APRIL 2002


University City to 52nd Street

On Saturday, April 20, architect author & collector, Robert Skaler of Germantown will present a slide show, benefit book sale and signing of his newly published book of views of the University City section of West Philadelphia. This program, a joint program of the local chapter of the Victorian Society of America and UCHS, will benefit the UCHS’s Historic District Nomination Fund to create the pending Spruce Hill Historic District and similar efforts in other areas of University City.
The lecture and signing will begin at 1 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall of Woodland Presbyterian Church, 42nd and Pine (entrance on Pine Street) with refreshments to follow. Admission is $5.00 per person. Reservations are necessary and will be held at the door. Please make out your checks payable to University City Historical Society.

The Book: West Philadelphia, University City to 52nd Street by Robert Morris Skaler is the first photographic history of the area in the last 100 years. Mr. Skaler has drawn upon his large and unique collection of vintage photographic postcards in compiling this rare assemblage of images. Its carefully researched narrative makes it an important and timeless book. It is published at $20 copy as part of Arcadia Publishing Company’s Images of America Series.

The Author: Robert Morris Skaler, is a forensic architect and historian who has been collecting historic images of West Philadelphia for over 35 years. A past president of the Philadelphia Chapter of the VSA, and graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Architecture, Mr. Skaler has lectured and written extensively on Victorian Philadelphia architecture. His slide presentation will show University City and surrounding neighborhoods, as they looked circa 1900 in the “Gilded Age”


By Patricia Gillespie, President, UCHS
Jon Mourar, President, Spruce Hill Community Association

UCHS and the Spruce Hill Community Association (SHCA) are co-sponsoring a series of opportunities for residents in the University City community and in particular, in the Spruce Hill neighborhood, to explore and understand what a Philadelphia Historic District is and what this designation means for property owners, and residents and businesses in the Spruce Hill area.

Over the next few months UCHS and SHCA board members and volunteers are organizing and staffing neighborhood-based block meetings hosted by residents in their own homes. At these meetings, residents living in the proposed district will be able to engage in constructive dialogue with their neighbors and to get accurate answers to questions about historic district designation. The first of these meetings have been scheduled to begin in early April and continue as needed.

In addition, the Spruce Hill Historic District web site, has been created to provide in-depth information about the significance of the Spruce Hill Historic District, the legal process of local historic designation, and answers to commonly asked questions about what the designation means to property owners. Articles will also be appearing in organizational newsletters and neighborhood newspapers.

Together, UCHS and SHCA are working hard to ensure the accuracy of information about historic district designation that is flowing from these two organizations. To do this, all questions and comments about the meaning of this designation for Spruce Hill residents are being collected and all “facts” and answers are being “truth-checked” with the Philadelphia Historical Commission. This collection of commonly asked questions and answers (FAQ,s), finalized just this week in a response from the Historical Commission, will soon be published as a regular feature in this paper as well as posted on the web site mentioned above and in other printed media. In addition, the Philadelphia Historical Commission will be hosting several public meetings for the Spruce Hill neighborhood beginning as early as next month.

UCHS and the SHCA are committed to protecting and maintaining the fabric and elements that define the special architecture and historical characteristics of the Spruce Hill area, a unique Philadelphia streetcar suburb. With this purpose, UCHS and SHCA have teamed up to seize this rare opportunity—to have a portion of the Spruce Hill neighborhood on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places. This “Spruce Hill Historic District,” first nominated 15 years ago, is a distinctive area of Philadelphia that possesses a significant collection of buildings and structures. The boundaries of the district were determined by the Philadelphia Historical Commission. Under the City’s Historic Preservation Ordinance, Section 14-2007 of the Philadelphia Code, this listing will recognize and protect the special architectural and historic character of the Spruce Hill collection.

UCHS and SHCA believe that this designation will protect properties from further deterioration, such as the removal of architectural details that contribute to the special character of the area, and the slow demolition of buildings due to the neglect of absent property owners. This designation will provide direct benefits to property owners and residents by encouraging responsible building maintenance and by adding a legal way to protect architectural features that attract residents and businesses to the Spruce Hill Community. The designation complements the Mayor’s “anti-blight” efforts (Neighborhood Transformation Initiative) by protecting properties before they disintegrate.

