The Philadelphia Historical Commission added one property to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places and provided supportive comments to three local buildings nominated to the National Register of Historic Places at its meeting on September 8.
The Byberry Store is located at 12965 Townsend Road in the crossroads community of Byberry. The original structure was built circa 1810 and at various times served as a general store, post office, blacksmith shop, and dwelling. The nomination contends that, along with the neighboring Byberry Meetinghouse, built in 1808, and Byberry Hall, constructed in 1847, it played a central role in the life of the rural community. Collectively, Byberry also has a significant history in the abolitionist movement, including the activities of the meetinghouse and the nearby home of Robert Purvis.
While all of the parties involved–nominator, owner, staff, and commissioners–agreed on the appropriateness of designating the building, a lengthy discussion followed on the issue of possible archaeological finds within the larger parcel. Although not originally part of the nomination, the Historical Commission’s Committee on Historic Designation had recommended adding Criterion I to the designation, which indicates the asset has “yielded, or may be likely to yield, information important in pre-history or history.” Objections ranged from the owner’s concern that the designation would hinder their possible development of the open space of the property, which measures more than an acre. Historical Commission members felt that the nomination did not provide such evidence. Ultimately, 12965 Townsend Road was added to the Philadelphia register under Criterion J only.
The Historical Commission also commented on three local nominations to the National Register. The designation process for the National Register requires input from state historic bodies. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in turn requires comment from the appropriate local government, which the Historical Commission represents for Philadelphia.
The former North Philadelphia Trust Company bank at 3711-15 Germantown Avenue was nominated for its distinctive architectural style, with a period of significance between 1904 and 1920. The three-story, Classical Revival limestone bank on a granite foundation exemplifies architectural trends that strongly favored this style for bank buildings in the early decades of the 20th century. The bank was constructed in 1904 and designed by Carl P. Berger. Its appearance today is largely due to alterations and enlargements in 1920 by Philipp Merz.
The designation of two industrial buildings has also been proposed. The first, a three story brick factory building at 1906-12 North 6th Street, was the site of the Pringle Electrical Manufacturing Company from 1903 until 1963. The nomination cites its significance in industrial history as the first company to mass produce an electrical outlet and plug, the “Chapman Plug,” which became a common standard in residential use. The company also invented and patented switches and switchboards for high current applications, with one, the “Pringle Switch,” remaining an industry standard.
The Windsor Manufacturing Company at 3800 Jasper Street was also nominated for significance under Criterion A in the area of industry. The company manufactured worsted fabric in both bolts of cloth and finished clothing. The original building was constructed in 1919 and designed by architect M. Ward Easby, who was commissioned for numerous industrial buildings in Philadelphia in the early 20th century. In regards to social history, the company had significant incidents in the 1930s and 1940s of tensions between labor union negotiations and war production, including in 1943 when the National War Labor Board and the Quartermaster General’s Office forced the end of a strike by employees.
It was noted that all three of these resources are not included in the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places. The buildings were all nominated on behalf of the owners, which, it was pointed out, is often a precursor to adaptive reuse, owing to the tax credit advantage for nationally designated properties.