ON THE WEST SIDE
THE UNIVERSITY CITY HISTORICAL SOCIETY
JANUARY 2000


MIKE HARDY, EDITOR

Tea And Synergy

...will be the focus of UCHS’s annual Pre-Valentine’s Tea and Awards Presentation, from 4 to 6:30 p.m., Sunday, February 13 at the “Dor-Den,” the home of Doris and Denis Elton Cochran-Fikes, 802 S. 48th Street. Members are invited to drop by to enjoy the spread with those community members being sent “thank you” letters of commendation for their “Gifts to the Street” in 1999. These include the many, many property owners cited this year for exterior improvements, including multi-colored paint treatments highlighting the architectural detail that makes the area so special. For the first time, they will be joined this year by others recognized for landscape treatments and greening initiatives that continue and complement the historical heritage of University City.

If you are present at 5 p.m., you can witness and applaud those honored for 1999’s “Outstanding Preservation” Award, the team responsible for the restoration of “Webster Manor” at 4224-4240 Osage Avenue, a 1926 Tudor Revival apartment building. The award cites a project that included “restoring its metal casement windows, half-timbering on its stuccoed fašade, and distinctive gabled roof lines following a fire during its renovation. A long-time neighborhood eyesore and problem building again displays its architects’ Stetler and Deysher evocation of a historical period for a twentieth century housing formula.”

This year’s recipients of the “Preservation Initiative” Award for an outstanding effort at historic preservation not necessarily apparent in the existing building fabric of a specific structure are the “founding generation” of “The Friends of Calvary,” for the hard fought “pursuit of a vision of preserving, restoring the public spaces and renewing the uses of Calvary United Methodist Church, (Dull and Peterson, architects, 1904) at 48th and Baltimore Avenue.” The awardees for both of these honors will appear in the next issue of the newsletter along with the addresses of properties recognized for their “Gift to the Streets.”   They also will be posted on our web site.

There will also be special presentations to the Friends of Walnut West Library and Cedar Point Park Neighborhood Association for their preservation efforts.

Providing the entertainment for the tea will be songs by “The Inspiration,” a Penn-based singing group which, according to the description in “Practical Penn,” “focuses on highlighting Black music, music that is either the work of Black composers or originally performed by Black entertainers. Through their music they are helping to bridge some of the racial gaps and cultural ignorance of today’s college students. It is their hope that they will continue to bring forth the richness of their African-American heritage for many years to come.”

And then, there are all those great desserts!

Penn And UC Agree

On the status of the “Wolfgang” house, a 1905 Jacobean Revival detached house cited in the historic district nomination as an “outstanding example of its style.” Penn’s plans for seeking a zoning variation to change its single family status to institutional use to accommodate academic purposes was unanimously resisted by the zoning committee and board of the Spruce Hill Community Association, in line with the association’s and the University City Community Council’s stand opposing changes in zoning from single family to multi-family or institutional use. Both Spruce Hill and the immediate neighbors, who met with Penn representatives, made clear that their objection was not to the educational institutes proposed for the building, nor on Penn’s ownership, but on the zoning change. In fact, they proposed that the university consider using the property as an official residence for the University Provost or some other such official.

Joining Spruce Hill in opposition was the board of UCHS, whose president, Kathy Dowdell, in addition to the zoning concerns, “worried about the potential loss of a noteworthy piece of architecture,” citing changes to the building to accommodate its new uses that would be “permanently damaging to the building.”

In response to these concerns, John Fry, Executive Vice President of Penn informed Spruce Hill’s president, Barry Grossbach, of the university’s decision to “abandon its intent to acquire the house at 4106 Locust for academic purposes,” choosing this action “after a reasoned and civilized community discussion with our Spruce Hill neighbors which has persuaded us that the perpetuation of the house’s single family status is in the broader community’s best interest.”

To all the principals in this effort, our congratulations on the quality of the discourse and our thanks for the outcome. It bodes well for continued cooperation of “Town and Gown” in the future.

Named for its former long time occupant, Professor Marvin Wolfgang, world-renowned criminologist, who in turn, acquired from his mentor, a Professor Sellin, a chair of Sociology at Penn, the house was originally built by Wilmer Atkinson, Quaker editor/publisher of the Farm Journal Magazine. The architect, George T. Pearson, gave his patron not only a spectacular structure but familial references in its architectural detailing. These, and other incidentals about the house, were provided by neighborhood resident and UCHS member, Ruth Mellman, who wrote the feature, “The Farmer’s Wife,” when the Farm Journal still had a circulation of 3.1 million in the 1960’s. Ruth’s source was, in turn, Gertrude Dieken of Newtown, PA, her boss, who has an even longer association with the magazine . We welcome any additional information about the house that is pictured in a line drawing by Sylvia Barkan.

