UCHS Historic Date Markers

Newly minted, to mark the approximate construction dates (thus the "c.") for properties in the West Philadelphia Streetcar Suburb National Register Historic District are now available. Buildings located within the bounds of this district, created in 1998, can display attractive, 4" x 6" ivory metal date plaques. They will let passers by and visitors know when your home or property became a contributor to one of the nation's largest collections of period architecture. All were built in response to the development of the extensive network of trolley lines which drove the construction of the new western suburbs of industrial Philadelphia. Above all, markers locate buildings in an historical context in the evolution of the distinctive period architecture of University City.

Date Marker for West Philadelphia Streetcar Suburb Historic District

These date plaques were designed by Sylvia Barkan, UCHS Board Member and our resident graphic artist. Sylvia is also responsible for the "trolley car" logo for the district based on the PCC trolley cars which preceded today's Kawasaki vehicles. This logo is the first to be developed for the historic districts of University City. Garden Court's should follow next with Powelton's to follow.

Designed to be mounted near the front door or in some other spot accessible to passers by, the plaques can be mounted using two simple 3/16 " screws and anchors. But, if you would like professional installation services, Greg Schopp, a master carpenter and member of the UCHS Board, is ready to do the job for a $10 contribution to UCHS.

The price for the date plaque is $15 for UCHS members, $20 for others, delivered. Contact UCHS, P.O. Box 31927, Phila., PA 19104, (215) 387-3019 or info@uchs.net. Click here to get an order form you can print out and send in.

Management Plaques

For rental properties managed by professional management companies, have been designed, with Sylvia's help, and produced. These bronze colored metal 6" x 9" plaques are meant to be mounted next to the property's entrance and to replace the obtrusive suspended blade-type advertisement signs which disfigure and over-commercialize the area's historic streetscapes and are probably illegal. Such blade-type signs are permitted only to advertise legitimate vacancies for a limited time period.

Management offices interested in more information about plaques can contact UCHS at (215) 387-3019 or at info@uchs.net.

Examples of both plaques are in an UCHS exhibit at the Office of Off-Campus Living, 4046 Walnut Street.

Seasonal Seating

Porch SwingOn the porches in University City's historic district can be enjoyed best with some historically appropriate swings and porch furniture. A small investment in time and proper installation to insure safety and security will pay off handsomely by providing an alfresco living room and chance to interact with your neighbors and the life of the street. There was a reason for Victorian porches and a minimum of effort will bring another opportunity to experience and enjoy living in an historic environment.

Items such as swings, benches, Adirondack and rocking chairs can be found locally. Even Home Depot and Target stores have some acceptable and accessible examples. Excursions into the country and visits to other locations offer other opportunities to locate that special piece. Kathy Dowdell of the UCHS Board found three versions of great benches from $50 to $270 at Stanley's Hardware, 5555 Ridge Avenue. And the internet is also a good place to locate sources for mail order. A cursory surfing located these examples, with the prices quoted representative of the general range of offerings available from the supplier.

Porch suffering from "Dirty Sofa Disease"If you have additional suggestions for sources, we would very much like to add your ideas to the list. And Kathy has developed some great solutions for securing your furniture. Contact her at 215 387-3019 or kdowdell@blackneyhayes.com. In the meanwhile, check out the list of sources of porch furniture. They all offer alternatives to the "multiplying dirty sofa disease" which too frequently infects the area.



By Kathy Dowdell
UCHS Board Member and Streetscape Committee

Win This Bench!Your very own bench or porch swing can be your reward for designing a great solution for keeping trash cans and their contents in University City off sidewalks and out of public view until collection day. UCHS is sponsoring a contest this autumn to help those with challenging trash storage problems. Many people living in twin homes can make use of their side alleys, and those lucky enough to have a rear alley, driveway or garage can keep their trash cans there. But row houses, properties with no side yards and/or no front yards, corner properties - all need better solutions for the containment of trash.

Design a method or other solution, applicable to University City, for properties where trash is currently an obvious problem. Sketches, written descriptions, photographs, computer renderings- anything which will clearly communicate your idea(s), with each entry clearly identified with your name, address and phone number on the back of the entry. These must be postmarked, no later than November 1, 1999, to UCHS, Streetscape Contest, P.O. Box 31927, Philadelphia, PA 19104.

