Demolition on Clifflawn, a late 19th century building at 157 Carpenter Lane in Mt. Airy began June 14 - a year after preservation activists who scrambled to save it with a historic designation didn't …
Demolition on Clifflawn, a late 19th century building at 157 Carpenter Lane in Mt. Airy began June 14 - a year after preservation activists who scrambled to save it with a historic designation didn't make it in time.
Developer Chris Murray plans to put six 4,000 square foot market rate houses in its place.
According to city spokesperson Bruce Bohri, the nomination to place the building on the city's Register of Historic Places was submitted to the Philadelphia Historical Commission two days after a demolition permit had already been issued.
“Because of this timing, the Historical Commission had no way of protecting the building,” Bohri said in an email. “It cannot retroactively assume jurisdiction after the demolition permit was issued.”
As a result, the nomination was withdrawn, Bohri said, and Murray began taking down the building.
Details have yet to be made public, but the new houses will have finished living spaces in the basements.
Some neighbors are disappointed with the development.
“I was hoping it would be repurposed with something meaningful and not just something for developers to make money on new homes without thought to the character of what was there,” said Judy Rubin, a nearby resident. “It’s just going to look like the usual suburban development.”
Rubin told the Local she had hoped somebody would restore Clifflawn.
“You don’t see homes like that anymore,” she said.
Nearby neighbors had a range of complaints about how the demolition was being done.
Neighbors also reached out to the Local with concerns about a large retaining wall - which, according to neighbors, is about 25 feet tall in one part and tapers down to about 4 feet at the other end - between the property and a row of properties on Gorgas Lane. However, the Local witnessed an engineer’s report last week that said the wall was stable.
Neighbors who reached out to the Local also complained of a lack of asbestos remediation. However, a city spokesperson confirmed to the Local that “asbestos remediation must be completed by an approved remediation contractor prior to demolition,” which “was done for this property.”
In their nomination papers, preservationists argued that Clifflawn, built in a Colonial Revival style, had historical relevance because it had been occupied by prominent banker and businessman Sydney Wright from its construction in 1892 until 1915.
According to the historical nomination, Wright, who was an agent for Carpenter’s estate, was also “a key player” in the development of Mt. Airy was a suburban neighborhood during his 35-year administration of the Carpenter Estate.
Wright was also a descendant of George Washington Carpenter, a wealthy businessman and mineralogist.
“He built that house there where he could see the whole neighborhood being developed from his house,” said preservationist Oscar Beisert, who did not work on this particular nomination. “It was one of the early suburban houses of the Pelham area.”
“Because of the rich heritage of the German Township and Philadelphia at-large, the taste for the Colonial Revival style in architecture was omnipresent from the time of the Centennial Exhibition of 1876 to the mid-twentieth century,” reads the nomination. “Included in King’s Views of Philadelphia, Clifflawn is featured along with numerous other important Colonial Revival mansions and residences that characterized the built environment during that era.”