Feb. 9, 2010
By Alan Jaffe
“Look Up” is a PlanPhilly feature 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.
A walk along Green Street, from 15th to 23rd Streets, in the residential Spring Garden section of the city is a journey through late 19th Century architectural design. The houses were built for the managerial middle class and later for successful industrialists, Preservation Alliance Executive Director John Gallery explains in his guide, “Philadelphia Architecture.” The structures, built from the 1860s to 1890s, range from modest rowhouses and ornate twins to stately mansions and elaborate castles.
A wide brownstone is attributed to the Wilson Brothers, who designed buildings for the 1876 Centennial Exposition, the Reading Terminal, and the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Broad Street station. Highly ornamented twin homes are attributed to Wilson Eyre, one of Philadelphia’s most imaginative residential architects. Several diverse facades were designed by Willis Hale, a follower of the High Victorian Gothic School, whose clients included Peter Widener, William Elkins and other members of the city’s elite.
The great houses have mostly been transformed into condos and apartments, although some remain single-family homes, including a Romanesque Revival structure recently put on the market by owner Vince Fumo.