The Next Big Thing on Rittenhouse Square
Not surprisingly, given Philadelphia's current real estate frenzy, the house is finally on the market. Asking price: $11,740,000.
A sale at that price would be far and away the most ever paid for a Center City home, but that is hardly the main thought rumbling through people's minds. While the $12 million tag might suggest the Philadelphia housing market has reached a whole new level, it's pretty much what developers expect to pay today for a prime Rittenhouse Square high-rise site. The sale brochure for the houses isn't even printed yet, but already a chill of fear has gone around the square: Is this going to be the scene of Philadelphia's next major preservation battle?
There are plenty of reasons not to get worked up yet. Although not historically certified, the 1853 house has seen plenty of history. It's also firmly inside the Rittenhouse-Fitler Historic District. It's an important low-rise landmark on the south side the square, which is the side least conducive to tower shadows. In 1999, a plan to add a glassed-in, roof-top pavilion provoked a battle royale at the city Historical Commission. It was eventually approved, though never built.
But you never know how the commission might react today. And this is a very big, very attractive site. The McIlhenny Mansion is no ordinary townhouse. It's 8,600 square feet of living space on six separate lots - plus a 30-foot-wide garden. The entire property measures 106-by-60 feet and goes through to Manning Street. It includes parking for four cars.
Micki Stolker, the broker at Prudential Fox & Roach who is representing the property, says she is not marketing it to developers. In fact, the property, which was bought by a different art collector, Henry S. McNeil Jr., in 1998 for $1.4 million, is being offered so that it can be broken into two separate properties - 1914 and 1916 Rittenhouse Square. Both properties are 30 feet wide and extend to Manning street. The one at 1914, which includes the red Victorian, is going for $6,875,000. The one next door, which includes the reception hall that McIlhenny had built to greet his party guests, is priced at $4, 865,000. Despite those record numbers, Stolker said there's been quite a bit of interest. Given that a sizeable Delancey Street house now goes for $3.5 million, she argues, a house like this on Rittenhouse Square is practically a bargain.