Blatstein Owns Burned Factory


Photo: Hidden City Daily

The former L.H. Parke Coffee and Tea Importer, with its wide rounded windows and elan of peeling paint and mold, burned this morning, closing the El and costing the city yet another handsome commercial building from the 19th century.

Backhoes have arrived on the scene already in advance of demolition.

Photo: Hidden City Daily

The property is owned by Tower Investments, the real estate firm led by Bart Blatstein. Our investigation into the site reveals that for years it hasn’t been secured; people have been regularly seen going in and out–and more recently there have been reports of construction activity inside. We are awaiting confirmation on the level and type of that activity.

Clarification: The L.H. Parke fire on July 10, 2012 destroyed a complex of connected buildings that had two different owners: 1118-1130 N Front St. is owned by Bart Blatstein’s Tower Investments, and 1132-1140 N. Front St. is owned by John Galdo. A fence behind Galdo’s 1132-1140 parcel was frequently breached over a number of years, allowing trespassers access to a courtyard on Galdo’s property, as well as Galdo’s building at 1132 N. Front St. Licenses & Inspection cited the 1132 N. Front St. property for being “unsecured/unsafe” in 2007, 2009 and 2011. Trespassers also repeatedly accessed Blatstein’s buildings through unknown means.

This is the second fire in that complex in the last 3-4 years. There was a small fire that destroyed much of the roof of the garage that was the southernmost building in the complex, and there was also a fire directly across Hope Street. That property is now being turned into condos.

Tower’s record on securing empty buildings is poor, as we reported last year on the Ortlieb’s brewery nearby.

Clarification: Tower Investment owns another vacant industrial property in Northern Liberties, the Ortlieb’s Brewery complex on Poplar and American Streets. Trespassers have accessed the property repeatedly over the past six years, as we reported last year.

Photo: Hidden City Daily

The complex dates to at least 1875 when it was the Dougherty distillery. Great history of the company HERE. The 1910 map shows the distillery as well. Later maps don’t identify any business but definitely was L.H. Parke’s at some point.

From Wikipedia: “L.H. Parke started in 1889 as a partnership of Louis H. Parke and William P. M. Irwin. The partnership took over the small provision-pushcart business of Samuel Irwin, a civil war vet. who had lost his arm in the Battle of Winchester, Virginia. Parke started as a seller of coffee, tea and spices. The company grew to be a major institutional wholesale seller of canned goods and had five locations (Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington, DC, Albany, New York and Richmond, VA.) by the time it sold out to Consolidated Foods in 1962.”

Photo: Hidden City Daily

The building was next occupied by Fruchter Industries, wholesale distributors of kitchens, vanities and appliances, and later by Wood Superior, a woodworking company.

For “When Northern Liberties Burned,” by Stephan Salisbury, click HERE.

About the author

Hidden City co-editor Nathaniel Popkin’s latest book is the novel Lion and Leopard (The Head and The Hand Press). He is also the author of Song of the City (Four Walls Eight Windows/Basic Books) and The Possible City (Camino Books). He is senior writer and script editor of the Emmy-winning documentary series “Philadelphia: The Great Experiment” and the fiction review editor of Cleaver Magazine. Popkin's literary criticism appears in the Wall Street Journal, Public Books, The Kenyon Review, and The Millions. He is writer-in-residence of the Athenaeum of Philadelphia.


  1. I hope someone asks Bart some tough questions about this one, like why this property was “overlooked” while dumping hundreds of millions of dollars into the Piazza, Liberties Walk, Avenue North, and his crazy idea for a casino on Broad Street. Meanwhile he did nothing to even secure and stabilize this building while the walls crumbled and roof collapsed. Maybe the building wasn’t salvageable for reuse, but it seems to me that in this location, in this neighborhood, that this should not have happened to this building.

