Doppelgangers

1521 Sansom Street (Photo: Ben Leech)

Sansom Street and City Avenue: could any two Philadelphia streets be more dissimilar? Central versus peripheral, squeezed versus sprawling, a glorified service alley versus a wannabe expressway. One would expect this study in contrasts to play out architecturally as well, and for the most part it does. With one odd exception.

1521 Sansom is a building I know well. I admire its scruffy little art deco façade every time I leave Oscar’s Tavern (or the Nodding Head, or the Oyster House….) I’ve written about it elsewhere, and love to point out the bizarre homage to Frank Lloyd Wright that someone added to it sometime in the 1980s. But until a recent trip out West, I had no idea that the building has an even more unlikely twin.

215 W. City Avenue (Photo: Ben Leech)

215 West City Avenue, on the Merion side, is a long way from Sansom Street, but the resemblance is uncanny. Was this the work of a drafting room pirate? An architect on auto-pilot? Are there any more of these doppelgangers out there?

About the author

Ben Leech is the former Director of Advocacy at the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia and is a proud dual citizen of Philadelphia and Lancaster (a Philancadelphisterian?). He dabbles in illustration, architectural and otherwise. Some of his extracurricular activities are on display at btleech.tumblr.com

Send a message!



4 Comments


  1. The host in Marion was the beloved Franklin’s 5&10 of my youth…not really relevant, I know. But still, interesting to me.

  2. Both were probably built for a now gone chain store, such as Woolworths or one of the other 5&10s.

  3. The Sansom street facade was the rear end of a Kresge’s that fronted on Chestnut. Thanks, Lisa, for the note about the Franklin’s. Interesting AND relevant!

  4. I love to laugh at the at the knockoff V C Morris storefront on Sansom. Just awful. Kudos to Mr. Leech for the reference. And as for doppelgängers, I grew up in the suburbs where all the houses, shopping centers, fire houses, et al were the same. Then again, that really wasn’t architecture.

Leave a Reply

Comment moderation is enabled, no need to resubmit any comments posted.

 

Recent Posts
Preservation Alliance Calls Out Toll Bros’. Obscurantism; Toll Bros. Call Out Alliance’s Obstructionism

Preservation Alliance Calls Out Toll Bros’. Obscurantism; Toll Bros. Call Out Alliance’s Obstructionism

September 29, 2016  |  Morning Blend

Lawyers spar over Jewelers’ Row case, PMA Asian Collection returning Sunday, and Penn Treaty Park getting some TLC > more

Germantown Neighbors Wary But Hopeful Over Plans For Abandoned St. Francis Of Assisi

Germantown Neighbors Wary But Hopeful Over Plans For Abandoned St. Francis Of Assisi

September 29, 2016  |  News

St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Germantown has suffered theft, fire and blight since it closed in the summer of 2012, transforming a 113-year-old neighborhood anchor into a pressure point of crime and neglect. But redemption may be close at hand. John Henry Scott has the story. > more

PennDOT Announces Plan To Unclog Schuylkill Expressway

PennDOT Announces Plan To Unclog Schuylkill Expressway

September 28, 2016  |  Morning Blend

Alleviating the daily traffic troubles of I-76, an ode to the SEPTA token, Northeast district plans commence, and Five-Below commits to Center City > more

Developers Continue To Distrust Central Delaware Master Plan

Developers Continue To Distrust Central Delaware Master Plan

September 27, 2016  |  Morning Blend

The imperative of collaboration in reaching a critical mass on the Delaware, proposed regional rail power plant draws residents’ ire, L&I releases more data sets, and Walnut Lane Bridge reopens > more

The Crisis On Jewelers Row: Mayor Kenney We Need You

The Crisis On Jewelers Row: Mayor Kenney We Need You

September 27, 2016  |  Soapbox

The tools are in hand to stop Toll Brothers' tower (and get it built somewhere else), architectural historian and preservation professor Aaron Wunsch argues. Can Jim Kenney deliver? > more

Ground Broken On Reuse Of Old Spring Garden School

Ground Broken On Reuse Of Old Spring Garden School

September 26, 2016  |  Morning Blend

North Philadelphia eyesore being converted into 37 units of subsidized housing, Fishtown entertainment complex opens, and Kenney the pedestrian champion > more