UCHS will remain committed to providing owners with practical information and resources regarding maintenance and repair options, including lists of qualified craftspeople and appropriate materials, such as the series of PRIMER workshops offered in collaboration with the University City District. With this new district nomination process we will expand our commitment to education and community stewardship of our architectural heritage and address the need of homeowners, including those of limited means, to continue to enjoy the benefits of our special neighborhood’s character.
For more information about historic district designation, contact the Philadelphia Historical Commission at 215-683-4590, SHCA at 215-349-7825, or UCHS at 215-387-3019. Again, the Spruce Hill Historic District web site is: http://sprucehill.uchs.net.


Since the demise of the popular Old House Show, those interested in the details of old house restoration and repair have been searching for a substitute like a lost lover. Pine no more, a replacement, since slated for May 3 and 4, 2002 in Bethlehem, PA is the Old House Show ON THE ROAD. Sponsored by Preservation Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and others, the format of experts discussing and demonstrating techniques, materials, solutions, sources, etc. ranging from fixing leaky steam heat radiators, patching seamed metal roofs, repointing masonry, cleaning graffiti, repairing stained glass to picking up some architectural salvage items will appear again at the Ice House, Sand Island, Bethlehem.

You can also have free 20-minute consultations with architects, conservationists, paint specialists, interior decorators, etc. just like at the West Philadelphia Armory. And there will be door prizes and demonstrations daily: On Friday, May 5, 12-5 p.m., see wood window sash repair; masonry repointing. On Saturday, May 4, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. witness paint removal/plaster repair, slate roofing, decaying wood repair, stained glass, decorative plaster, masonry repointing and wood window sash repair.

And the price? $5/person! Not a bad deal and Bethlehem itself is no slouch as a historic venue. Call (717)783-9922 to ask for a brochure and more details and tell them UCHS sent you.


At this year’s Valentines Tea and Awards Program, UCHS presented an Outstanding Preservation Award for 2001 to Dranoff Properties for the Left Bank “for the imaginative and comprehensive restoration of the Pennsylvania Rail Road Freight Building at 32nd and Chestnut Streets. The awakening of this building, a deco landmark, built as a state of the art warehouse facility in 1929 and occupied by General Electric in the 1960s and 1970s, contributes a significant gateway to our community.”

A second Outstanding Preservation Award went to Prime City Properties and their carpenter/contractor, Hector Medina, for 4248 Pine Street citing “the quality of craftsmanship demonstrated in the historically accurate restoration of the exterior of 4248 Pine Street. The reconstruction of the porch and the restoration of other exterior elements on this prominent corner property at a major intersection set a wonderful example of the best in historic workmanship.”

The year’s Preservation Initiative Award was presented to The Friends of Walnut West Library “for their efforts to save and restore, rather than see demolished and replaced, the historic library building housing the Walnut West branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia. This building is an important link to both local and national history - built on land donated by local resident Clarence Clark, designed by his nephew Clarence Clark Zantzinger, a prominent Philadelphia architect; funded by Andrew Carnegie as part of his vision of publicly accessible libraries.”

The efforts of all of these awardees were outstanding celebrations of the architectural heritage of University City much deserving of our commendations and recognition.

Named for their Gifts to the Street commendations for historically sensitive façade improvements were Robert & Phyllis McCafferty, Armstrong Roberts, Clay & Clara Armstrong, Robert Vitalis & Marguerite Browning, Mark Olinger, Prime City Properties, Anthony A West & Diane Cloutier, Don Gordon, Fulwider II Corporation, Nelson & Judith Walls, Gary Tannenbaum, Richard Doty, James & Katrina Streif Laurino, Margaret Kasshau & Don Gillis, Scott G. Homel, University House Limited, Rose Russell, Dorothy Berlind, Charles & Angelique Michelle Brown, Adrian Carr, David Trickett, Robert Weinberg, Youth Service Inc, Elaine Simon & David Crawford, Carolyn Adams, Arlene Rengert, I H W Von Langenstein, Vincent Curren & Julie Preis, Betti Weiss, Sandra Sheen, Larry Icard, Elliott Taylor, Kimberly & Eric Kurtz, Steven Wagner & Jason Bell, Mark Jenson, Warren Cederholm & Don Caskey, The Gables, John Wicks & Elizabeth Mac Kenzie, Sheldon Schwartz, Richard Dretsch, John Coffey, Mike Hardy & Barry Grossbach, Joe & Jennifer Wegner, Leisha Nolan, Fran & John Scott, Daryl & Marilyn Bradley, Chip & Julie Hunter, Nancy & Dean Kahn, Lindsay Johnston, Ronald Coburn, Darlene Evans & Eric Cheyfitz, Mary Goldman, Mark Sherman, Meluyn Freid, Owen & Elizabeth Edgerton, Alex Senderowicz & Joan Weiner, Gregory Montanaro, Benjamin Lin, Jeff Abrahamson, Paul & Kara Schmidt, Kevin & Patricia Little, Cuong Pham & Chau Hua, UCA Realty, 4208 Partners L P, Bill Groves & Michael Karp, University City Housing, Louise Barbara Rees, Greg Salisbury, Rx, George & Patsy Jo Terrell, David Fenske & Rita Naremore, Gregory Schirm & Deborah Sanford, Peter & Grace Kim and Owen Robbins.

