, however, is that the commission was given its powers by City Council, which also controls its annual budget of around $385,000—barely enough to keep staff on top of the buildings and districts presently on the Philadelphia Register, let alone process applications for new ones. Council has the power to dissolve the commission or cut its funding. And recent history shows that when a councilperson opposes historic designation, the commission won’t press its case too hard.
The home of Stephanie Kindt and the original building plans from circa 1900.
A decade ago, when Spruce Hill residents submitted what many in the field considered a textbook nomination to turn their neighborhood— one of the nation’s first Victorian-era streetcar suburbs—into an historic district, the district councilperson Jannie Blackwell introduced a bill to City Council. The bill, which ultimately was unsuccessful, would have taken the power to designate historic districts away from the Historical Commission and given it to City Council. Had the bill passed, council members would have gained near-complete authority to block preservation efforts in their districts. Though
A History of Philadelphia’s Historic Register Anyone can nominate a building for historical preservation and in fact, many city landmarks wouldn’t be here today if not for local residents, students, community groups and nonprofits. Historic preservation happens on the city, state and national level, but only properties listed on the Philadelphia Register for Historic Places are protected from adverse alterations and demolition. For more information, visit preservationalliance.com
Special legislation is passed to create the Manayunk Main Street Historic District; the city’s first recognized historic district JUNE 1957 Thomas Mill Covered Bridge over Wissahickon Creek protected as an historic structure
1955 Philadelphia Historic Commission founded and first historic preservation ordinance passed in Philadelphia— only protects individual buildings.
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JUNE 1971 Swann Memorial Fountain in Logan Circle protected as an historic landmark
1985 Ordinance amended to include structures, sites, objects and historic districts
Blackwell’s bill failed, it effectively derailed the Spruce Hill nomination—the commission didn’t appear willing to fight Blackwell, even though it technically could have—and a decade later it casts a shadow over the Overbrook Farms case. With only six staff members and a budget that pales in comparison to other big cities, the commission focuses most of its resources on what it considers its most important role: reviewing permit applications for buildings already on the Register. In addition, the commission has been fighting three contentious appeals over historic properties that could be demolished. “We simply don’t have the staff capacity to meet all expectations,” says Jon Farnham, the Historical Commission’s executive director. “The vast majority of the staff’s time is spent reviewing applications. That’s what we do day-in, day-out.” But on top of being hamstrung by its small budget, as long as Overbrook Farms remains tabled, the commission has been reticent to tackle new building and district nominations. “There’s this sort of unspoken understanding that they’re not going to move on any of the dozen or so nominated buildings or the long-waiting Washington Square West district until they resolve what’s going on at Overbrook,” says Ben Leech, advocacy director at the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia. “There are fates of buildings hanging in the balance.”
PROCESS →→ Nomination made to the Historical
Commission. →→ Committee on Historic Designation
schedules a meeting to determine approval of the recommendation. 3 to 4 months →→ If the committee approves, the recommendation is passed to Historical Commission for review and action. 1 to 2 months
The Future of Overbrook Despite all the talk about government intrusion, real preservation can’t be mandated by an overstretched city agency. It will always depend on the care of the individual homeowner. If everyone had the passion and resources of Andreozzi, their houses could be as well-preserved as his. Andreozzi points out the meticulous tile mosaic in the entry foyer, and the ornate eggand-dart mantelpiece. These kinds of extravagances are part of the city’s three-century-long architectural heritage. Once they’re gone, they’re gone. But treasures like these are all over the neighborhood, in houses of the wealthy and the middle-class, both neglected and lovingly preserved. “Every house, in its own little way, is just like this house,” says Andreozzi. Councilman Jones says that other issues affecting his district are taking precedent The tile over dealing with the historic mosaic in Larry district conflict. Anyway, he Andreozzi’s says, it is the Historical Comhome. mission’s turn to act. “We
WHAT’s ON THE REGISTER? →→ More than 10,000 historic properties →→ 14 historic districts →→ 2 historic interiors →→ Includes: homes, churches, hotels, apartment buildings, cemeteries, bridges, street surfaces, parks, stores, watering troughs
anxiously await them. The ball is in their court.” Farnham says he is trying to figure out how the commission might make an Overbrook Farms district easier to swallow. Possible changes include slight modifications to the district’s boundaries or relaxed standards for renovations that are not visible from the street. Meanwhile, according to City ordinance, those temporary restrictions outlined in the letter that got everyone fuming in late 2011 will remain in effect until the Historical Commission takes up
State and rs National Registe In addition to protecting buildings on the city level, there are also state and national protections available. Pennsylvania Historical Markers →→ Commemorate people, places and events of national or
statewide significance. Historic buildings don’t need to be standing. National Historic Landmarks →→ Places designated by the Secretary of the Interior
as nationally significant →→ 67 in Philadelphia
Ordinance amended to include public interior spaces
National Register of Historic Places →→ Places designated by the National Park Service as having
national, statewide or local significance
→→ 500 individual properties and 600 historic districts in
Philadelphia To view the Register, visit: phila.gov/historical/register.html
City Council Chambers first interior listed in the Register of Historic Places
March 2012 Penn Treaty Park protected as an historic site
Preservation Easements Voluntary donation by a private owner to an easementholding organization, such as the Preservation Alliance. This protects the property from demolition or adverse alterations by current or future owners.
