Historical Commission Approves Walnut St. Theatre

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      Wells Fargo branch
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      3400 Queen Lane
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A speedy Historical Commission today reviewed five cases, two of them without any appearances from the applicants.

Adaptations to two public spaces — a Wells Fargo ATM in an 1868 Society Hill building, and the nationally and locally designated Walnut Street Theatre —  each received approvals, after applicants submitted revised plans responsive to recommendations made by the Architecture Committee at its June meeting.

New plans by the architects for the ATM addition included the removal of some extraneous design elements and a smaller canopy.

At the theater, replacement front doors more in keeping with the suggestions of the Committee were presented. According to the Walnut's managing director, Mark Sylvester, these included modifications to the thickness of the metal, and a better matching of the panes' muntins to match architectural lines elsewhere on the theater's exterior.

The Commission also approved work to two residential projects.

The first is a proposal to better transform a designated 1860 Society Hill rowhome, with a non-historic storefront addition, into a single family home. In the absence of the applicant and any revised drawings, the Commission granted approval, provided the applicants accept the suggestions made by the Architectural Committee, and that staff reviews the revised design and details.

For a spectacular, contributing 1930's Tudor in the East Falls Historic District, the Commission gave the nod to revised plans that substituted wood doors and windows for the originally submitted vinyl replacements frowned upon by the Architecture Committee.

Commissioners made sure that the homeowner understood that as he continues to work on the building, he is obliged to be historically respectful (even if sub-standard materials have been inserted along the way) but that he is not required to make such renovations until those times.

In a similar case, but with no new plans submitted by a no-show applicant, the Commission denied a proposal to install replacement windows in a contributing 1869 home to the Rittenhouse Fitler Historic District.

The denial concurred with recommendations from both the Commission staff and the Architectural Committee.

At the start of today's meeting, as per usual, the Commission approved the Consent Agenda presented by the Architectural Committee. Those cases reflect projects where both the staff and the Committee recommend approval of the proposed work.

And, before the meeting concluded, assistant city solicit Leonard Reuter provided the latest update on the saga of Mount Moriah Cemetery. Archival material has been removed from the property and is now safely in storage, where it will soon be made available to those with a personal stake in the cemetery, he said.

Between 40 and 50 workers are now on site daily, mowing grass and cleaning up, he added. A large-scale volunteer effort has also been scheduled for July 16.

Meanwhile, meetings continue between City Council members, State Representatives, and officials from the neighboring city of Yeadon to draw further attention to the cemetery's plight and to determine its fate.

One admittedly long-shot hope: to have it declared a national historic property, said Reuter. The only cemeteries so deemed are military ones, he added, unless they are part of a larger national park so those involved would have to work on establishing that case.

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About the author

JoAnn Greco, writer

JoAnn Greco writes about parks and recreation, preservation, public space, and architecture for PlanPhilly. Her articles on design, cities, and the built environment have appeared in National Geographic Traveler, Washington Post, Canada's Globe and Mail, National Parks, Metropolis, Interiors, Art & Antiques,, Planning, Next American City, Urban Land, and Hospitality Design. In addition, she has written for dozens of other consumer, custom, and trade outlets, from Brides to The Wall Street Journal, from AARP to Wine Enthusiast. She also owns and edits, an online magazine dedicated to urban destinations.

JoAnn was born in Brooklyn, New York and moved to Philadelphia in 1991. She has lived in Rittenhouse Square, Old City, and now owns a home in Bella Vista.

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