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.”