More Date Plaques

...Are available for properties in the Garden Court and Powelton Historic Districts. Similar to those for buildings in the West Philadelphia Streetcar Suburb Historic District, they display the construction date of the property on a 4” x 6” colored metal plaque (ivy green for Garden Court; deep burgundy for Powelton) installed using two screws. Each carries a distinctive logo associated with the historic district. Each is $15 for UCHS members; $20 to the general public and all can be professionally installed by UCHS Board Member, Greg Schopp for a $10 contribution to the society. Brochures and order blanks for any of the three are available from UCHS, or can be accessed on our web site. If your address is in or near either the Powelton or Garden Court district, you may find a copy included in this newsletter.

So far over 50 of the West Philadelphia Streetcar Suburb plaques have been ordered and delivered.

From The Past Century

Robin Dougherty

The UCHS Holiday House Tour for 1999 was a wonderful event, as usual, with ten houses beautifully decorated for Hanukkah and Christmas open for neighbors to enjoy, along with some holiday treats along the way! After purchasing tickets for the tour at Calvary Church (48th & Baltimore), participants were given a map and a list of the houses that were open. The University City District safety ambassadors were present at various points along the way, and the UCD also provided a shuttle bus so that anyone who wanted could get a little lift along parts of the route.

For the first time the tour took place at dusk, which really helped show off the holiday lights and candles in the houses and the windows. As the evening went on more and more houses in our neighborhood switched on their decorations, making the stroll a true festival of lights. Homeowners had decorated their houses with spectacular trees and lighting displays, and in one house the children were prepared to “teach dreidl, if you want to learn.” Proceeds from the tour are going to benefit the Friends of Walnut West Library in their efforts to save the original library building on the corner of 40th & Walnut.

To recognize the efforts of our neighbors in beautifying the neighborhood by bringing festive lights to the winter darkness, the organizers of the Holiday House Tour [Warren Cedarholm and Melani Lamond] also pulled off another first—at 8 p.m., as tour goers gathered in Calvary Church for some coffee and cookies, awards were presented for particularly noteworthy lighting schemes in the area. The judging was kept unbiased by asking friends from outside the neighborhood to make the decisions. The actual judging took place on Saturday evening, with the judges driving or walking around the neighborhood looking for noteworthy decorations, and so houses that had not yet decorated by then or were still in the process of putting on the finishing touches could not be included in the judging. But as I said above, everyone’s efforts were greatly appreciated and all contributed to a beautiful effect on Sunday night during the tour.

The award consisted of a printed citation and a lovely poinsettia plant. Here’s the list of honorees, so you can pay these addresses a visit yourself and enjoy all the other lovely decorations along the way: [Some may actually still be up – Ed.]

4623 Larchwood—Recognized by the judges for “classic elegance” in decoration.

4512 Chester—Recognized for “continued excellence in decorating.” This house has long been one of my personal favorites, an opinion shared by visitors from outside the neighborhood who pay us a visit just to see this incredible effort. It’s the one with the enormous Christmas-tree shape in lights.

Back Alley of 4228 Spruce—Recognized by the judges for “best children’s theme.” You have to walk down the alley behind the Arts League in order to see this one.

908 South 48th Street—Recognized by the judges for its “creative, whimsical” style.

3713 Hamilton—Recognized by the judges as “best completed theme”—the entire thing is a tribute to the idea of “peace on earth,” in blue and white with doves and bird cages.

4620 Osage—Recognized by the judges for “best decorations with attention to authentic architectural detail.” These lovely decorations truly enhance the Tudor-style front of this beautiful house.

4400 Block of Larchwood—Recognized by the judges for “best block unity.”

Honorable Mentions: 4917 Osage Ave; 1018 South 48th Street, Squirrel Hill Apts.; Beta Theta Pi Fraternity on Spruce Street; 823-825 South 48th; 4928 Osage; 4708 Cedar; 810 South 48th; 430 South 44th; 4317 Sansom St.

[This report brought to you by our Washington, DC correspondent – Ed.]


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