  2. I’ve walked this block every day for the past 3 years to and from work and this building’s “Handsome” days have long since passed. It was a hazard, completely dilapidated, and totally disgusting, especially from a health point of view. It is prime real estate for transit-oriented development. Had it been salvageable (like the Schmidts buildings at 1010 & 1011 N. Hancock St.) Tower/Bart would have saved it and used it. Not making any accusations here, but coincidentally enough, yesterday morning, I saw a group of suits standing in the the parking lot next to the Parke building, holding plans, having a discussion, and seemingly pointing to the Parke. And today, poof!

  3. I personally hold the city starting with council all the way to license and inspections and yes Bart Blatstien as well responsible for yet another tragedy to not only our history but to the dangers they allow to go unchecked ! city council you own L & I take a good look at your system and fix it b4 it fixes you !!!

    • I’d bet his insurance policy was paid up!
      Bart owns many officials in this city..can’t blame him entirely because that’s the most efficient way things get done here.

  4. Lets not forgot Bart’s building right next to I-95 along Columbus & Washington.

  5. Bart Blatsetin, real estate ultra-mogul and single-handed reinventor of Northern Liberties will definitely get away with nothing more severe than this very article for this.

  6. Why is Bart to blame? The guy can only do so much to revitalize this city.. Why dont one of you finger pointers start buying up dilapated houses and factories and help change our blighted City landscape. We can’t expect Bart to do everything around here.. We cheer him when he does something good and point the finger at him when something goes wrong..
    We need more Bart Blatstein’s in this god forsaken town

    • why is bart to blame? um, because he owns the freakin’ building. do you not understand how that works?

  7. Bart does not own the building at 1132-40 N Front

    • no one said he does. he owns 1118-30 front st, which is the building in the photos above. do you not see the tower investments sign in the above photo?

  8. Bart gets way too much flack from the haters. He’s a hero for doing what he’s done.

  9. Developers often have to acquire properties before attempting to lease or create a partnership for development. Is he to blame for why the fire started? No one knows. Are these buildings a risk? Yes. But we still need to encourage people like Blatstein to attempt to invest in such projects. You can not just get a project like this off the ground that easily, zoning needs to be approved, lending secured which requires significant criteria to bee met.

    Thankfully no one was hurt.

    I would agree L & I need to get their crony priorities straight. They are super understaffed is one problem. Or at least that is what everyone is told!

  10. Bart did not burn this place down.

    If he wanted to rehab, he doesn’t want to fix it AFTER it burned and if he wanted to knock it down, it would cost the same.

    • I am willing to bet Bart did burn it down, or at least it is a heck of a coincidence.

      This building has been sitting around wide open to scrappers, druggies, vandals, hipsters, homeless, etc for years now. I walked right into it to take some pictures probably 5 years ago and I imagine nothing had changed.

      Now that there was interest in the building is suddenly burned down? Right. Just like how in Norristown when interest in a site for a new water treatment plant came up the Nicollet factory, sitting empty and open for years, suddenly burt into an accidental 4 alarm fire. The non politically correct term for it is “Jewish Lightening”, no offense intended. They want to build something that they could not do with the old structure or they are being blocked by the buildings historical value. Whoops, it burned, nothing to be done, now its unsafe to repair and far to costly. Demo and build something new.

      Building’s don’t just burn for no reason. Sure, some of these vacants burn by accident or by plain old arsonists, but most burn because there is a bottom line in a book and a architects rendering on a desk somewhere.

      Leaving the building unsecured for years is negligence alone. It is called demolition by neglect and developers do it frequently. You buy an old property in fixable shape but you let it sit for some years, let the kids break the windows, let the copper piping and wires get stolen (or have it scrapped yourself on the hush hush), let the water come in and rot the floors, buckle the walls. Ooops, its way to costly to fix after 5 years of letting it get destroyed, gotta demo and build new. They just did that to building on the historic register in Bethlehem.

  11. Comments on this article are now closed. –ed.


  1. » Blog Archive » Rumblings: Do The Bart-Man
  2. Another Ostensibly Preventable Warehouse Fire Strikes Philadelphia | NakedPhilly
  3. Bart Blatstein’s Tower Investments Owns the Warehouse That Burned in Fishtown | The Philly Post
  4. Front and Girard warehouse fire roundup | Yaron sentenced to five years
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