Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Mistreatment of the Elderly

City Avenue was once the grandest of boulevards, lined with the mansions of Philadelphia's business and banking tycoons, but one by one the great houses have been erased to make room for strip malls, parking lots and high rises. The latest to fall is the schist-clad Presbyterian Home for the Aged Couples. In the last few weeks, a developer has demolished the out buildings and wings of the sprawling 1885 structure by the Wilson Bros. architects, the same ones who built the original Broad Street Station. The developers, The Mansions at Bala LP, say they want to keep the central portion for apartments, but plan to build on the remaining seven acres. Although no detail drawings have been made public, the project apparently has zoning approval in Philadelphia.

It's one more example of how cavalierly the region treats its architectural patrimony. In the last century, City Avenue's mansions - on both sides of the county line - have come down one by one: Wilson Eyre's arts-and-crafts-style Farwood, built for Richard L. Ashhurst, is long gone. The Elizabethan-style LLangengen, designed by Field & Medary, became the Bala-Cynwyd shopping center in the early 1950s. Saks Fifth Avenue replaced Pencoyd, a great house dating from 1684, in the 1960s. And in 1974, Lower Merion forced Episcopal Academy to tear down William Price's French Gothic Yorklynne, deeming it a fire hazard. There's not much left, but you can remember what was by flipping through the pages of William Morrison's book, The Main Line: Country Houses, 1870 -1930, published by Acanthus Press.


Blogger Chris said...

I think it's going to be 70 apartment rowhomes(er...they call 'em town homes now I guess)

10:35 AM  
Anonymous Sheth said...

I saw the description of this project when it went to zoning last year. It has been some time since they got approval and I was wondering when work was going to start. This property has been vacant for some time so I'm glad they are doing something productive with this site.

6:30 PM  

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