Queen Anne Abode and Arts and Crafts Interior Listed on the Local Register

June 21, 2024 | by Kimberly Haas

3343 W. School House Lane was built in 1896 and designed by Horace Trumbauer. | Photo: Michael Bixler

The Philadelphia Historical Commission approved two distinctly different nominations to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places and reviewed two requests for construction on previously designated sites at its meeting on June 14.

The home at 3343 W. School House Lane in East Falls was built in 1896 and designed by Horace Trumbauer for Samuel Tobias Wagner, a civil engineer who designed bridges, water filtering systems, and methods of testing construction materials. His great-uncle was William Wagner, the founder of the Wagner Free Institute of Science. The Historical Commission approved the designation owing to its association with Trumbauer and its embodiment of characteristics of the Queen Anne and Shingle styles. While not participating in the nomination process, the current property owner, Thomas Jefferson University, did not oppose it.

The former main sales floor of the Jacob Reed’s Sons’ Store at 1424-26 Chestnut Street in 2014. | Photo: Peter Woodall

By contrast, the second designation was the subject of opposition. The former main sales floor of the Jacob Reed’s Sons’ Store at 1424-26 Chestnut Street, a rare nomination of an interior space, was originally designated in May 2022. The exterior of the building was placed on the local register in 1966.

The property owner appealed the designation of the ground floor interior in the Court of Common Pleas, which remanded the designation back to the Historical Commission for reconsider. The Commission’s Committee on Historic Designation again recommended designation at its November 2022 meeting. A number of continuances followed. At its June 2024 meeting, the Commission once again approved the designation.

Moravian tiles above the Jacob Reed store’s entrance. | Photo: Peter Woodall

Built in 1904 architect William L. Price, the interior’s reinforced concrete construction, the first for a commercial building in the city, created a distinctive interior with a series of arches and a vaulted ceiling. The main sales floor also represents a major commercial interior in the Arts and Crafts style, with stained glass lunette windows, tile work from Henry Chapman Mercer’s Moravian Pottery studio, and murals by local artist Gertrude Monaghan.

The owner’s attorney again contested the nomination, claiming the property did not meet the criteria for designating an interior. They claimed that historic designation would hinder the adaptive reuse of the building. In a roll call vote, the Historical Commission unanimously approved the designation of the interior features listed as contributing in the nomination. Non-contributing features such as retail display fixtures, light fixture, and carpeting were excluded.

The former St. Martin’s Coal Company Office at 7600 Germantown Avenue. | Photo: Michael Bixler

Two requests for new construction on the sites of previously designated properties were also a study in contrasts. The first proposal featured an unusual parcel of land in Northwest Philadelphia. The former St. Martin’s Coal Company Office at 7600 Germantown Avenue occupied a long narrow plot of about 1.2 acres, wedged between the 37-acre New Covenant Church campus and a former railroad line that now constitutes a portion of the Cresheim Trail.

The full parcel was designated in August 2021, focusing on the 1916 Colonial Revival style building fronting Germantown Avenue. The construction request noted there would be no changes to the existing office building, but would add eight single-family attached homes behind it. Because the parcel is currently zoned RSD-3, Residential Single Family Detached, the developer, Cresheim Green Associates, is seeking a zoning variance. The property lies within the Wissahickon Watershed Overlay District, which limits the amount of impervious surface to no more than 45 percent, but received Philadelphia Water Department approval because the plans indicate 95 percent of the lot will be pervious.

John Stortz & Son at 208-12 Vine Street. | Photo: Michael Bixler

In another construction request, the Historical Commission moved a step closer to permitting the demolition of one of the oldest industrial buildings in the city, the John Stortz & Sons workshops at 208-212 Vine Street. The oldest structure in the collection dates back to 1780. The site had been individually designated in December 1984 and listed as contributing to the Old City Historic District in December 2003. The Historical Commission approved the buildings’ demolition in October 2023 after the owner claimed financial hardship.

The Historical Commission reviewed an in-concept design for a six-story, 65-foot-high building with a roof deck, containing 35 units and a 7-car garage, offering comments and suggestions regarding the building’s cladding and other materials. The applicant will present revisions to the Architectural Committee for review and recommendation, and then return to the Historical Commission for final approval. After that, when financing and a zoning application have been approved, demolition will be permitted to go forward.


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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