Interior Designation For Blue Horizon’s Historic Boxing Arena Denied

 

The Blue Horizon's auditorium in February, 2014 | Photo: Vince Herbe

The Blue Horizon’s auditorium in February, 2014 | Photo: Vince Herbe

Grave news today for the interior of the Blue Horizon on North Broad Street. The Philadelphia Historical Commission voted in favor of designating the façade of the building, but denied protection of the historic, world-renowned boxing arena–a central feature of what some in attendance of the meeting believe to be the heart of the building’s historic value. The Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia submitted the dual nomination to protect both the exterior and interior of the building. Mosaic Development Partners, Orens Brothers Real Estate, and investor Hotel Indigo already have a permit to demolish the building. Their current plan is to transition the legendary boxing venue and former Moose Lodge into a boutique hotel.

Speaking in favor of designating the arena, boxing matchmaker Zac Pomilio said that allowing demolition would be “like tearing down the inside of Fenway Park. I’ve organized fights from here to Russia. Everybody in the boxing community worldwide knows and loves that arena.”

John DiSanto, editor of Phillyboxinghistory.com, agreed. “What is the most significant and historic about the Blue Horizon is what’s inside. The thought of losing the auditorium is heartbreaking.”

BH2

A terminal loss for Big Blue, but not for the former Moose Lodge that preceeded the venue. Designation of the façade was approved | Photo: Michael Bixler

Leslie Smallwood-Lewis, speaking on behalf of Mosaic Development Partners and the building’s owner, Vernoca L. Michael, said that preserving the interior would hogtie any future use of the building. “The arena is too much of a hinderance for reuse,” said Smallwood-Lewis, who had no objection to keeping the façade.

Others in the community spoke in support of Mosaic’s plans for a hotel, fearing that designation of the arena would thwart the potential for jobs that the hotel may bring.

About the author

Michael Bixler is a writer, photographer, and managing editor of Hidden City Daily. He is a former arts and entertainment reporter with Mountain Xpress weekly in Asheville, North Carolina and a native of South Carolina. Bixler has a keen interest in adaptive reuse, underappreciated architecture, contemporary literature and art, and forward-thinking dialogue about people and place. Follow him on Instagram



2 Comments


  1. Why find creative ways to preserve it or return the venue to use when we can just gut it and throw up more houses…another great call by the Philadelphia Historic Commission.

  2. Now would be the time for the “powers that be” in the boxing world, those who care about the site’s history, to work with the developer to dismantle the room, piece by piece, and remove it to some kind of museum or hall of fame; or provide the developer funding (through donations) to reassemble the room in the new structure of the hotel. Naturally, one finds the removal of this room a repulsive prospect, but there are people with money in the boxing world and these people should step up to the plate to save-off potential “broken hearts.”

    Unfortunately, as we all know, the historical commission is not proactive. Without question, this incredible room is historically important, but, because the commission has the power to designate any building without an owner’s permission, they have to be weary of designations that may or may not be feasible for the economic health of the building. That said, this is still the most hopeless, submissive possible outcome given how few nominations the commission has had over the last decades, as per Leach’s PlanPhilly article. However, since the developer seems reasonable, the matter could still have a positive outcome if addressed by someone in the boxing and/or larger philadelphia community with money to subsidize preservation of the room.

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