The former L.H. Parke Coffee and Tea Importer, with its wide rounded windows and elan of peeling paint and mold, burned this morning, closing the El and costing the city yet another handsome commercial building from the 19th century.
Backhoes have arrived on the scene already in advance of demolition.
The property is owned by Tower Investments, the real estate firm led by Bart Blatstein. Our investigation into the site reveals that for years it hasn’t been secured; people have been regularly seen going in and out–and more recently there have been reports of construction activity inside. We are awaiting confirmation on the level and type of that activity.
Clarification: The L.H. Parke fire on July 10, 2012 destroyed a complex of connected buildings that had two different owners: 1118-1130 N Front St. is owned by Bart Blatstein’s Tower Investments, and 1132-1140 N. Front St. is owned by John Galdo. A fence behind Galdo’s 1132-1140 parcel was frequently breached over a number of years, allowing trespassers access to a courtyard on Galdo’s property, as well as Galdo’s building at 1132 N. Front St. Licenses & Inspection cited the 1132 N. Front St. property for being “unsecured/unsafe” in 2007, 2009 and 2011. Trespassers also repeatedly accessed Blatstein’s buildings through unknown means.
This is the second fire in that complex in the last 3-4 years. There was a small fire that destroyed much of the roof of the garage that was the southernmost building in the complex, and there was also a fire directly across Hope Street. That property is now being turned into condos.
Tower’s record on securing empty buildings is poor, as we reported last year on the Ortlieb’s brewery nearby.
Clarification: Tower Investment owns another vacant industrial property in Northern Liberties, the Ortlieb’s Brewery complex on Poplar and American Streets. Trespassers have accessed the property repeatedly over the past six years, as we reported last year.
The complex dates to at least 1875 when it was the Dougherty distillery. Great history of the company HERE. The 1910 map shows the distillery as well. Later maps don’t identify any business but definitely was L.H. Parke’s at some point.
From Wikipedia: “L.H. Parke started in 1889 as a partnership of Louis H. Parke and William P. M. Irwin. The partnership took over the small provision-pushcart business of Samuel Irwin, a civil war vet. who had lost his arm in the Battle of Winchester, Virginia. Parke started as a seller of coffee, tea and spices. The company grew to be a major institutional wholesale seller of canned goods and had five locations (Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington, DC, Albany, New York and Richmond, VA.) by the time it sold out to Consolidated Foods in 1962.”
The building was next occupied by Fruchter Industries, wholesale distributors of kitchens, vanities and appliances, and later by Wood Superior, a woodworking company.
For “When Northern Liberties Burned,” by Stephan Salisbury, click HERE.