• The firm of Venturi and Rauch designed this simple but expressive facade for the home of Venturi's mother.

Chestnut Hill to expand what qualifies as historic

Chestnut Hill is about to update its definition of "historic." Since the mid-1980s, the charming section of Northwest Philadelphia has been one of the largest historic districts on the National Register…

    • mailbag-pres

Mailbag: Preservationists respond

We received a lot of great feedback to Jared Brey’s story last week, “Out with the old, in with the old: Will Mayor Kenney take a new approach to preservation?…

    • Demolition of the Boyd Theater, TargetExpress, 1900 block of Chestnut

Out with the old, in with the old: Will Mayor Kenney take a new approach to preservation?

Between now and the end of 2015 PlanPhilly is taking a look back at Philadelphia during the Nutter Years and down the road at what we might expect from the Kenney…



Historic preservation is a professional endeavor that seeks to preserve, conserve and protect buildings, objects, landscapes or other artifacts of historic significance. Urban design practitioners have assigned the preservation of historic sites and properties varying levels of importance over the last century. However, the importance of maintaining a sense of context and understanding for the forms that preceded us has increased over the last thirty years for many reasons. The market, as well as the urban design discipline itself, has moved us to understand and appreciate that a site’s history and context is an integral part of urban planning.

Government has responded accordingly; the federal branch has established a process by which tax breaks are awarded to developers renovating historic sites, and many local governments have the power to permanently ban demolition of any structure with a certain level of historical significance.

There are now local and regional historical commissions charged with protecting local jewels of the past, though many buildings of the same typology were destroyed decades ago without concern.  In Philadelphia, the Historical Commission reviews any proposed change to properties on the Local Register of Historic Places, which prevents these property owners from making significant exterior changes without approval.  The Register is mainly comprised of individual properties, though there are “historic districts” that are protected, such as Society Hill.


  • Dec 11, 2015

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