Rooftop Paradise: A Nautical-Inspired Deck on the Parkway

 

The nautical-inspired deck atop Jim Trachtenberg’s Art Museum home is one of the city’s most eye-catching. | Photo: Tony Gaye Photography

Drive by the 2300 block of Pennsylvania Avenue any summer night after 8 pm when the automatic timers turn the twinkle lights on, and you’ll spot a deck glowing like a pint-sized ocean liner cruising the night skies of the city. The deck, one of the city’s most eye-catching, sits atop Jim Trachtenberg’s stunning modern house crafted from two adjoining rowhouses.

If your invitation to this year’s Fourth of July party didn’t arrive, don’t worry. No one else got theirs either. Trachtenberg, host to an annual party that boasted perhaps the best views of the city’s fireworks over the Art Museum, is making the party even more exclusive this year: Just his fiancee Kathryn Miller and their immediate family. “After 35 years, I’ve retired my entertainment hat,” says Trachtenberg whose prime location, just yards from Mark di Suvero’s bright orange steel “Iroquois” sculpture, has even the local TV crews drooling for access.

An aerial view of fireworks and the Trachtenberg home. | Photo: Jim Trachtenberg

Too bad for the rest of us because this deck, built to resemble the rear of a yacht, is a bit of eccentric charm on the roof of this double-wide house in the Art Museum area. Carefully constructed with espresso-colored African cedar wood, outfitted with authentic nautical lights, stainless steel railings, and even possessing a nod to a boat wheelhouse with a separate deck just big enough for some nautical flags and a captain’s chair, this is the ultimate urban getaway.

Trachtenberg bought the first house in 1977 and truly appreciated its desirable location when Pope John Paul II visited the city drawing millions to line Benjamin Franklin Parkway for a peek at the Popemobile. Through the decades, he’s enjoyed concerts, parades and fireworks along the Parkway from this sweet spot, not to mention the unobstructed view of the Art Museum from the master bedroom.

The bi-level deck features a captain’s chair, left, and a shady spot for relaxing and stargazing. | Photo: Tony Gaye Photography

In 1998, he bought the neighboring property and then gutted both interiors, moved the front entrance to the side on Judson Street, and reworked the space using his design know-how honed through years of working at his family’s custom furniture manufacturing business, Tracey, Inc., located in Northern Liberties. The result is a sleek, contemporary domicile with a clever use of space reminiscent of a ship builder’s thoughtful efficiency. The rooms are all smartly designed for the ultimate flow of space and serenity. Miller’s green thumb, perhaps from her country girl Iowa roots, are in evidence in the home, from the healthy happy orchids found throughout to the beautifully landscaped exteriors.

Though the party has been put on hold this year, Trachtenberg at age 60, has a busy schedule of work and fun to keep. “I’m not done,” he says with a laugh. “Life is worth living, baby.”

Lovely container gardens frame the skyline view | Photo: Tony Gaye Photography

About the author

Sarah Jordan is a National Magazine Award-nominated writer who lives in Philadelphia. She has written extensively for national and regional magazines and newspapers and is the author of four books. Jordan has written on parenting, lifestyle, design, travel and the arts for magazines and newspapers including Parents, Parenting, Philadelphia Magazine, Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Inquirer Magazine, New Jersey Life, Philadelphia Weekly, Seven Arts Magazine and Playbill. She authored The Teen Owner’s Manual: Operating Instructions, Troubleshooting Tips, and Advice for Parents, The Pregnancy Instruction Manual: Essential Information, Troubleshooting Tips, and Advice for Parents-to-be, co-authored The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Parenting and The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Weddings. She is currently obsessed with surfing.



3 Comments


  1. Ooooooo. Rich peoples’ homes! How _hidden_ . . . from those of us not posh enough to be invited to the party.

    Interesting shift in editorial tone. Has Hidden City started competing with Philly Mag for that much coveted plastic surgery advertising revenue?

  2. Wish I had gotten an invitation to that party!! When I lived in Old City a million years ago, there was a (admittedly not quite so nice) deck on top of my building. I loved going up there and seeing the decks all around me on neighboring buildings. You had no idea from street level that so much was going on up there! That is a truly hidden part of Philadelphia – thanks for highlighting it.

Recent Posts
Parkway Institutions To Take Revenue Hit From Pope Visit

Parkway Institutions To Take Revenue Hit From Pope Visit

July 6, 2015  |  Morning Blend

The financial inconvenience of being part of history, Taller Puertorriqueño to break ground on $11.4 million project in Fairhill this fall, celebrating the half-century fight for LGBT rights in the Gayborhood, and frequent commuter discounts likely to return for Delaware River bridge users > more

The Tastiest Morsel Of Season City

The Tastiest Morsel Of Season City

July 6, 2015  |  The Shadow Knows

On the sleepy 200 block of North 13th Street the former Ballinger Building is steamy with the scent of dim sum and a wide range of former tenants that will send an appetite for adaptive reuse into overdrive. If the building's Renaissance façade doesn't whet the palette, its history of notable 20th century construction companies, sexploitation films, and enterprising architectural firms will. The Shadow dishes out this multicourse meal from the outer edges of Center City > more

Summer Break

Summer Break

June 29, 2015  |  News

The Hidden City Daily team is taking a short summer vacation. We'll be back next Monday, July 6th. Have a great Independence Day! > more

Taking Inventory With The Philadelphia Church Project

Taking Inventory With The Philadelphia Church Project

June 26, 2015  |  Vantage

The fabric of Philadelphia's sacred architecture is slowly disintegrating as religious neighborhood landmarks give way to new construction. The Philadelphia Church Project, a growing online record of the city's historic sancturaries, has been steadily amassing a church database for almost 8 years. Hidden City co-editor Michael Bixler checked in with the founder of the website to discuss church closings and the project in detail > more

More Starchitecture Coming To The Navy Yard

More Starchitecture Coming To The Navy Yard

June 26, 2015  |  Morning Blend

A “landmark event” set for Tuesday, Temple (likely) makes room for new stadium, ROYGBIV in the Gayborhood, and contemplating the future of a South Philly community center > more

When Pastorius Monument Unsettled Germantown

When Pastorius Monument Unsettled Germantown

June 25, 2015  |  Morning Blend

Contemplating monumental art in Germantown, a look at Indego's great two-month numbers, another pilot program to get more school funding, and a textile warehouse conversion in Queen Village > more