May Fair Memories

Pat Gillespie, UCHS Board Member

Civil War SoldiersThe Gettysburg Stone in Clark Park (a boulder from the Devil's Den portion of the Civil War battlefield) provided the perfect backdrop for two Civil War programs at this year's May Fair. First, the 3rd Regiment Infantry, United States Colored Troops (U.S.C.T.), led by Sgt. Byron W. Childress, shared their memorabilia and stories about the Philadelphia region during the Civil War. The historical interpreters, wearing their historically accurate U.S.C.T. uniforms, focused their message on the experiences of young African American men who fought in the war, many of whom were recruited from Philadelphia neighborhoods. Pictured with Childress are interpreters Lawrence Smiley and Frank Beck. Also, Herb Kauffman, Civil War Surgeon re-enactor, demonstrated surgical procedures and the medicines used on the Civil War battlefield and in hospitals. "Patient" Emmett Culhane offers his arm for a "friendly" amputation demonstration.

Civil War SurgeonThese educational programs, sponsored by the University City Historical Society and the Friends of Clark Park, were quite popular and many fair-goers of all ages and walks of life interacted with the re-enactors with great interest. The stone which servedas their background commemorates the history of Satterlee General Hospital of the United States Army, the largest hospital of its time, located in what is now known as the Spruce Hill area with a portion stretching across Baltimore Avenue into Clark Park between 43rd and 44th Streets. The new Master Plan for Clark Park calls for landscaping, lighting and signage enhancement of the stone, which will remain in its present location.

A UCHS committee, which includes Nancy Juergens, Fran Byers and myself, made arrangements for these May Fair programs and is planning other ways of recalling Satterlee's and the Civil War's influence in the area, including expanding information on our web site about them and their West Philadelphia connections. If you would like to join us or contribute to the effort, please contact us at (215) 387-3019 or at info@uchs.net.

Fall 200l PRIMER

The list of Fall 2001 PRIMER offerings, developed by DL Wormley, UCHS Board Member and director of Neighborhood Rehabilitation Initiatives at the University City District, contains workshops on Plumbing (both old and new systems), Exterior/Interior Restoration (with info on old and new material available for both) and Heating and Cooling your historic home (with insulation tips, for those who missed last Fall's session). Each is $10/person ($5 for UCHS members or UCD contributors) and provides you with information from local experts, possible answers to your special questions and lists of resources for your own restoration/rehab project. Each will be held at the UCD Operations Center, 3940 Chestnut Street, on the dates and times indicated on the registration form on page 4, which should be returned to DL with a check made to "UCD."

New this year also is a special "hands on" workshop conducted by master carpenter and UCHS member Greg Schopp covering the details of repairing, maintaining and possibly replacing double hung windows. The workshop will be held on Saturday, September 25 from 9 a.m. to noon at Calvary Church, 48th and Baltimore Avenue. Enrollment here is limited to 10 persons at $25 per person, so don't wait to send in your registration.

Also part of the PRIMER effort is a new listing of University City resource people who have been recommended by at least one user now on the UCD web site, www.ucityphila.com.

R.I.P. Returns

Pine Street Renovation

Closing the PRIMER series this year will be a return of the UCHS "Restorations in Progress" house tours, once a regular feature of UCHS's calendar, discontinued during the "lean years" of restoration/rehab examples in the neighborhood. Now that the economy and the environment in University City continue to show signs of health, a group of home owners and crafts people have agreed to show off their new projects (whatever the state of completion) to those interested in seeing and perhaps pursuing what can be done in the ways of historically-compatible interior and exterior improvements in University City.

On Saturday, October 13, from 1 to 5 p.m., beginning at the University City Arts League, 4226 Spruce Street, UCHS members and UCD contributors can pick up discounted tickets (for $10 each) and a map of the locations of some local examples of projects ranging from new kitchens and bathrooms, whole house "deconversions," adding rear decks, replacing architectural details and other instances of sympathetic treatments of our old houses. Both homeowners and craftspeople will be available to answer questions and provide advice to others contemplating something of the same.

Tickets will only be available at the Arts League on the day of the tour. The special discount here (and for the PRIMER workshops) also applies to those given special six months limited membership as part of our "thank you" for their "Gifts to the Street" greening and exterior preservation efforts.

