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

Welcome to UCHS

2017 marks the 50th Anniversary of the University City Historical Society.

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.

Spring 2017

Celebrating our 50th!

Because we want this history to be read by the residents and other interested members of the public, it is written in the style of a simple chronicle. … The information contained herein concerning the personalities and places of old West Philadelphia should enrich our efforts in building University City.

—A History of Philadelphia's University City, 1963

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.

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

  • UCHS at 50
    • From Our Archives: UCHS launched on Nov 4, 1967.
    • From the Daily Pennsylvanian Archives: Proposed International House of Philadelphia awarded gold medal in Annual Exhibition of Architecture, Oct 5, 1967.
    • Flashback 1970s: Victorian houses, north side of 3300 block of Chestnut.
  • Congratulations to 2017 Preservation Award Winners.
  • Images of America: Powelton Village. Recommended reading and author interview.
  • University City Then & Now: John Shriver Wentz House, 39th & Locust Walk (c. 1900 & 2010). A fine mansion, now at center of Ivy League life on UPenn campus as Tau Omega Fraternity.
  • Profiles in Architecture: Harry H. Markley (c. 1908–1910), responsible for dozens of row homes in West Philadelphia built shortly after the completion of the Market Street Elevated Railroad.
  • Ask the Experts: How to clean a marble mantel.
  • Window Talk, a Glossary: "Fanlight" to "Glazing Bar."

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 have been recently recommended for historic designation:

The former West Philadelphia Hicksite Friends Meeting House and School (3500–3510 Lancaster Avenue), currently the Community Education Center, researched and nominated by the University City Historical Society's Amy Lambert and George Poulin, was added to the city's Register of Historic Places at the Philadelphia Historical Commission meeting in May 2017.

The former Christ Methodist Episcopal Church (Mt. Pleasant Primitive Baptist Church), 435-441 N. 38th St. was nominated by UCHS Board member, Amy Lambert and architectural historian Michael J. Lewis. The 145-year-old Furness and Hewitt-designed church was added to the local register in January 2017.

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.

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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