University City Historical Society

The Pinehurst Apartments

4511–4523 Pine St. & 324–334 S. 45th St.

Placed on the National Register of Historic Places January 6, 1987

The Pinehurst Apartments, also known as Pine Street Place and Pine Terrace, are an outstanding example of a transitional type of middle-class housing briefly in vogue in Philadelphia in the early twentieth century. The Pinehurst Apartments represent an effort to build economically in a grand scale an d style that would attract middle-class residents who were moving into West Philadelphia in the first decades of the twentieth century. Although their design is most closely linked to earlier row houses in Philadelphia, these apartments also contain elements that foreshadow later low-rise, garden court apartments. With their three-story colonnaded porches, the Pinehurst Apartments are one of the most monumental of such transitional, middle-class apartment rows found in West Philadelphia.

Pinehurst Apartments in 1987
Pinehurst Apartments in 1987

The Pinehurst Apartments were built in 1914 as Philadelphia's middle-class residents migrated westward to the area west of the Schuylkill River. Many middle-class residents moved to this area during the early twentieth century as large numbers of immigrants from Europe and blacks from the South moved into sections of Philadelphia east of the Schuylkill River. Indeed, so many immigrants and blacks settled between the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers, pushing middle-class inhabitants west, that the population of Philadelphia grew more between 1910 and 1920 than in any previous decade. Middle-class residents were also attracted to the area west of the Schuylkill River because of easy access to downtown Philadelphia. The Chestnut Street trolley which was extended to 45th Street in 1904, and the Market Frankford elevated subway completed in 1907 provided quick transportation to center city for West Philadelphia inhabitants. Large centers of professional employment west of the Schuylkill River, such as the University of Pennsylvania and Presbyterian Hospital, also attracted middle-class residents. As a result, large estates within a formerly rural setting were quickly developed into the residential neighborhoods that exist today. Spruce Hill, in which the Pinehurst Apartments are located, is one of those neighborhoods.

The Pinehurst Apartments were built in a grand scale and style to attract middle-class people, yet they were constructed economically so middle-class families could afford them. The Neo-Classical style columns and balconies lend the primary facades a monumental grandeur. This design implies a majestic public edifice along the residential streetscape. The Neo-Classical, colonnaded facades also differentiate the Pinehurst Apartments from less pretentious working-class apartments elsewhere in the city. Such a design could well represent the aspirations of a middle class trying to move away from poor immigrants and blacks who were streaming into the city. At the same time, Edwin L. Seeds, the builder and architect, used granite, brick and reinforced concrete to lower construction costs. He also repeated the same floor plan on each floor in order to further reduce building expenses. Seeds used an economical design to draw middle-class residents to his apartments.

The design is also important as a transition between earlier row houses and later low-rise, garden court apartments. The Pinehurst Apartments are closely tied in design to row houses. They are very much like row houses in their footprint and height. The shared lightwells and brick construction on the secondary side and rear facades of the Pinehurst Apartments are also virtually identical with row houses. In addition, the three-story porches on the primary facades represent scaled up versions of the first-story porches spanning earlier row houses. Yet the Pinehurst Apartments also display elements found in later low-rise garden court apartments that are characterized by common stair halls, large windows, balconies, and two- or three-sided exposure for each apartment. The rear and side facades maximize light and ventilation with large grouped windows, as in garden court apartments. The architect provided individual exterior porches for all apartments, anticipating the valuable amenity that balconies were to become. The architect also created walk-up apartment flats accessed by means of communal stair halls, as occurred in later low-rise garden court apartments.

This transitional type of middle-class housing was built in West Philadelphia during only a brief period in the early twentieth century. The Pinehurst Apartments are one of the most monumental examples of this housing type. The Breslyn Apartments at 4624–42 Walnut Street (listed on the National Register, November 14, 1982) were constructed in 1913 in much the same monumental design. They too feature colonnaded porches spanning most of the primary facade. However, the architect of the Breslyn Apartments utilized a florid Beaux-Arts style rather then the less ornate Neo-Classical Revival style to attract middle-class inhabitants. The "Stonehurst" at 45th and Osage Avenue features a colonnaded facade on Osage Avenue that is very similar to the primary facades of the Pinehurst Apartments. Yet the Osage elevation is only two floors high and one bay wide. The 45th Street facade, which is much longer, has inset porches rather than monumental three-story colonnaded porches. The "Sedgely" at the southwest corner of 45th and Pine Streets has a floor plan, height and construction materials similar to those of the Pinehurst Apartments. However, the "Sedgely" has upper-story bay windows and first floor inset porches that are not nearly as striking as the porches on the Pinehurst Apartments. Thus the Pinehurst Apartments stand out among other apartment buildings of this type constructed in West Philadelphia.

This National Register Nomination was researched and prepared by Stephen Wiesenthal and William Sisson.

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