By Melani Lamond

UCHS is pleased to announce its upcoming Holiday House Tour, which will be held on Sunday, December 15th, from 4:00 - 8:00 p.m. This year’s tour by candlelight will feature a dozen spectacular University City Victorian houses, from handsome 1860’s Italianates to early 20th century Colonial Revival gems. Traditional holiday greenery and unique collections will share the spotlight with the beautiful architectural details for which University City homes are celebrated.
Visitors will walk the area proposed as a Philadelphia Local Historic District, and beyond, as this tour focuses on the proposed designation. University City District Ambassadors will be on hand during the tour to help visitors needing directions. While on their walk, those who wish to do so may also join the Friends of Clark Park and other neighbors for caroling and good cheer at the annual lighting of the holiday tree in Clark Park at 5 p.m.

Tickets are available only on the day of the tour. They can be purchased at The Marigold Dining Room, 501 S. 45th St. (at the corner of 45th St. and Larchwood Ave.), no earlier than 3:30 p.m. The houses will be open from 4:00-8:00 p.m., with refreshments served at several tour stops. Tickets are $12 each, and children under 12 may tour for free, accompanied by adults. Proceeds benefit the UCHS Historic Districts Nomination Fund.


By Greg Montanaro, President

As you know, Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell introduced Bill No. 020462 to the Rules Committee of City Council that would no longer allow the Philadelphia Historical Commission to create historic districts. Instead, only City Council would create historic districts, with “councilmanic prerogative” investing this authority in the district councilperson of a proposed historic district. This would remove the process from a panel of experts that are required by law to have a democratic process that includes extensive community input to a political process. It would also allow for the disproportionate influence of large landlords and property owners who could invest in coercing City Council.

We thank all who have written Councilwoman Blackwell to express support for historic preservation and to oppose her efforts to cripple the historic districts program created by then Councilman John Street. UCHS has arranged for a most effective way for others to communicate with their elected officials through the Hall Watch fax bank. With this site, they can draft letters opposing the Blackwell Bill that will be automatically faxed to all the council members on the rules committee, at-large City Council members, as well as the Mayor and Councilwoman Blackwell. Here you can read the objections of others in the preservation community and community groups around the city to the proposed Blackwell Ordinance. If you cannot access this site, you can send a copy of any opposition sent to the Councilwoman to us and we will arrange to have it posted on the site and faxed to the same recipients.

If you need a model here, you might consider borrowing that of long-time University City/Spruce Hill resident and UCHS member, Mary Goldman, who developed this short and on-target letter to the Councilwoman:

“I urge you to withdraw your bill that would supercede the Historical Commission and replace it with ‘councilmanic prerogative.’ Such privileges too often serve narrow interests at the expense of the city as a whole.

A careful review and hearings by the Historical Commission is the best way to air the varying views of neighborhoods regarding designations of historic districts and indeed all such matters across the city.

Your attempt to circumvent this traditional process opens these issues to manipulation and corruption by special interests.
Please withdraw your proposed ordinance.”

It is important to note that Councilwoman Blackwell has introduced this bill, despite saying she doesn’t understand the current process for historic designation or what the Historical Commission is. In a recent Inquirer article, she was quoted as responding to opposition voices that included the Spruce Hill Alliance, Neighbors Against McPenntrification, Alan Krigman and Michael Karp, who complained that they were not being given a chance to be heard. The last two named are University City landlords. Krigman should be well known to readers of the University City Review for his frequent articles attacking historic preservation; Karp is an avowed critic of the Historical Commission and the owner of University City Housing and numerous other rental properties in the area and throughout the city.

In response to all this, the UCHS Board of Governors sent the following to Councilwoman Blackwell and Hall Watch:

Dear Councilwoman Blackwell:

Along with the rest of Philadelphia’s preservation community, the University City Historical Society was both stunned and disappointed to hear about your recent introduction of Bill 020462, which would change the process for the designation of local historic districts throughout the city. We hope that you will reconsider, and instead support the Historical Commission’s current process for determining support or opposition for the designation of a district.

For the past fifteen years, UCHS has been working toward local designation for an area of our neighborhood that roughly coincides with the boundaries of West Philadelphia’s Spruce Hill section. Many enthusiastic and supportive neighbors have donated their time and over $20,000 to make this project happen. Finally, after a long wait for consideration, we are now next in line, after consideration of the proposed Old City district, to have our proposed district reviewed by the Philadelphia Historical Commission.

