Historic Factory in Fishtown Keeps Humming With Commercial Reuse

August 18, 2023 | by Stacia Friedman

Emily Phillippy in front of her showroom and workshop, Emily Chelsea, at 2424 Studios. | Photo: Michael Bixler

Gemologist Emily Phillippy has lived and worked in her share of repurposed industrial buildings before she opened Emily Chelsea Jewelry in 2015 in the converted Fishtown factory known as 2424 Studios. “I had been aware of the building, but former warehouses are not always done the right way. This one is,” she explained. “Every unit has their own HVAC system. It is well insulated so sound doesn’t travel, and the developers did a good job of preserving old details.“ Those details include soaring ceilings, exposed timber and brick, and skylights.

Phillippy, a graduate of Tyler School of Art and Architecture, appreciates the building’s flexibility. It enabled her to expand from her original 300-square-foot space to a unit double that size on the third floor. Her current 1,800-square-foot showroom and workshop is on the first floor and has its own entrance at 2429 E. Gordon Street. She shares the newly-expanded space with her husband, Adrian Krawiec, who serves as senior director, and four other members of the Emily Chelsea creative team.

Phillippy and her team of five recently moved into their 1,800-square-foot space. | Photo: Michael Bixler

As a jewelry store specializing in engagement, wedding, and commitment rings, Emily Chelsea Jewelry differentiates itself by supporting and advocating for the LGBTQ+ community. “The jewelry industry is burdened with age-old heteronormative traditions, expectations, and downright judgment,” said Phillippy. “We’ve created a space where everyone is welcome.” 65 percent of her customers are from the LGBTQ+ community and travel to her shop from up and down the East Coast.

Another distinction is Emily Chelsea’s ethical stance in using 100 percent recycled precious metals, Fairmined gold and diamonds, and colored stones that are either recycled or can be traced back to responsible sources. This includes a variety of sapphires in myriad colors including blues, greens, yellow, white, and lavender. “If we don’t know where it comes from, we won’t work with it,” she said. 

2424 E. York Street was built for textile machinery manufacturer H.W. Butterworth & Sons Company in the late 1800s. The former factory was last used by Jacob Holtz Company, makers of furniture casters. | Photos: Michael Bixler

Phillippy’s store is just one of 90 strictly-commercial tenants at 2424 Studios as opposed to the typical model of mixed-use warehouse conversions featuring residential units on the upper floors. Other tenants include photographers, filmmakers, graphic artists, architects, lawyers, and accountants. Fishtown Diner occupies one corner of the building and Philly Rock Gym operates there as well.

The offices of Rohe Creative at 2424 Studios. | Photo: Michael Bixler

2424 Studios has a historic pedigree indicative of Fishtown’s industrial past. “The three-story, 80,000 square building was built in 1872 for H.W. Butterworth & Sons Company, which made machinery for the textile industry,” said Hannah Mattheus-Kairys, building manager and Philadelphia history buff. Four years after the factory opened the company participated in the Centennial International Exhibition of 1876 in Fairmount Park.

An advertisement from the late 1800s for a textile drying machine built by H.W. Butterworth & Sons Company. | Image courtesy of 2424 Studios

“The Reading Railroad had a spur that came up York Street right inside the building. You can still see the train tracks,” said Mattheus-Kairys. “You can also see the two five-ton cranes inside the building’s atrium that were originally used to load machinery onto the trains.” H.W. Butterworth & Sons Company was a family-owned business for over 100 years until it moved to the suburbs in the 1950s. “We have the company’s old catalogs,” said Mattheus-Kairys who researched the property by reading Kenneth Milano’s book Hidden History of Kensington & Fishtown.

Trains would enter H.W. Butterworth & Sons Company’s factory at what is now the main entrance on York Street, pass through this hall, which is now an atrium, and load/unload machinery and cargo using two five-ton cranes. | Photos: Michael Bixler

The factory was next occupied by the Jacob Holtz Company, which made furniture casters until the 1990s. “We hear from a lot of locals about their relatives who were previously employed at the caster factory and still refer it as the Jacob Holtz building,” said Mattheus-Kairys. The building then changed hands and was eventually abandoned.

Namesake Hair Studio at 2424 Studios. | Photo: Michael Bixler

The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2010. “Around 2007, it was bought by three developers who did most of the restoration, completed in 2010. The current owners, an architect and a real estate consultant, purchased the building in 2014,” she said. 2424 Studios is on the north side of Fishtown along the dividing line with Olde Richmond. “People come here for the restaurants and nightlife.” Mattheus-Kairys said. “On weekends there are lines out the door.”


About the Author

Stacia Friedman is a Philadelphia freelance writer and visual artist who tried New York and Los Angeles on for size and came home to roost. Her articles have appeared in WHYY’s Newsworks, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The New York Times, Broad Street Review, and Chestnut Hill Local. She loves the city’s architecture, history, and vibrant arts scene.

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