1870s Guardbox Heads To The Shop

 

Photo: Christopher Mote

A squat wooden hut is not the first landmark that visitors to Washington Square will likely notice. Yet this very Victorian structure was the attention-getter Wednesday morning as a crane lifted it from its crumbling foundations and onto the platform of a moving truck, as if an act of farewell.

“Don’t worry,” Susan Edens, cultural landscape architect for Independence National Historical Park, told me as we witnessed the removal. “They were meant to be moved around.”

Guardbox, circa 1870 | Photo courtesy of Fairmount Park Archives

The hut in question is one of Philadelphia’s last surviving guardboxes–originally used as patrol posts by the Fairmount Park Guard for over a century–and in this case, the move is only temporary. According to Edens, the guardbox, which dates from the 1870s, will undergo a two-month restoration before returning to the park.

Of the more than one hundred guardboxes that once graced the Fairmount Park system, only a handful remain. Most of those that survive, like this one situated at the southeast corner of Washington Square, have been in dire need of repair.

The project is being coordinated in agreement between Independence NHP, which has managed Washington Square since 2005, and the Fairmount Park Historic Preservation Trust, which is currently overseeing the restoration of another guardbox that stood along Lincoln Drive.

Photo: Christopher Mote

The $20,000 in funding for the restoration was provided by an anonymous donor to the Society Hill Civic Association, who then contacted the National Park Service, according to Jane Cowley, the Public Affairs Officer for Independence Park. The funds will go towards restoring the flooring, skirtboard, framework and windows, as well as a brand new foundation. The NPS itself is covering the costs associated with the transportation of the guardbox to and from the Fairmount Trust’s conservation studios in West Mount Airy.

Photo: Christopher Mote

Once this hut returns, it’s a safe bet that it won’t need to move again for a while. In the meantime, visitors can find a second guardbox quietly keeping watch over the northwestern quadrant of the square, as it has with continual upkeep–and minimal hoisting–since the early 1900s.

About the author

Christopher Mote covers stories of preservation, planning, zoning and development. He lives in South Philadelphia and has a special fondness for brownstone churches and mansard roofs.

Send him a message at: motecw[at]hotmail[dot]com



Leave a Reply

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

Recent Posts
Mid Mod Façade On Chestnut Conceals History Of Wheels

Mid Mod Façade On Chestnut Conceals History Of Wheels

January 22, 2018  |  The Shadow Knows

The Shadow uncovers a 97-year-old Center City auto dealership that has no problem changing with the times > more

Philadelphia Far Behind Peer Cities Says National Trust

Philadelphia Far Behind Peer Cities Says National Trust

January 19, 2018  |  News

Mayor Kenney's Historic Preservation Task Force convened last night for their seventh official meeting. Starr Herr-Cardillo reports > more

SEPTA Spruces Up The Underground With Downtown Link

SEPTA Spruces Up The Underground With Downtown Link

January 18, 2018  |  Harry K's Encyclopedia

Harry K. takes us on a tour of the city's extensive pedestrian underground concourse network, soon to be rebranded by SEPTA as the "Downtown Link" > more

The Vanishing Of Northeast Village

The Vanishing Of Northeast Village

January 16, 2018  |  Vantage

David Coyne traverses bramble and broken blacktop along Roosevelt Boulevard to reveal a military housing community that was evacuated and demolished in the 1960s > more

A Field Guide To Demolition

A Field Guide To Demolition

January 12, 2018  |  Vantage

Peter Woodall spotlights specific building types facing the most development pressure in four high-profile neighborhoods > more

From Prints To Trivets, Art Imitates Life Of Manhole Covers

From Prints To Trivets, Art Imitates Life Of Manhole Covers

January 11, 2018  |  Vantage

Contributor Jonathan Schmalzbach talks with a designer and a printmaker about their obsession with manhole covers and public utility as creative muse > more