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the issue again. That means Overbrook Farms is being legally treated as an historic district, and residents need to seek approval for outside renovations. With limited resources the commission isn’t in a position to strictly enforce these regulations. It depends on inspectors from the Department of Licenses and Inspections to issue citations, which usually happen only once a neighbor complains. Nobody is patrolling the neighborhood, looking for infractions. Councilman Jones says that since fall 2011 he’s received no complaints from constituents about the restrictions. Residents are being left largely alone with their houses and their opinions—though for those who advocate preservation, the rules provide some comfort. “Right now, we’re de facto under the regulations of the Historical Commission,” says Kevin Maurer, board president of the Overbrook Farms Club, who has worked to get the designation passed. “The world has not come to an end.”
An interior view of Stephanie Kindt’s home in Overbrook Farms.
The art and science of Restoring old buildings by Jacob Hellman
City Hall—now a crisp white icon, but it was only last year that the building’s restoration was finally finished, undoing a half-century of neglect. Built with some 88 million bricks, the restoration treated 200,000 square feet of masonry, 680 windows and 250 sculptures. The project drew on an army of building conservation specialists, and employed some of the industry’s most advanced techniques. It’s no wonder the process took a decade. Modern conservation is a science, but it often must begin from a position of ignorance: old materials are simply unpredictable. City Hall’s tower is made from white Massachusetts Lee marble. But the building’s 30-year construction period was during the coal-burning era and when finished, City Hall was covered in soot and appeared gray. Press accounts even described it as limestone. To determine the appropriate cleaning technique the masonry restoration contractor tested inconspicuous spots to learn what worked, what didn’t and what might damage the stone. Ultimately, explains Nan Gutterman, who works for Vitetta, the architecture firm that oversaw the project, they settled on a “low-pressure micro-abrasive system at 25 to 35 psi”—colloquially known as sandblasting. While the tower’s bronze sculptures can’t be seen without scaffolding, they’ve also been restored to original detail from patina-encrusted oblivion. In the hundred years since they left Alexander Milne Calder’s studio, micro-crevices in the metal’s surface collected impurities and 30 gridphilly.com
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hastened freeze-thaw cycle deterioration. Here, the Polish-trained conservator Andrzej Dajnowski imported a German laser technology never used on this scale. The laser’s beam not only vaporizes dirt, but re-melts a thin surface layer of the metal, eliminating the pitting from the casting process and making it literally better than new. City Hall and other monumental buildings aside, Philadelphia is a city of brick rowhouses. A humble material, brick does not call forth glamorous conservation techniques, but this is why Brett Sturm, a student in materials conservation in the University of Pennsylvania’s historic preservation program, was drawn to it. “Brick is fascinating,” says Sturm. “It’s used in the 21st century exactly as it was used for the Tower of Babble—as a fired, modular piece of earth.” Sturm is finishing his master’s thesis on a defunct brick manufactory, and explains that the only significant innovation to hit the world of bricks involves the way they’re fired. Kilns were once highly unpredictable; cold spots produced under-fired bricks that eventually crumble. Around the middle of the 20th century, ceramic engineers developed modern tunnel kilns, which put out denser and more robust bricks. Even with old brick, though, conservation is largely a matter of keeping roof and gutter leaks from washing out mortar, and an occasional re-pointing. If you’ve got an old rowhouse, avoid Portland cement-based mortar. Mortar is intended to be a sacrificial buffer, but Portland is less permeable than historic lime-based mortars and doesn’t allow water to pass. Instead, water is forced through the brick, which will eventually deteriorate. If conservation science interests you, Penn’s program is one of the nation’s best. This summer the university’s Fisher Fine Arts Library (in the restored Furness building) will host an exhibition on the history of brick. Learn more at library.upenn.edu/finearts
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MODERN LOVEadelphia Thriftway
Why a North Phil deserves historical recognition STORY AND photo by Peter woodall
owadays, vintage stores are thick with “Mem-