What's News?

Tim Wood, Communications Committee

If you haven't visited the UCHS web site lately, stop by and have a look. In addition to information on University City's Historic Districts, back issues of On The West Side, old postcard views of the neighborhood, and other historical materials, the site is now host to a web site that documents University City's Urban Arboretum. Here you can learn about the remarkable collection of trees and ornamental plants in the neighborhood, the ongoing project of inventorying those trees, walking tours of the arboretum, and about other greening resources.

Also new to the site is the full inventory of the National Register West Philadelphia Streetcar Suburb Historic District. You can download house-by-house information about each street in the district, including building dates, architectural style, and often the name of the architect or developer. These files can be accessed from the Historic Districts page.

UCHS members can also join our "Grapevine" e-mail list. Grapevine is a forum where interested members can discuss issues concerning the history of the neighborhood and the renovation and restoration of their homes, offer advice or expertise, and trade information. Currently there are 50 UCHS members on the list. If you'd like to join them, e-mail us, and we'll send you information on how to subscribe.

We're always looking for new materials to add to the site. If you have old photographs, postcards, reminiscences, research, or ideas you'd like to share, call us at (215) 387-3019 or e-mail.. Look for more new materials on the site in the coming months. We hope you visit often.

Hope For Homes

From 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania

Tax breaks can help rebuild communities. Amid the debate last year over fashioning new tools to combat suburban sprawl in Pennsylvania, one oft-mentioned antidote was the creation of compact, pedestrian-friendly communities in cities. Well, pssst: They already exist.

In neighborhoods stretching from Philadelphia's Rittenhouse Square to Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill, in communities up and down the state - from Wellsboro to York - the amenities of town-living abound. They're the real thing: brickwork and brass, lamp posts and shade trees. In short, they're the very places that should be retaining and attracting residents.

Yet when state lawmakers moved to help fast-developing suburban towns shape growth, they did little to preserve older, established urban settings. That could be about to change. "We need a number of programs that level the playing fields for older cities and towns," explains Joanne R. Denworth of the smart-growth group, 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania. What 10,000 Friends considered a good start was a bill in the state assembly that would have created tax breaks for homeowners who restore historic properties as their residence. Pennsylvania can point to more than 71,000 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places - among the most in the country. It's in the minority, though, in failing to provide direct incentives for rehabbing such properties. (Federal tax credits for "restoration" of "commercial," i.e., rental, properties are already in place, ed.)

On Wednesday evening, June 20, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed a $20.7 billion state budget that includes a $500,000 line for "historic homesite preservation." Funds are intended to provide rehabilitation grants to resident owners of historic buildings in the Commonwealth.

During the budget process, the grant program was put forth as an alternative to the tax incentives. While these tax bills enjoyed great support in the House and Senate, they ran into difficulties when considered in the context of a budget being prepared during a time of depressed revenue projections. Bill sponsors, Representatives Thomas Tangretti and David Argall, felt that the grant program, while lacking the scope and permanence of the tax package, was legislatively more viable and would represent the first step in providing incentives to Pennsylvania property owners who live in traditional neighborhoods.

Individuals involved in the budget process noted that the groundswell of support generated for the program kept it on the budget table, while other programs were being eliminated from further consideration.
While the grant program is in the budget, funding for its implementation cannot be released until the passage of enabling legislation, which should be introduced when the House and Senate return in the fall. If this schedule is met, the program could be ready to receive its first applications in early 2002.

UCHS Elections

Vote for renewing the terms for six members of UCHS's Board of Governors plus Nancy Stewart and Eli Massar, two new additions. Nancy's "credentials" include leading the condomium association for the Garden Court Apartments, at 47th and Pine Streets, one of the area's best-known local landmarks. She also serves as an officer in the Garden Court Community Association, which includes the National Register Garden Court Historic District. Eli, an active member of UCHS's Historic Streetscapes Committee, also serves on the board of the Spruce Hill Community Association, which, with UCHS, is working for local historic district status for that neighborhood, a part of the West Philadelphia Streetcar Suburb Historic District.

go to current issue of On The West Side

back to University City Historical Society Homepage