The Architecture Of Overbrook Farms: A Portrait

 

Last week we published an article (which also appears in this month’s Grid Magazine) about the campaign to put an Overbrook Farms Historic District on the Philadelphia Historic Register, a move opposed by some neighbors. And then we realized it might be a good idea to give you a feel for what’s at stake by creating a portrait of the neighborhood’s architecture. The 20 photos in this essay are impressionistic rather than comprehensive, and probably lean towards the prettier or more unusual examples. However, some houses in the neighborhood are dilapidated, and a few have lost major architectural features, such as porches, so we’ve included a couple shots that show this aspect as well.

The neighborhood’s architecture is worth a look in its own right, politics aside. A stellar lineup of Philadelphia architects, including Horace Trumbauer, Mellor & Meigs, Willis Hale and Walter H. Thomas, designed the homes, and it shows. The architecture is primarily revivalist–Colonial, Tudor, Gothic and Federal, along with Italian Villa, Queen Anne and Arts and Crafts–and mostly avoids late Victorian frippery, relying instead on bold rooflines to create visual interest. The result is West Philadelphia’s answer to Germantown, Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill.

For our analysis on the economic impact of historic districts, click HERE.

OF7

OF1

OF3

OF2

OF6

OF17

OF20

OF18

OF21

OF10

OF12

OF15

OF13

OF19

OF16

OF9

Of14

OF8

OF5

All photos by Peter Woodall

Peter Woodall is the co-editor of Hidden City Daily. He is a graduate of the UC Berkeley School of Journalism, and a former newspaper reporter with the Biloxi Sun Herald and the Sacramento Bee. He worked as a producer for Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane and wrote a column about neighborhood bars for PhiladelphiaWeekly.com.



5 Comments


  1. Sure looks a historic district to me!

  2. ‘The 20 photos in this essay are impressionistic rather than comprehensive, and probably lean towards the prettier or more unusual examples.’

    Not really. This is a good solid look at a broad range of the housing stock in Overbrook Farms. That said, the neighborhood is top heavy with some fairly amazing homes. It was built in the late 19th century as a consciously conceived high end small town within the city, the first of the Main Line communities on what was the brand new Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line train.

    63rd Street between City Avenue and Lancaster Avenue is the local commercial strip that is still trying to get its sea legs in the modern era, but the buildings are there and it is becoming more interesting… slowly.

    $300,000 will get you a two bedroom rowhome half a block off Passyunk with a backyard big enough for a bag of salt. The same money here will get you a four bedroom home with some combination of library, solarium, carriage house, stone wrap around porch and a ‘chill room’ studio on the top floor for your teenage kids.

    The train station has you in or out of town in just a few minutes, and Saint Joe’s security patrols looking for outside trouble and instantly kiboshes what used to be party nightmares from their students. Party nightmare no more!

    I’ve been telling a film collector friend who doesn’t like his current home and pays for storage in three locations to bring it all together here for half of what he’s paying, with room left aplenty to house visiting film people!

    The Historic District designation has been a tough sell here because, I believe, the pitch from downtown hasn’t really engaged the community in a way that addresses fears that residents without deep pockets will be forced to take only the most expensive options for renovations and that sort of thing. Still, I have seen a third rate disaster of a roof go up on a house that would be a key property in any other neighborhood, and HD designation could have opened doors that served as a sensible guide to the project.

    A friendly neighborhood worth exploring, with the oldest neighborhood association in America still in place and very active.

  3. If not for the header at the top of the page, I would have guessed Mt. Airy.

  4. This sampling of homes is beyond awesome. The architecture is so stunning it almost brings me to tears! I sure hope the Historic Designation happens.

Trackbacks

  1. Bottleneck At The Historical Commission | Hidden City Philadelphia
Recent Posts
Verizon’s Suburban “Station Domination”

Verizon’s Suburban “Station Domination”

January 26, 2015  |  Morning Blend

SEPTA signs $7 million deal with Verizon, and announces realtime ETA system; bike lanes up 13% over eight years; and good eyes on Sansom > more

With Ice And Coal Building's Murals Gone, Is Italian Market Development Coming?

With Ice And Coal Building’s Murals Gone, Is Italian Market Development Coming?

January 26, 2015  |  Vantage

The community mural wall at 9th and Ellsworth is all but a gray-washed memory today. A barrier for the empty lot where the Ice And Coal building once stood, it stands a fine example of artists pitching it to tackle urban blight. Daniel Shurley takes us down to South 9th Street, where plans for a Business Improvement District, and possibly a new, creative life for the wall, are currently in the works > more

Furness Church Escapes Demolition, Will Be Reused For School Space

Furness Church Escapes Demolition, Will Be Reused For School Space

January 23, 2015  |  Morning Blend

Penn professor preserves Episcopal Church of the Atonement, a remnant from the early days of the Lincoln Highway, SOSNA considered Washington Ave mixed use, and some "Vintage Vaudeville" on display at the Barnes > more

J.T. Riley Lumberyard Yields To Mixed-Use Development

J.T. Riley Lumberyard Yields To Mixed-Use Development

January 23, 2015  |  News

Big development plans are in motion for the former site of J.T. Riley Lumberyard on East Girard Avenue. A leader of the lumber industry for over a century, the recently closed location in Northern Liberties-Fishtown will soon give way to modern apartments and retail space > more

Gray Area: The Future Of

Gray Area: The Future Of “30th Street Station”

January 22, 2015  |  News

In August, the President's signature enacted a law that renamed 30th Street Station for former Congressman Bill Gray. So does that mean we should expect a blitz of Amtrak marketing announcing the change like SEPTA did with "Jefferson Station?" Not exactly, if the new sign facing Center City is any indication. Brad Maule rides the rails to find out > more

Comcast To Monopolize Office Space In Next Skyscraper

Comcast To Monopolize Office Space In Next Skyscraper

January 22, 2015  |  Morning Blend

David Cohen speaks at Union League, Francophilia in mid-nineteenth century Philadelphia architecture, chaperoned “urbexing” in the old Thaddeus Stevens school, and development delays for one South Philadelphia restaurant > more