Honored for Green Gifts to the Streets in the form of gardening and greening efforts were David Adelman, Campus Apartments, Robert & Phyllis Mc Cafferty, Woodland Presbyterian Church, Robert Vitalis & Marguerite Browning, Mark Olinger, Prime City Properties, Nancy Roth, Dan & Karla Thut, Karen E Heenan, Hasina Choudhury, Bill Sharp & Steve Smith, Gwynne & Ludo Scheffer, Chip & Marci Staddon, Patricia Juergens, Ruben Milanes, Chesterfield Whipple, Myrtle Randolph Mary Ellen Desman, Christina Bach, Richard & Jeannette Harris, Kelvin & Suzanne Anderson, Marina Stamos, Michael & Edda Katz, Matthew & Connie Compton, Gwen Lech, Ann DeForest & Joe Farrell, Michael Albright & Patricia Munoz, Jim Lilly, James & Gloria Ruffins, Barbara Titus, Joseph Lorenc & Jeanne Sokolak, Andrew & Maat Syeeda Little, Harline Dennison, Alan Kraus & Eduardo Carvajal, Ruth Lockard, Davis & Ernestine Chapman, Nancy Khan, Jacob Soll & Ellen Wayland-Smith, University City Housing, Meluyn Freid, Marion Pond, Michelle Murphy, Angela McIver & William C Jenkins Jr, Gregory Montanaro, Michelle Robinson, Lynn & Andy Lees, Dr. Frank Pepe, Cynthia & Bruce Haskin, Liz Bressi-Stoppe, USIP, Suet Lim, Jim & Sharon Smith, Paul & Nancy Dodge, Joel Holm, Sherry & Darren Ambrose, Robert & Phyllis Mc Cafferty, McDonalds and UC Green.

If not already UCHS members, all the honorees were given six month memberships in the society.


By D-L Wormley, UCHS Board & Director, Neighborhood Initiatives, University City District

In addition to the near sellout workshops so far this season, we’ve had two Landlord Network PRIMER sessions on the economics of rehabbing an investment property and on landscaping an investment property. We’ll do more sessions, including one on alternative materials sometime in May.
UCBRITE will be continued through the Spring, 2003.

Information will be available from UCD after April 15th. Matching funds, up to $200, for exterior lighting. (up to $400 for corner properties).


A new documentary film about the mummers opens a limited engagement at the United Artists Riverside Plaza 17, Columbia Blvd. and Reed Street in South Philadelphia starting Friday, April 12 running through April 25. UC resident and UCHS member writer and author Murray Dubin (including a great book on South Philadelphia) worked on the film for about four years, arranging and conducting all the interviews used in the film, the audience choice for best documentary at the Hamptons Film Festival.


Since the last issue renewing their dues and making special “extra” contributions are new UCHS “Sustainers”: John & Ethel Cebra, Nick & Ellie Cernansky, Dan DeRetis, Apartments@Penn, Don & Arlene Matzkin, Ed & Susie Montgomery, Steve Smith & Bill Sharp, together with new “Friends of UCHS”: Rose Amendolia, Joanne Aitken, Fran Aulston, Michael Barr & Melanie Green, Sylvia & Michael Brown, Ann & David Brownlee, Kathy Dowdell & Kevin Fisher, James Fennell, Bill Hooper, Joanne & Leon Kellerman; Lawrence Motyka & Elizabeth Campion, David Othmer & Maureen Barden, Gretchen Worden. Thanks for the extra help.


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