support for protecting the Police Adbers Only” jackets from the 1980s and car collectors ministration Building, or “The Roundhouse,” at 7th and Race Streets built covet the “classic” Honda Civics from the 1970s. But by Geddes, Brecher, Qualls in 1963. appreciation develops more slowly when it comes to architecEasier to enjoy are Philadelphia’s ture: buildings must be 50 years or older to be eligible for the few examples of post-World War II National Historic Register. In Philadelphia, however, there is commercial vernacular architecture, none more exuberant than the Thriftno minimum age for a building to be called historic; and good way on Frankford Avenue and Pratt thing because the city has a few late modernist buildings that Street at the end of the Market Frankare worth preserving, but have yet to make the list. ford El. Built in 1954 for the Penn Fruit Company, and designed by George This isn’t surprising. The work of our most famous post-war Neff, the store is a glass and steel anomaly amid the brick architects, Louis Kahn and Robert Venturi, does little to in- storefronts of Frankford. Almost all the Penn Fruit stores spire public affection, much less love. Both Kahn’s Richards from this period look more or less alike, but this one is by Medical Building (1960) at the University of Pennsylvania far the best preserved, and the only one with those marveland Venturi and Rauch’s Guild House (1963) at 711 Spring ous candy-colored stripes painted on the ceiling. Let’s look Garden Street, are mentioned in most every architecture past the everyday use and common form of this striking text book, yet have frustrated many a lay person’s attempt supermarket and put it on the Philadelphia Register before to understand their greatness. someone decides to tear it down. Each architectural period—Victorian comes to mind especially—has been loathed by the following generation or two, peter woodall is co-editor of Hidden City Daily. Before only to be lauded once a certain critical distance has been that, he wrote a column on dive bars for Philadelphia Weekly, achieved. We may just now be ready to see the value in the and worked as a newspaper reporter in Sacramento, Calif. and austerity of raw concrete. Witness the recent groundswell of Bioloxi, Miss.
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Preserving Magicotect Can Philadelphia pr Isaiah Zagar’s dazzling folk art? STORY AND photo by Dominic Mercier
early 10 years ago, in
2002, Philadelphia nearly saw the loss of some of its more unique artwork: the Magic Gardens. A mosaic wonderland created by visionary artist Isaiah Zagar, the Gardens are considered responsible for helping revitalize the once derelict South Street. So when the owner of the once-vacant lot Zagar’s artwork now occupies announced he would sell, the community immediately responded with support. Their efforts saved Zagar’s work. “Otherwise,” says Ellen Owens, executive director of the nonprofit Magic Gardens, “[the gardens] would no longer be here.” While Zagar now owns the three main lots, protecting the Magic Gardens is no easy feat. The roughly 50,000 square feet of murals are made from pottery, glass and found objects. They climb over walls (both inside and out), cover shops, alleys and private homes, spreading from the central Magic Gardens site across nearly 33 Philadelphia blocks—much on private property. One tool for preservation may be the creation of a “Zagar zone of protection,” an idea posited by Sarah Modiano, a Columbia University preservation student. Modiano sees Zagar’s work as a singular visionary
art environment like Los Angeles’ Watts Towers and Brooklyn’s Broken Angel. Those works—which are discrete sculptural installations—have been named national landmarks and thus, given nominal protection. But Owens notes that preserving Zagar’s oeuvre, which is largely integrated in the fabric of the neighborhood, will be a challenge. In addition to the whims of property owners, the work is subject to seasonal expansion and contraction from rain, sleet and snow, as well as the eager hands of visitors. And because of the diverse materials there isn’t a single straightforward method for conservation. Currently, the sprawling murals are maintained by the spry, 74-year-old Zagar and a lone assistant. The Magic Gardens is now taking steps to assess general conservation, a complex undertaking considering the amount of materials used in each work and the artist’s vision. “Isaiah won’t always be able to be the caretaker here,” says Owens, “so we need to be able to understand what he wants.” Philadelphia’s Magic Garden, 1020 South St., phillymagicgardens.org MARCH 20 13
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UNDISPUTED CHAMPIONS Temple students
make the case for Smokin’ Joe’s gym by Molly O’Neill
n 1971, Philadelphia boxer Joe Frazier
