By Alan Jaffe
“Look Up” is a new feature of PlanPhilly that encourages appreciation of our architectural and historical environment. Each week, the photo essay will focus on a different Philadelphia area neighborhood and its distinctive building styles and details, all of which make up the physical fabric of the city and region.
Philadelphia was the focus of the world in 1876, when 250 buildings representing 37 nations attracted 10 million visitors to the Centennial Exhibition in Fairmount Park. Temporary hotels and restaurants surrounded the grounds of America’s first world’s fair.
Yet after the fair, only Memorial Hall and Horticultural Hall were left standing. With the arrival of the electric trolley in 1895, developers returned to the Parkside area. German brewers Frederick Poth and Joseph Schmidt purchased much of the land and hired the era’s fashionable and avant-garde architects to erect an extraordinary collection of German and Flemish Revival mansions and apartment buildings.
The buildings fell into disrepair in the late 1950s and '60s. But in 1983 Parkside was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and the Parkside Historic Preservation Corporation has been carefully restoring the structures over the past 25 years, helping to spark the revitalization of the neighborhood and the Centennial District. On Dec. 11, the Philadelphia Historical Commission voted to designate Parkside as a historic district.