Multi-pronged battle ahead for group of neighbors trying to save historic Wissahickon house

Neighbors are fervently trying to save a distinctive 1880s twin house in Roxborough from demolition, but they are waging difficult battles on several fronts.

A demolition permit is posted on the front door, allowing for the razing of the structure since May 7 so that the new owner can redevelop the site with 10 new housing units.

A nomination of the property to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places won't be reviewed until June 9 and wouldn't be considered by the Philadelphia Historical Commission until July 10.

In addition, the PHC has stressed that the nomination should include the other twin house, though its owners have been staunchly opposed to designation.

Even if the PHC adds the properties to the historic register, it would not necessarily protect them from being knocked down because the original demolition permit was issued before the owner was notified of the historic nomination.

And yet, the members of the Wissahickon Interested Citizen's Association remain steadfast and seem confident they will save the house at 145 Sumac Street. Jeffrey Allegretti, who serves on WICA's zoning committee, said the focus for now is on the court battle to rescind the demolition permit.

The goal, he said, is to bring the owner "back to the table" to negotiate a plan that would allow new housing but preserve the 19th-century buildings

David Orphanides, the attorney for property owner John Messing, said on May 18 that "they are not running out this week" to take down 145 Sumac, and he has promised advance notice to WICA's attorney when demolition was set to begin.

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About the author

Alan Jaffe, Contributor

Alan Jaffe has been a contributing writer for PlanPhilly since 2008, focusing on overlooked buidlings and historic preservation issues. He was a writer and editor in the newspaper industry for nearly 30 years, including eight at the Philadelphia Inquirer and nine at the South Jersey Courier-Post. He is currently the director of communications for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. He is also an antiques writer and collector and the author of “J. Chein & Co.: A Collector’s Guide to an American Toymaker.”

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