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/

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