Gone to Seed

 

Looking out from just inside the entrance of the Ninth National Bank | Photo: Peter Woodall

Looking out from just inside the entrance of the Ninth National Bank | Photo: Peter Woodall

When the mill owners of Kensington needed credit to help them through down periods in their business cycle,  they went out and started a bank–two of them actually, the Ninth National Bank and the Industrial Trust, Title and Savings Company. The Ninth National Bank is pictured here, and photos from the Industrial Trust building can be seen HERE. They are located next to each other on the southwest corner of Front and Norris Streets under the El.

After a series of mergers, the banks eventually became part of Philadelphia National Bank (PNB), which shuttered the buildings in the late 1970s. Capital literally moved on, as did the textile mills that created that wealth, leaving behind buildings–and a neighborhood–that would continue to deteriorate.

There are signs of life in Kensington, however, none clearer than the fact that rents have almost doubled since 2007 in the area around Norris Square. That’s why the Women’s Community Revitalization Project, which owns both bank buildings, is planning to demolish them and build 25 units of affordable rental housing on the site. The nonprofit acquired the property from the Norris Square Civic Association several years ago. The NSCA had owned it–and done nothing with it–since 1989, according to this 2008 City Paper article.

Both buildings are open to the weather and are in such poor condition that restoring them would cost too much money, said WCRP Executive Director Nora Lichtash.

“When the banks merged they left the buildings behind and no one took care of them,” she said.

Lichtash said she expects to find out in April whether the project will receive the last piece of funding it needs to move forward.

“We hope it will be a wonderful addition to the neighborhood.”

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.



8 Comments


  1. Can these really not be saved? Our city just keeps disappearing, block by block. At what point does it become a place not worth caring about?

  2. Rachel Hildebrandt

    It’s a shame that the banks have to be demolished, but I trust the CWEP’s judgement. The CWEP is preservation-minded, as evidenced by the organization’s rehabilitation of the former Thomas Powers School, which serves as its headquarters.

  3. I wish Blatstein could buy them and turn them in to something cool. 25 units of affordable housing? Oh man….I could just imagine how these buildings will look. Something like what the Philadelphia Housing Authority builds. Its a shame.

    That is just my opinion I guess….but I like developments like Frankford Hall. If you want affordable housing go to Mayfair.

  4. I took these photos of the Industrial Trust a few years back: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rgb/sets/72157613649713639/ Beautiful building. Sad to see it go.

  5. When are they set to be demoed? The bank next door is 10 times more beautiful inside.

  6. This is really unfortunate. First, St. Boniface and now this! These buildings are what truly makes Philadelphia special and unique. Every time a church or row house is demolished the city loses a piece of it’s history, character and soul.

    Is there any chance that these buildings might be saved?

  7. No affordable housing! I’d rather have the abandoned building! The last thing we need in this rapidly developing area are reserved buildings for poor people and their drug abusing children and family members to take up residence in! Let the market demolish these buildings at some point in the future and build something at MARKET rate. So sick of all the handouts to people who have no drive to achieve anything in their sad lives.

  8. Take a look at the Industrial Trust building next door!

    http://s29.photobucket.com/albums/c268/Soldat251/The%20Bank/

Leave a Reply

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

Recent Posts
Final Plans To Transfer Philadelphia History Museum Collection To Drexel University Unveiled

Final Plans To Transfer Philadelphia History Museum Collection To Drexel University Unveiled

September 12, 2019  |  City Life, History

The Philadelphia History Museum is officially dead. The large collection of beloved city artifacts will be transferred to Drexel University. Kimberly Haas has the news > more

Hidden City Daily Celebrates Eight Years Of Publishing

Hidden City Daily Celebrates Eight Years Of Publishing

September 11, 2019  |  City Life

September marks Hidden City Daily's 8th year of publishing. To toast the occasion we look back at the past 12 months with a curated list of our top 15 stories. > more

Settlement Houses: Doing Good In The Neighborhood

Settlement Houses: Doing Good In The Neighborhood

September 9, 2019  |  History

Stacia Friedman takes a look at Philadelphia's long tradition of providing social welfare and education through settlement houses, some of which still serve communities today > more

Until Death Do Us Part: An Ode To Philadelphia Book Collecting

Until Death Do Us Part: An Ode To Philadelphia Book Collecting

September 6, 2019  |  History

In celebration of National Read A Book Day, Mickey Herr dives deep into the stacks at some of Philadelphia's most historic and obscure libraries > more

Bootleggers & Back Alley Bars: Philadelphia During Prohibition A City

Bootleggers & Back Alley Bars: Philadelphia During Prohibition A City “Soaked In Alcohol”

September 4, 2019  |  History

Speakeasies are all the rage these days. The revival finds its roots in secret cocktail lounges that opened after the 18th Amendment was ratified in 1920. Pennsylvania got a head start and outlawed alcohol in 1919. Amy Cohen takes a look back at Philadelphia during Prohibition on the 100-year anniversary of the ban > more

From Flophouse To Fairfield Inn: Memories & The Makeover Of A Troubled Hotel

From Flophouse To Fairfield Inn: Memories & The Makeover Of A Troubled Hotel

August 30, 2019  |  City Life

Like a chain-smoking phoenix rising from the ashes, the infamous Parker Hotel at 13th and Spruce reopened in 2018 after major renovations and decades of decline. Hidden City contributor Stacia Friedman takes a look back at the former transient hotel with memories of her grandparents' pharmacy next door > more