won the so-called “Fight of the Century” defeating previously unbeaten and heavily favored Muhammad Ali at Madison Square Garden. But despite being heavyweight champion, Frazier struggled with the ambivalence of fans, many of whom were ardent supporters of the more transformative Ali. Now, more than a year after his death, Philadelphians are beginning to reevaluate the boxer’s legacy, with a particular focus on the gym’s positive community impact on North Broad Street, where Frazier touched the lives of hundreds of young men who sought refuge from the streets in the physical training and discipline of boxing. Last year, Dennis Playdon, a Temple University architecture professor, enlisted his students in preserving the gym, which Frazier was forced to sell in 2008 and now houses a discount furniture store. The students’ work attracted the attention of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which named the gym to its 2012 list of most endangered historic places and designated it a “National Treasure.” The National Trust has also commissioned a market study to determine future best uses for the site. Working with the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia, the students have nominated the building to both the Philadelphia and national historic registers. A listing on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places would protect the building from further major alteration or demolition. Eventually though, Playdon would like to see the gym restored to a workout and training center, a use that resonates with Frazier’s legacy. Grid had a chance to talk with Playdon about the project, the “digital gym” the students are creating, and how sustainability plays a role in the gym’s preservation.
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How important is the North Broad community to this project?
They loved Joe Frazier. He was like a surrogate father to a lot of people in that area. He was always approachable and helpful when he could be. And [he] was really important to a lot of businesses—he supported people, lent his name to projects and such. Are there other buildings in Philadelphia important to the 20th century African-American story in Philadelphia?
There’s the John Coltrane House. The Blue Horizon [boxing venue] has recently been closed and it’s being redeveloped in order to keep the Blue Horizon identity, but redeveloped into something else. Another one is the Uptown Theater, which is one of the oldest African-American theaters in the country, [and] housed huge amounts of history. And they are comparable, although the Uptown Theater is quite beautiful inside. What is the “digital gym” and how will it aid the larger project of preserving the building?
We won a small matching grant from the National Trust to build a website. Architecture students are really good at 3D modeling, and our idea was to put the gym back together virtually. So you could walk inside through the front door and enter the gym as it was and walk around, look at the walls and the pictures and the people. There would be links to news articles and press throughout the website so you could kind of relive what it looked like. This is another way of preserving the gym; to bring it back to what it was. We’ve had a great deal of luck with the movie [When the Smoke Clears, a documentary on Frazier’s life] that was put out. The photographic director has made available to us all the images. Within the next year we will have our website up.
We’re starting to do oral histories that are stories from the people who knew him. We’re getting interesting stuff. When we had a screening of the film at Temple, so many people came along. Among them were former boxers who had trained at the gym with Frazier, and they were young men dressed in suits, which you don’t get much of in North Philadelphia. They came dressed like that because Frazier told them they couldn’t dress any other way. They had to be upstanding citizens to box at his gym. He insisted on proper manners. He brought these kids up. What role do nationally recognized historic spaces play in Philadelphia’s sustainability initiatives?
Well, it’s part of Philadelphia’s identity. We have a lot of complaints about the imaginary Rocky, which was based in part on Frazier’s life… The gym is really important to the Frazier identity. The mayor’s office plans to erect a bronze [statue] at the sports stadium, but these are small efforts; the sort of ground zero is the gym. When you have a world champion in your midst, it’s usually an important figure. Preservation is about taking things forward rather than going backwards. We preserve buildings because they’re part of how we identify ourselves with our city… It’s only recently that the National Trust and preservation organizations have added the category of the importance of cultural identity to preserve buildings. Sustainability doesn’t stop with materials and things. Sustainability also has to do with the bringing forward of places. And [that has] to do with all of the people who’ve made the city what it is now. To ignore that and to only think of sustainability [as] materials and climate is to leave out the most important part—the cultural. Preservation is the design of the future. It’s the background we’ve made in order to make the future.