Entries will be judged on appearance, simplicity, feasibility, effectiveness and cost by a select panel of local architects, carpenters, and landscape architects. They will award first prizes of a bench or porch swing (value: $100); a second prize of 2 tickets to UCHS's Spring House Tour (value: $50) and a third prize of a one year membership in UCHS (value: $25). You need not be a UCHS member to apply.

All entries and ideas become the property of UCHS who will distribute the best to those who need them most. So improve your view and your seating options by sending in your best ideas for "stashing the trash" out of view!

Think February In September

By Sylvia Barkan
UCHS Board Member

Gardener's Gift to the StreetWith the "drought of the century" still very much in evidence, one must somehow salute those brave souls who kept gardens going in such heal and during such a water shortage. As one travels around University City, one becomes aware of a pure love of trees, plants and gardening. How else can one explain the efforts of the 4500 block of Larchwood, the 4200 block of Pine and the 300 block of S. 46th, as just a few examples, of communities who have decided to plant and maintain their green spaces in neighborly collaboration.

Gardener's Gift to the StreetSuch efforts at brightening University City's historic streetscapes need recognition and encouragement too. I've been trying to photograph as many good examples of reclaimed, renewed and lovingly cared for landscapes that catch to put together a visual valentine to remind us of what we owe these gardeners when we salute those cited for "Gifts to the Street" commendations at our annual Valentines Day Awards Ceremony. They include the efforts of homeowners, renters and now major and minor real estate management companies. THANKS TO YOU ALL! And if UCHS members and others will send in suggestions for those I might be missing, I'll try to include them in the photographic collage and put them in for an official "Gift to the Street" recognition by the society.

In the meanwhile, let's hope that with all of these efforts, the trees survive, the perennials come back and out luscious old shrubs and plants make it through the winter. Please not that I am not one to worry about grass!

University City Historical Society
Streetscape Enhancement Initiatives

By Greg Montanaro
Streetscapes Committee

Over the past few months, a committee of the University City Historical Society has been meeting to launch a major drive to enhance the appearance of streetscapes in the West Philadelphia Streetcar Suburb Historic District and other National Register Districts in University City, namely Powelton Village and Garden Court. The committee, which welcomes additional members, is composed of UCHS Board Members and UCHS members - architects, preservationists, landlords, building trades craftspeople and representatives of the University of Pennsylvania.

This initiative responds to the Department of the Interior's designating much of University City as National Register Historic Districts. The history of our neighborhoods and architecture are now formally recognized for their national impact. The future of these assets is, however, in our hands.

The committee is recommending ways to highlight, mark, commemorate and improve the "look and feel" of our historic environments. It seeks to offer informed advice and suggestions to area property owners and residents on how to maintain and improve the historic character of what we hold in trust for future generations. These suggestions are designed to be both practical and realizable and are in no way meant to impose a sterile and "historical correct" uniformity on the neighborhoods of University City.

Within those parameters, the initial areas of particular concern to the committee are:

UCHS has begun these discussions, because the year ahead is the critical time to begin to address these long-standing problems. With area institutions, notably Penn, encouraging its employees to purchase homes in University City, it is essential that the neighborhood enhance its "curb-appeal" to maximize participation in this opportunity. Beginning next spring, the addition of a new specialty food market on 40th Street, and the new Sundance Cinema Center -- a truly regional attraction -- will bring many new people to University City. Many of these people could become return clients for area businesses and restaurants, or even renters or home-owners in the community. For this economic and community building opportunity to be maximized, we will need to present the best University City has to offer. Unfortunately, many of the residential blocks surrounding these new attractions are characterized by absentee ownership, low levels of property maintenance, and poor management of trash, porch furniture, etc. Without some attention, these small pockets of under-maintained buildings can jeopardize the benefits which the community hopes to reap from these major new economic development projects.

Responding to this challenge, and committed to having University City present its best face to the anticipated increase in visitors next year, the UCHS has set an aggressive time-line to realize major enhancements to the appreciation and appearance of the streetscape. Based on conversations held thus far, UCHS hopes that a year from now many of these initiatives will be realized, including: a new property marking and land lord signage program to mitigate the appearance of the current signage; new community expectations will be in place for porch furniture, and landlords will enforce them; visible trash will be eradicated; front yards will begin to be landscaped; and new fašade work will be conducted in a more historically sensitive manner.

If you are interesting is being an active part of this effort or have other ideas for streetscape enhancements, contact us at (215) 387-3019 or by email at info@uchs.net.

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