Category Archives: Neighborhoods

Parkside Revisited (Again): A Look Inside 4230 Parkside Avenue

Note: the author has previously covered Parkside in “After the Fair” and “The Slifkin Family.”  A walk-through of the house with the author and University of Pennsylvania lecturer Hanley Bodek will be featured on an upcoming segment of WHYY’s Friday Arts.  On the outside, the houses on the 4200 block of Parkside Avenue are grand […]
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Zanghi’s Revenge: A Pivotal Mobster Moment

The third attempt on John Avena’s life took place on March 11, 1927 as the 32-year old gangster stepped out of a restaurant at 822 South 8th Street. Avena knew exactly who was behind the failed hit. And, as we learned last time, he had no intention of turning anyone in. “I like to settle […]
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Walking West Philly with Joe Washington (Part 2)

Note: this is the second part of “Walking West Philly with Joe Washington.”  To read part one, click here.  When Joe Washington was a young man in the 1970s, Hawthorne Hall was a gathering place for Powelton and Mantua.  Its second floor auditorium hosted dance parties and boxing matches. Now, the orange brickwork is battered. […]
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Walking West Philly with Joe Washington (Part 1)

“West Philly hasn’t lost its soul. It’s still a melting pot. It’s had its share of ups and downs. New people from all over are bringing a new vitality to it.” Joe Washington and I met for lunch at the Hamilton Restaurant on the last day of winter.  It’s a narrow, old-fashioned diner at 40th […]
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Trolley Barns and Grand Hotels: A Brief Look at the Widener Empire

  At the corner of 41st Street and Haverford Avenue, amidst the rowhouses of West Powelton, stands a cavernous brick building with a pitched roof. Looming over its neighbors, it is one of the few surviving structures of the Widener trolley car empire. Originally, the Philadelphia Traction Company had three massive trolley sheds in West […]
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Campus Clearance: A Look Inside UPenn’s Lost Houses

  It’s hard to believe that before the 1960s, adaptive reuse was an alien concept to architects and city planners.  To universities, the planning ethos of “out with the old, in with the new” was especially potent.  Disciples of Le Corbusier and other modernists were in control of the University of Pennsylvania and American schools. […]
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Frederick A. Poth: Red Bricks and Gold Beer (Part 2)

In 1887, the brewer Frederick A. Poth purchased a large corner lot at N.33rd and Powelton Avenue from Quaker industrialist John Sellers Jr.  Sellers was one of Philadelphia’s richest men, a manufacturer of machinery and investor in West Philadelphia real estate.  Along with the lumber merchant John McIlvain, Sellers was also a stalwart of West […]
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The Carriage Houses of Van Pelt Street

Two months ago, while giving a book talk at Bucknell University, I was fortunate to tour an actual working carriage house, attached to an 1840s brick mansion in the small town of Mifflinburg.  My host Karl Purnell had restored his family’s carriage house to its original condition and configuration. Within its walls were a horse […]
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Alexander Johnston Cassatt: The Man Who Spanned the Hudson

Alexander J. Cassatt (1839-1906) was not a Philadelphian.  He was a Pittsburgh transplant who had started his career as an engineer with the Pennsylvania Railroad, and proved himself to be a master of transportation logistics.  As vice president of “The Railroad,” Cassatt enjoyed the good life.  He was the proud owner of a Frank Furness-designed […]
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1601 Locust Street and “The Perfect Square”

The imposing Daniel Baugh mansion, which once stood on the northwest corner of 16th and Locust, was one of dozens of grand residences built to last the ages but only lasted a few decades.  Its ephemeral presence is a contradiction: perhaps no American city is more conscious of its past and traditions.  Yet at the […]
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