New Germantown Historic District Added to the Philadelphia Register

February 15, 2024 | by Kimberly Haas

Market Square Presbyterian Church at 5507-5517 Germantown Avenue was rebuilt in 1888 and designed by George T. Pearson. | Photo: Michael Bixler

The Philadelphia Historical Commission approved the creation of the Germantown Urban Village Historic District and designated five individual properties at its monthly meeting on February 9.

Dating back to the 18th century, the new historic district in Germantown is centered around Market Square along Germantown Avenue and includes Church Lane, School House Lane, and Lena Street. Within it are 65 contributing properties of Georgian, Federal, Colonial Revival, and other architectural styles. The Historical Commission found that the district represents the architectural history and development of Upper Northwest Philadelphia and epitomizes the cultural, political, economic, and social history of Germantown, satisfying Criteria A, C, G, and J. It also found that it met Criterion I, owing to the possibility of archaeological information, but limiting its application “where it is specifically mentioned in the inventory.” The Historical Commission felt that the district’s proximity to the Battle of Germantown, as well as its timeframe extending through Germantown’s colonial and 19th century eras, was sufficient to include the criterion, though with the stated limitation.

This restriction was a result of an earlier review in the meeting of a proposal to construct a five-story building on a vacant lot at 26-34 Church Lane within the (then-pending) district. The applicant argued there wasn’t specific evidence of archaeological materials on the site, and without it, Criterion I could apply to the entire city of Philadelphia. The Historical Commission denied the application on various architectural merits and suggested they submit a new application to the Architectural Committee. 

Five properties in several different neighborhoods were also added to the local register.

2435 N. College Avenue, the rowhouse to the left with a stone facade, was the headquarters of the Dixie Hummingbirds for 33 years. | Photo: Google Street View

A three-story brick and fieldstone rowhouse at 2435 N. College Avenue in Sharswood was found to satisfy Criteria A and J. From 1951 until 1984 it was the home of James B. Davis who founded and managed the Dixie Hummingbirds gospel music group, who were significant to African American music in Philadelphia and maintained the house as their headquarters.

Overleigh at 5015 McKean Avenue. | Photo: Google Street View

Overleigh, a Tudor Revival style house designed in 1893 by the well-known Germantown architect George T. Pearson at 5015 McKean Avenue was added to the local register as an example of that style (Criterion D), its architect (Criterion E), and the era in which it was constructed (Criterion C). It also satisfied Criterion A, for its association with William Tatem Tilden, Sr., a civic and educational leader in the city, and his son William Tatem Tilden II, known as “Big Bill” Tilden, one of the greatest tennis players of all time.

Tripoli Barber Supply Company at 604-06 South 9th Street. | Photo: Michael Bixler

A portion of the property at 604-06 S. 9th Street was designated. Known as the Tripoli Barber Supply Company, it served as a store and manufacturing and distribution location for the DiPuppo brothers’ barber and beauty supply business between 1911 and 1973, reflecting the cultural, economic, social, and historical heritage of the Bella Vista neighborhood business community (Criterion J). The building features design elements of the Italian Renaissance and Art Deco, satisfying Criterion D.

The Coroneos Building, a former bakery equipment and repair shop, at 704-710 S. 6th Street. | Photo: Michael Bixler

Also in Bella Vista, a four-story building at 704-08 South 6th Street was designated historic because it represents the cultural, social, economic, and historical heritage of the city’s Greek immigrant community (Criterion J), as the store and warehouse for the Coroneos brothers, who ran a grocery import/export business in the early 1900s. The building’s Classical Revival architectural style, with elements of Beaux Arts characterizes the era in which it was built, satisfying Criterion C.

American Trust, Loan, and Guaranteed Investment Company on North Broad Street. | Photo: Michael Bixler

American Trust, Loan, and Guaranteed Investment Company at 684-86 N. Broad Street. | Photo: Michael Bixler

The Historical Commission heard a second review of the nomination for the American Trust, Loan, and Guaranteed Investment Company at 684-86 N. Broad Street. At its January meeting, a representative of the owner had spoken in opposition to the designation, but expressed an interest in preserving the building and requested a continuance to allow for time to meet with Historical Commission staff to explore funding and support opportunities that historic designation might provide. Subsequently, the nomination was approved.

Built in 1890 by the architectural firm Baker and Dallett, its Richardsonian Romanesque style satisfies Criterion D. It also satisfies Criterion H as a familiar visual feature of the neighborhood at the intersection of Broad Street, Ridge Avenue, and Fairmount Avenue and Criterion J, representing the North Philadelphia Gilded Age and subsequent adaptive reuse over time as North Broad Street evolved into an automobile-centric corridor.

In addition to the new designations, the Historical Commission granted permission to the Awbury Arboretum Association to demolish a barn previously listed as significant to the Awbury Historic District. Purchased three years ago by the arboretum, it shares a one-acre parcel at 5925-31 Devon Place with the John Smith Haines Stable that was designed by Thomas U. Walter in 1849. The wood frame barn, built around 1875, had suffered significant storm damage prior to the purchase.

The Historical Commission approved the demolition, with the conditions that the arboretum document the structure with high resolution photography, make the information available to the public, and salvage and reuse as much of the materials as possible.


About the Author

Kimberly Haas is a staff writer for Hidden City Daily. She is a long time radio journalist, both nationally and locally with WHYY and WXPN. In particular, she enjoys covering Philadelphia’s neighborhoods, culture and history, as well as urban sustainability and public policy, in both print and audio.

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