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GRID + HIDDEN CITY
Preservation Madness Th e addictive nature of home restoration STORY by Joseph G. Brin
PHOTOs by ALBERT YEE
t could have been a scene from the film The Money Pit. Christine and Anthony Shippam, owners of an 1894 Georgian Revival in Mount Airy’s Pelham neighborhood, were lying in bed, rain dripping down on them. “Honey, did I tell you how much I hate this house?” asked Christine. “Did I tell you how much I hate this house?” replied her husband Anthony. “We don’t take vacations. We don’t do anything else,” says Christine Shippam, five years into the project restoring what was one of the dozens of suburban dream houses designed by architect Mantle Fielding. “It’s become an addiction,” she says. Like any addiction, this one forces its sufferers to make apparently irrational choices: refashioning every single detail of the house’s exterior to appear authentic, circa 1894; rehanging every door and window; and hunting out restored period-correct hardware instead of buying contemporary copies. And yet the Shippams practice a rather sophisticated philosophy of restoration. “Leave the scars,” says Christine. “If you can’t fix it, let it be.” They figure there will be future stewards of the house compelled to pick up on things they’ve left un-restored. For a time, the preacher Sweet Daddy Grace, founder of the 36 gridphilly.com
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Christine and Anthony Shippam are five years into restoring their 1894 Georgian Revival home in Mount Airy and the end isn’t in sight.
United House of Prayer for All People, lived here. The Shippams preserved Grace’s “On Air” sign in the red, white, and blue radio room. Neighbors say the columns out front also were once painted red, white, and blue in the style of barbershop poles. When the Shippams bought the house, they found all the woodwork ruined by textured paint and dogs. “There have been times,” says Christine, “when we’ve totally given up hope. But you can’t stop. You can’t back out of a commitment.” All the while friends and family keep asking, “why aren’t you finished?” Since the project began in 2008, the Shippams have weathered dust and dirt, break-ins and self-doubt, difficulties cushioned by a sense that the neighborhood itself has begun to improve. “People caring, that feels good. It helps others,” says Christine. But when asked if she could imagine the day when the house was finished and the years fighting with contractors, tracking down replacement parts, and discovering seemingly endless problems were over, will she be happy to sit back and relax? Her answer: “It would be lonely.”
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by bernard brown
The Northeast Wastewater Treatment Plant
Some swallows decide not to leave for the winter
by bernard brown
’ve been dazzled more times than I can remember by the high-speed acrobatics of hunting swallows—but never in late December. ¶ Rough-winged swallows aren’t rare in the Delaware Valley. Like most of our insect-eating birds, the swallows thrive in the Northeast during the summer and in the winter, head south where there’s more to eat. However, when a breeding ground is provided for yummy chironomid midges (small flies) during the winter months, the swallows stick around. Thus a couple weeks before Christmas I stood with environmental educator and birder Tony Croasdale, photographer Christian Hunold, and Philadelphia Water Department science technician Justin O’Brien at the Northeast Wastewater Treatment Plant. Above our head rough-winged swallows zipped through the sky, picking midges out of the air. 38
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The relatively warm contact ponds (where treated wastewater is left to bleach to kill off any lingering microbes) host a breeding population of midges through the winter. Apparently some of the swallows that enjoy them during the summer decided they’d be better off around these ponds than flying the two thousand miles to Central America.
The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America by David Allen Sibley (Knopf, 432 Pp., $19.95, April 2003) Can’t tell your juncos from your chickadees? Pick up Sibley’s Field Guide, a comprehensive and user-friendly reference for our feathered friends.
Delaware Valley Ornithological Club Interested in picking up a pair of binoculars and watching some birds? The Delaware Valley Ornithological Club is the perfect way to connect with other birders and learn what’s what on field trips throughout the region. Visit dvoc.org to learn more.
photos by christian hunold
Real. Innovative. Collaborative. Design.
Contact ponds at the plant host breeding midge populations during the winter.