However, just recently, a very small but very vocal group of individuals emerged in opposition to this designation. We do not feel that these few outspoken people have a large following, and we have found their accusations to be somewhat misleading. We understand that Bill 020462 was written because of their objections, and we would like the opportunity to set the record straight.
First, our project is NOT, as they suggest, a “done deal!” The Historical Commission’s consideration of our district is still months away. The official process, with its requirements for notification and meetings in the Spruce Hill area, has not yet begun. In advance of the official required meetings, however, UCHS and the Spruce Hill Community Association offered some preliminary meetings to heighten awareness of the process and give neighbors the opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback. Those opposing the project have inaccurately claimed that the informational meetings held so far are the end, rather than the beginning, of the process. The Historical Commission will give notice and hold the official, required meetings once they begin consideration of the Spruce Hill district, probably some time late in 2003. At that time, they will gauge community opinion and use that information in making their decision.

Further, to address the assertion that people weren’t informed, this project has never been a secret! Anyone who was not aware of it was not making any attempt to follow local affairs in University City for the past fifteen years. During that time many neighborhood volunteers were involved in gathering historical information about their blocks, and reports on this project were provided in community newsletters and newspapers many, many times. As we worked through our previous designation project, the National Register West Philadelphia Streetcar Suburb Historic District, which includes the area we propose to designate locally, we always provided updates on the status of the local designation. In addition, recommendations for the proposed district appeared in the 1995 Spruce Hill Community Renewal Plan and the Philadelphia Planning Commission’s 1996 Plan for West Philadelphia. All interested parties have had the opportunity for fifteen years to voice their opinions about this project.

From what we have heard, we believe that the current opposition to Spruce Hill’s designation is largely divided into two camps: some appears to be based upon the unwillingness of a few landlords to commit themselves to taking care of their properties, while further opposition seems to be based upon the gripes of a few local individuals, because of other community issues completely unrelated to historic designation. We don’t feel that these local complaints are good reasons to change the historic preservation process for the entire City of Philadelphia.

We believe that this small group has misinformed the public about both the status and the requirements of designation in an attempt to gain more followers and stop the Spruce Hill designation, no matter what process of law would be used. They have frequently circulated misrepresentations likely to scare the public - for example, by giving the impression that designation would govern exterior paint colors, which it does not; by suggesting that designation, rather than market demand, would raise tenants’ rents; and by suggesting that costly repairs would be required, when actually the Historical Commission does not govern routine maintenance, unless the deterioration of a property is very severe - more likely in the case of an abandoned property than an occupied one. We feel that these claims have been disingenuous and harmful, and we are saddened that this group would attempt to obstruct the historic designation process across the entire city for their own reasons.

Although this handful of opponents claims to speak for others in the neighborhood, those others have not come forward to speak for themselves. Unless we hear from additional opponents, we cannot conclude that opposition to the designation of the Spruce Hill local historic district is widespread, well-reasoned or justly motivated. We would like to have the opportunity to hear from others, and we know that we will if the law is not changed, because under the current requirements for designation, all will have the opportunity to have their voices heard when the Historical Commission holds its meetings about the Spruce Hill designation in 2003. We think that this is a consultation process that you would appreciate, Councilwoman Blackwell, and we hope that you will withdraw your bill and let it take place.

We hope that you will continue to consult with all in our community, as has been your much-respected practice throughout your tenure in City Council, and we hope that as you learn more about the current designation process and the numbers who support and oppose Spruce Hill’s designation, you will withdraw Bill 020462 and allow this process to move forward for Old City, Spruce Hill and future districts in the same way that it has taken place for the districts which have already been designated in Philadelphia.

Sincerely, Gregory Montanaro, President, on behalf of the Board of Governors (Joanne Aitken, Sylvia Barkan, Mark Brack, Eleanor T. Cernansky, Kathy Dowdell, Carol Dubie, Donald Gillis, Michael Hardy, John Hayden, John Jewell, Joanne Kellerman, Melani Lamond, Nadine Landis, Eli Massar, Arlene Matzkin, Jacqueline McCrea, Sharon Ravitch, Theresa Sims, Stephen Wagner, Joan Wells, Tim Wood, D-L Wormley)

(JULY 24, 1910 – NOV. 8, 2002)

By Sylvia Barkan

Ruth Molloy, 1910-2002This week Ruth Molloy died. Ruth always claimed that I was the founder of The University City Historical Society. NOT TRUE! - UCHS evolved from what began as our joint activities. I’ll admit my idea wasn’t so original - after reading in the N.Y. Times about a gallery owner/historian who saved huge sculptures from buildings being demolished in New York which subsequently became a sculpture garden at the Brooklyn Museum - and after arranging a bus tour to the museum of a group of like-minded architectural historians - Ruth and I were off and running.

