Do Historic Districts Add Up?

story by Stefan Kamph

With the Overbrook Farms district designation still in dispute and other potential Philadelphia districts, including Washington Square West, in bureaucratic limbo, Stefan Kamph weighs the economic evidence. This article is a follow up to yesterday's Overbook Farms' piece (also written by Kamph), which is part of a special editorial partnership with Hidden City Daily on preservation in Philadelphia. Like what you read? Check out the full March 2013 issue and visit Hidden City for more stories on the inspiring preservation work being done in Philadelphia. 

The 5900 block of Drexel Road in the Overbrook Farms neighborhood. | Photo by Peter WoodallFor years, advocates of historic preservation have been working to get the far West Philly turn-of-the-century neighborhood of Overbrook Farms designated a “historic district” on the City’s Register of Historic Places. This would complement the neighborhood’s place on the National Register, and impose restrictions on renovation and demolition. The city would review and approve any structural or cosmetic changes that residents wanted to make to their homes.

The effort has been at a standstill since September 2011, when a group of residents began to protest what they saw as too much government intervention on private property. The strongest complaint was economic: not everybody in the area, these opponents said, would be able to afford the financial burden of maintaining a circa-1900 home.

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Historical Dispute: Will the stalled designation of Overbrook Farms be resolved?

story by Stefan Kamph  photos by Albert Yee

This article is part of a special editorial partnership with Hidden City Daily on preservation in Philadelphia. Like what you read? Check out the full March 2013 issue and visit Hidden City for more stories on the inspiring preservation work being done in Philadelphia. And for more about Overbook Farms, come back tomorrow to read a new article from Stefan Kamph on measuring the economic impact of historic districts.

Nearly every detail—interior and exterior—of Larry and Jean Andreozzi’s 10-bedroom house is precisely restored, as if time hadn’t touched the home since it was built in 1894. Actually much of Overbrook Farms, the West Philadelphia neighborhood tucked along the city’s border with Montgomery County, feels a lot like it did when tycoons, politicians and industrialists built it as the first Main Line suburb in the late 19th century. Stone houses with gables and manicured lawns sit on quiet, tree-lined streets. “The houses had their own individual architects, marvelous craftsmanship, and marvelous building materials,” says Andreozzi, standing near a door frame of quarter-sawn oak that he’s lovingly restored. Andreozzi is a master woodworker, and for the past 15 years this house has been his hobby.

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Saving Grace: A congregation rolls up their sleeves and saves their church

When we at Grid were planning to tackle preservation, we were immediately drawn to the amazing work already being done by Hidden City Daily, an online news organization that excels in their coverage of the city's neighborhoods and buildings. An idea emerged: Could Grid and Hidden City collaborate? Over the next week, we'll be posting the stories from this preservation section. Like what you read? Check out the full March 2013 issue and visit Hidden City for more stories on the inspiring preservation work being done in Philadelphia.

story by Jacob Hellman | photos by Peter Woodall

Look around us—churches are dropping like flies,” says Lloyd Butler, a deacon at 19th Street Baptist Church in South Philadelphia. It’s a familiar story in a city with some 200 vacant churches; shrinking congregations can’t meet maintenance costs for their old buildings, which sit boarded up until the rare chance they might be reused. In some cases a developer will buy out the congregation, knock down the church and build new housing. Butler says he witnessed four demolitions last year alone.

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Urban Naturalist: Shell Game - Now you see the bog turtle—tomorrow you might not.

"You’re too cute to hate,” I told the hockey puck-sized black turtle as it clawed at me to get down and craned its neck to bite my hand. Biting is cute when the critter is round, helpless and has big, black eyes. Unfortunately, cute doesn’t count for much when you’re holding up development. The bog turtle (classified under the Endangered Species Act as “threatened”), like the desert tortoise in Southern California, is one of those species that gets in the way. If you’re a retiring farmer looking to cash out by selling your land to a developer, a little turtle hiding in marshy, overgrown fields seems like a ridiculous obstacle.

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