Swallows live life on fast forward. We saw them rest for only seconds at a time before taking off again; a cloud of birds darting and banking a few feet above our heads, they were maddening to follow with sluggish human eyes. The wastewater treatment plant is a work of steel pipes and pumps with water coursing through rectolinear pools. The obvious artificiality made the experience of observing wildlife all the more surreal. So many of our swallows, though, see no problem in making a habitat from the built environment. Think of barn swallows, which evolved nesting in caves, now make their homes primarily in our buildings. Similarly, other swallows, including the rough-winged, take advantage of walls that simulate their “natural” cliff nesting sites. Moreover, there is nothing new about humans altering wildlife food supplies. For example, birdfeeders have extended the geographic range of cardinals. Maybe in the green space of our backyards it’s easier for us to ignore our influence on our wild neighbors’ behavior, but at the inescapably industrial wastewater treatment plant, our tinkering is impossible to miss.
M.S. in Industrial Design Birders looking to increase their Christmas bird count totals have been visiting the treatment plant swallows for years, spotting them through the perimeter fence. But, as O’Brien told us, in a post-9/11 world, the Water Department doesn’t like people hanging around the plant with binoculars and high power zoom lenses. There are plenty of places for birding in Philadelphia, even if you wait until April to watch our swallows fly over our rivers and ponds. On that same visit to the treatment plant we heard moretypical winter birds singing from an adjacent patch of woods: Croasdale picked out Carolina wrens, white-throated sparrows, downy woodpeckers and cardinals. Two red-tailed hawks soared high above us as they scanned the rougher land along Frankford Creek for prey. We could have stood there mesmerized by the swallows forever, but we felt bad keeping O’Brien away from his work and I had to get back to the office myself. The swallows had no plans to leave. bernard brown is an amateur field herper, bureaucrat and founder of the PB&J Campaign (pbjcampaign.org ), a movement focused on the benefits of eating lower on the food chain.
M.S. in Sustainable Design Online Certificate in Sustainable Practices Accepting applications now for Fall 2013
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Emerald Ash Borer: Coming Soon to a Tree Near You
This workshop will cover strategies to mitigate emerald ash borer-related risks. Intended for horticultural professionals.
Eric and Ryan Berley, brothers and co-owners of Shane Confectionery, will discuss their recipe development philosophy, local product sourcing and values for a people-centered retail experience. →→ Thurs., Feb. 21, 7-9 p.m.
$20 in advance/$25 at door, The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College, 4207 Walnut St. For more information and tickets, visit
→→ Fri., Feb. 15, 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m., $10, Pennsylva-
nia Horticultural Society, 100 N. 20th St., Fifth Floor. For more information and to register, visit
Introduction to Orchids with Margie Robins
Resident orchid guru Margie Robins will cover watering, fertilizing, light requirements, repotting and methods to encourage reblooming. →→ Sat., Feb. 16, 10-11 a.m., $10, Primex Garden Center,
435 W. Glenside Ave., Glenside. Register in the store or by calling 215-887-7500
Ecological Home Orchard with Phil Forsyth
Phil Forsyth, an edible landscape expert, will cover the basics of fruit tree care, including tree selection, pruning, and natural pest and disease management. →→ Sat., Feb. 16, 1-2 p.m., $10, Primex Garden Center,
435 W. Glenside Ave., Glenside. Register in the store or by calling 215-887-7500
The Resourceful City: How Cities Flourish Despite Constraints
Diana Lind, executive director and editor in chief at Next City, looks at cities that have developed unusual responses to their financial, spatial or social constraints. →→ Tues., Feb. 19, 6-7:30 p.m., free, University
of the Arts, 320 S. Broad St. To register, visit
4th Annual Locavore Business Card Exchange
Tree Tenders Lunch-time Series: Organizing a Community Tree Planting
Join a gathering of citizens with a goal of restoring food choice freedom, and discuss the impact of the genetically modified organisms in our food supply.
→→ Thurs., Feb. 21, 5-8 p.m., free, Superior
→→ Thurs., Feb. 21, 7-8 p.m., free, Collingswood Library,
Woodcraft, 160 N. Hamilton St., Doylestown. To RSVP, email email@example.com or call 215-348-9942
Learning from Sandy: Is Philadelphia prepared for the next natural disaster?
Join the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society for hands-on tree care education at this series of lunchtime workshops.