It was the sixties and we were living in University City where huge blocks of houses were being demolished for University expansion, including the 100 year old one that Ruth and Joe lived in on Locust Street and where Ruth routinely hung inspiring messages for passing students to read. With the help of Carol Anne Weisenfeld and the West Philadelphia Corporation, we obtained the right (and keys) from the Redevelopment Authority to document and remove materials from houses that were slated to be demolished.

We didn’t always follow protocol - and so that while Ruth, one of our chief procurers and others were inside chipping away at our “treasures,” I would stand outside and explain to the police about our “permission.” We did get our sculpture garden (at 40th and Walnut, since demolished ) and between Ruth and myself probably have thousands of slides, documenting all our lost treasures. Ruth had a Leica - with no exposure meter - and her photos were wonderful! What an eye she had. Her photos combined humor, beauty and in a sense combined her appreciation of life around her; they were Ruth. If Ruth would be reading this letter, she would edit all my errors. At age 92 she had a perfect recall of dates, names and events. Poet - historian - artist - editor - most creative - all Ruth. I’ve run out of adjectives!

(The UCHS Board of Governors has voted to make a contribution to the University City Arts League, one of three charitable institutions Ruth named as beneficiaries)


recreated architectural detail at 319 S. 43rd...of this reconstructed porch at 319 S. 43rd Street, you can see copies of the original architectural elements reproduced by designer/artist/craftsman, Chris Jones, who has indicated that he would be willing to generate additional copies for other properties of the same details. You might also contact him at chris@christopherjonesdesigns.com about custom manufacturing similar architectural details to supply contractors and owners with replacement details for other properties.


The Board of UCHS has appointed Jeremy Wells of the Garden Court Apartments to an open board seat. Jeremy, recently graduated from Southeast Missouri State University’s historic preservation program, is enrolled in the graduate program in historic preservation at the University of Pennsylvania, specializing in building conservation. Jeremy’s background includes professional historic preservation efforts in Missouri and Washington State, including grass roots activism that helped save a historic hotel from demolition and resulted in its rehabilitation.

His efforts on behalf of preservation in University City have included articles on behalf of historic districts in the Philadelphia Inquirer. He has also drafted a “Primer on Windows,” a detailed consideration of the relative value and expense of repairing and replacing 19th century windows, with information on local sources of materials and craftspeople to do the work. While this will be published soon by UCHS for general distribution, if you are considering repairing or replacing your windows, let us know if you would like to see Jeremy’s conclusions to date.

Welcome, Jeremy, and your continuing contributions!


to new Sustainers of UCHS: David Adelman, Campus Apartments; Colette Hain & Bret Tobias; new Friends of UCHS: Carol & Richard Betts; Richard DeMatt, The Marigold Dining Room; Robert & Geraldine Giuntoli; Michael Hardy & Barry Grossbach; Conrad & Lois Johnson Hamerman; Alfred Airone & Carolyn Jean Kelly; John Schnepp & Richard Kirk; Maureen Tate & Gerry McHugh; Sally & Stanley Johnson; Michael Levin; Brian Yachyshen & Jacqueline McCrea; Gregory Muller; Dan Biddle & Cindy Roberts; Betty Schneider; Paul Steege & Associates; David Ade & Paul Steinke


Saturday, December 7, 10 a.m.– 4 p.m.
Bartram’s Garden Annual Holiday Greens Sale and Open House: An Eastwick Christmas, 1850-1880. Learn about the garden’s owners and caretakers following the Bartram Family. Decorations of Victorian splendor will be available in the barn. Chrildren’s activities include make-your-own hornbook and paper-cut silhouettes. Bartram’s Garden, 54th & Lindbergh Avenue. Free

And, great for gifts -
Robert Morris Skaler’s West Philadelphia: University City to 42nd Street (Arcadia, 2002) available at the Holiday Tour at $20/each or from UCHS with an additional $3 for postage and handling. An order form is available by clicking here.

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