Spruce Hill in University City | Historic Architecture in West Philadelphia: 1789-1930s. Photo by Joseph Minardi © 2010.

Welcome to UCHS

University City contains the nation's largest collection of intact Victorian housing stock, with three major National Register Historic Districts: Powelton, Garden Court, and the West Philadelphia Streetcar Suburb.

Our Mission: The University City Historical Society promotes awareness of the history and architectural character of University City.

Early Spring 2017

  • Oral History Project. UCHS announces a new project to record stories about changes in the neighborhood since UCHS began its work 50 years ago. If you know of any residents or former residents willing to share their recollections, send us an email.
    email address for oral history project
  • Sylvia Barkan Fund for Historic Preservation. A fund has been established for expenses related to efforts in defense of historic structures in University City. Donations can be mailed to UCHS, P.O. Box 30197, Philadelphia, PA 19104-0627.

In the Newsletter

  • Celebrate our 50th! 2017 marks the 50th Anniversary of the University City Historical Society. Send us your photos! If you have old photos of the neighborhood you’d like to share, please send them to info@uchs.net or shared online at Facebook and Instagram. Credit will be given for any photos published in the newsletter.
  • New Board Members. UCHS welcomes three new members to our Board of Governors: Heather Calvert, Amy Lambert, Jennifer Loustau.
  • Preservation Updates. The Philadelphia Historical Commission met on December 14th to recommend properties for historic designation, several of which are in West Philadelphia.
  • Flashback to the 1960s. Locust Street before it was Locust Walk.
  • University City Then & Now: Latvian Evangelical Church, 47th and Cedar Avenue (c. 1910 & 2010). Now known as the Greater Enon Baptist Church, this century–old house of worship was formerly known as the Latvian Evangelical Church.
  • Profiles in Architecture: J. Elvin Jackson (fl. 1878–1920), examples of his work appear all over Philadelphia, primarily with residential designs in South, West and Southwest Philadelphia.
  • Window Talk, a Glossary: "Cames" to "Eyebrow Dormer."

Preservation Updates

Worthy of Preservation

Nominations to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places

UCHS works with our members and sister organizations to protect our city's historic properties from demolition.

The Philadelphia Historical Commission is the City's regulatory agency responsible for the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places.

Meetings of the Historical Commission and its Architectural Committee are open to public. The Commission's website publishes a schedule of meeting dates and deadlines.

Several properties in West Philadelphia were recommended for historic designation at its meeting on December 14, 2016.

The Christ Methodist Episcopal Church (Mt. Pleasant Primitive Baptist Church), 435-441 N. 38th St. was nominated by Michael J. Lewis and UCHS Board member, Amy Lambert. The 145-year-old Furness & Hewitt-designed church was recommended to be added to the historic register.

420-434 S. 42nd Street, a group of eight c. 1885 Queen Anne dwellings, was nominated by Justin McDaniel, a resident of the block. The eight Victorian homes were recommended by the Committee.

The Pennsylvania Industrial Home for Blind Women, 3827-33 Powelton Ave., was nominated by the staff of the Historical Commission, and was recommended by the Committee.

The West Philadelphia Institute, 22-26 S. 40th St. was nominated by Benjamin Leech of the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia. the building, attributed to Furness, dates from the time of the Centennial and has been extensively altered over the years. In the end it was recommended by the Committee by a 2 to 1 vote.

4054 Chestnut, an attempt by Off Penn Properties to remove 4054 Chestnut (half of a twin) from the local register (it was added in August) was defeated at the meeting. UCHS has been trying to save this house and several others on the 4000 block of Chestnut Street from demolition.

The buildings at 4046-4048 Chestnut Street are in the process of being torn down. We hope that our attempts to save these circa 1875 twins have brought attention to the lack of substantive preservation laws and regulations in a city, which is arguably the most historic city in the United States.

Call to Action

The State of Preservation
in West Philadelphia

Alarmed by an increasing number of demolitions that have recently occurred in our neighborhood, UCHS is organizing upcoming events for neighbors, community groups, City agents, and organizational leaders to share knowledge, and manage the rapid change in our neighborhood. For latest updates, visit UCHS on Facebook.

State of Preservation in West Philadelphia. Buildings we have said farewell to in the past few years. Photos by George Poulin & Kelly Wiles © 2016.

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