Join area experts to consider the lessons learned from Hurricane Sandy and what’s needed to make Philadelphia more prepared for extreme weather and the impacts of climate change.
→→ Thurs., Feb. 21, 12-1 p.m., $25 entire series/$5 per
→→ Thurs., Feb. 21, 6-8:30 p.m., free, The Academy of
class. Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, 100 N. 20th St., Fifth Floor. Pre-registration required, visit
Natural Sciences, 1900 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy. To register, visit naturaldisasterpreparedness.
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Sowing Seeds of Sanity, Sustainability and Sustenance
This evening of networking and local food is for anyone who would like to grow their business and learn more about the locavore movement.
771 Haddon Ave., Collingswood, NJ. To RSVP, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Introduction to Rain Gardens with Doris Stahl
Learn about the basic of rain gardens and how to create your own. →→ Sat., Feb. 23, 10-11 a.m., $10, Primex Garden Center,
435 W. Glenside Ave., Glenside. Register in the store or by calling 215-887-7500
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Designing for the Planet
Participate in an interactive program where the audience becomes problem solvers. You are in charge of a large spacecraft and something serious has gone wrong. What will you do?
Rain Water Harvesting with Alden Zove
Learn to implement an easy to construct rainwater-harvesting system, and how it can be integrated with permeable paver patios and rain gardens. →→ Sat., Feb. 23, 1-2 p.m., $10, Primex Garden Center,
Bundle up and enjoy winter brews from more than 25 local craft breweries.
→→ Thurs., Mar. 7, 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m., free, Campion Stu-
drivers, S. Broad Street (between State and Cypress Streets), Kennett Square. For more information and to register, visit kennettbrewfest.com
Up Close and Personal: Seed Starts
This edition of the monthly homesteading workshop will focus on seed starting and garden planning. →→ Sun., Feb. 24, 1-5 p.m., $39/$10 late fee
after Feb. 21, Erdenheim. To RSVP, visit thehomegrowninstitute.org/events
Full Moon Owl Prowl
Hike by the light of the full moon in this adventure of searching and calling for owls at the Bucktoe Creek Preserve. Hike is suitable for all ages.
→→ Mon., Feb. 25, 6-7:30 p.m., $5 members/$10 non-
members, Bucktoe Creek Preserve, 432 Sharp Rd., Avondale. Register at tlcforscc.org or by calling 610-347-0347
6th Annual Wild & Scenic Film Festival
Celebrate the natural world with a lineup of acclaimed independent films and documentaries on outdoor adventures and environmental issues. Ticket includes food and drink. This year’s theme: “A Climate of Change.” →→ Wed., Feb. 27-Thurs., Feb. 28, 6:30-9 p.m. $25 per
day, Chester County Historical Society, 225 N. High St, West Chester. For more information and to register, visit tlcforscc.org
Preserving the Nature of Streams and Structures
First Annual Kennett Winterfest
→→ Sat., Feb. 23, 12:30-4 p.m., $65/$15 designated
Join a discussion on stormwater management and historic preservation incentives. Geared towards the practitioner, but useful to the homeowner, this workshop will include sessions on management and preservation.
435 W. Glenside Ave., Glenside. Register in the store or by calling 215-887-7500
→→ Tues., Mar. 5, 6-7:30 p.m., free, University of the Arts, 320 S. Broad St. To RSVP, visit corzocenter. ticketleap.com
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Wildlife in Winter Series Part III: Migration
Join wildlife expert Holly Merker as she discusses migration habits and patterns that ensure survival of local fauna during the winter months. →→ Sat., Mar. 9, 10 a.m.-12 p.m., $5 member/$10
nonmembers, Bucktoe Creek Preserve, 432 Sharp Rd., Avondale. To register, visit tlcforscc.org or call 610-347-0347
The Brewer’s Plate
Fair Food’s annual celebration of regional breweries, restaurants, farmers and artisan producers—all independently owned and located within 150 miles of the city.
→→ Sun., Mar. 10, 6-9 p.m. $70-$140, National Consti-
dent Center, St. Joseph’s University, City Avenue. For more information and to register, visit sju.edu/
tution Center, 525 Arch St. For more information and tickets, visit fairfoodphilly.org
Sustainability Expo and Film Screening: King Corn
Pennypack Farm & Education Center continues their 4th Annual Sustainability Expo and Film Series with King Corn, which explores the subsidized crop that drives our nation’s politics and diet.
→→ Tues., Mar. 12, 6-9 p.m., $10, Ambler Theater, 108 E. Butler Ave. For more information and to register, visit amblertheater.org/pennypack
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A Penny Saved Mindful spending is only some of the good you can do with your money by leah pillsbury
ot all of us have the privilege of a savings or retirement account, but for those that do, how often do you stop and ask: what’s my money up to? ¶ That’s the question I posed to potential investors during my time as a fundraiser for the Mariposa Food Co-op expansion project. The more I asked this question, the more I began to understand that the money we save can be as powerful a tool for change as the money we spend. As a fundraiser with Mariposa my job was to convince food co-op members and neighbors in West Philadelphia to park some money with the co-op for a few years. Their investments would help cover the costs of purchasing and renovating a new store, and once the co-op was in its new space, and turning a profit, investors would get their money back—in many cases with interest. The conversations I had inevitably included lines like: “Wouldn’t you rather see the money invested in your savings account be put to work for a project you care about?” I pitched it as an opportunity to align an investment with their values. Just as many co-op members were striving to make responsible choices with their consumer dollars—buying Fair Trade coffee or organic carrots—I encouraged them to make a responsible choice with their saved dollars. In the end, Mariposa raised more than $2.5 million to expand and relocate—nearly one quarter of the funds came from individuals. The amounts ranged from $25 membership investments to a $25,000 individual loan. The success of the expansion can be attributed in part to the generosity of more than 800 individuals putting their money to work in their neighborhood. It was inspiring, and the experience set me off on a personal quest to find more ways that I could invest money in projects I cared about. Along the way I learned a little more about money, a lot more about myself, and adopted a new vo46
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cabulary comprised of terms like “investment vehicles.” The first investment vehicle I committed was a loan to The Reinvestment Fund, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit financial institution that finances schools and housing, among other neighborhood revitalization projects. Then, I invested in RSF Social Finance, a nonprofit financial services organization in San Francisco that lends to educational, agricultural and environmental social enterprises around the country and world. Somewhere in there I also made the choice to move my checking and savings accounts from a big bank to my local credit union. And, of course, I made a loan to the co-op. I can’t claim that this approach is new or particularly innovative. The idea of investing in companies or projects whose missions you support, and divesting from those you do not, has a long history. For example, the 1980’s anti-Apartheid movement successfully organized large-scale divestment from companies doing business in South Africa. More recently, the California teachers’ pension fund—the nation’s largest— took the first steps towards divesting from gun and firearms companies, following the school shooting in Newtown, Conn. Philadelphia’s pension board is following suit, having voted to drop investments with gun-related companies should
they fail to adopt certain standards. While these strategies exist, it’s rare that individuals to invest with a social return in mind as much as a financial one. This isn’t so surprising, considering that my own journey to discovering new socially responsible investment opportunities wasn’t always easy. Sometimes I felt hindered by my ignorance about finances or debilitated by the guilt of having more than I needed. However, the key, I found, was to keep at it, even when it got complicated—because leaving my money untouched didn’t harness its power. And why not use that power for good? After completing the Mariposa Food Co-op capital campaign, leah pillsbury joined Common Market, a nonprofit local foods distributor, as their director of development. She can be reached at leahpillsbury.com . illustratio n by ji m ti erney
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Master of Environmental Studies
Is there a use for biogas emitted from wastewater treatment plants? For his MES Capstone Project, Samuel Oldak devised a data collection method to assist the Water Environment Federation in determining the current and potential uses of gases created by anaerobic digestion of waste. His work creates a new baseline for data collection projects that is especially relevant to researchers conducting the quadrennial EPA Clean Watersheds Needs Survey. Penn’S MaSter Of envirOnMental StudieS PrOgraM combines classroom work with field experience in a broadly based interdisciplinary approach to the study of the environment. As a culminating exercise in the program, students complete an individual project that puts what they’ve learned in the classroom to work in the field. Their choice of final projects often reflects the area of environmental work in which they intend to focus their careers.
Walk-In wednesdays Open information session for all LPS programs EnvironmEntal StudiES featured the SEcond WEdnESday of each month
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This month’s issue was created in special partnership with Hidden City Philadelphia and looks at preservation projects happening in our city...