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YOU’VE HEARD OF THE TINY HOUSE MOVEMENT? They invented that in Philadelphia a couple of centuries ago. The compact ‘trinity houses’ of the late 18th and 19th centuries are now much-coveted for their coziness, charm, and economy. And a dollhouse can be quite livable for 1 or 2, once you get used to the stairs.
This c.1830 trinity, set off the street behind a larger row house, is new to market and very well-priced. It’s in Queen Village, one of the city’s quietest and most attractive neighborhoods. I happen to own a building just around the corner from this one, so I know the area well.
There are actually four floors of usable space: kitchen/dining on the basement level; a living room with fireplace on the ground level; a hall, ‘dressing room,’ and full bath (with fireplace!) on the 2nd floor; and a large open bedroom with a sloping ceiling at the top of the house, for a grand total of about 600 square feet.
I DIDN’T GO TO PHILADELPHIA last week just to walk its cobbled alleys and take pictures of cute houses. I went to see my son and his girlfriend in Fishtown, and to catch the van Gogh exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, above, before it closes May 6. Full of rarely-seen paintings from his last four fevered years, gathered from around the world, the van Gogh (despite the terribly long line to get in, even with timed tickets) did not disappoint.
Nor did the city itself. I was with my indefatigable sister; together we covered half a dozen neighborhoods, including Old City, Society Hill, Rittenhouse Square, and Italian Market, in the space of two days. There seems no end of interesting buildings in Philadelphia, or of the fascinating things you can glimpse through iron gates and discover inside building lobbies.
Paid my first visit to the recently opened Perelman Building of the Philadelphia Museum, above, a decorative arts annex with several galleries carved into its remodeled interior. Detail, below, of its impressive Art Deco doors.
’Great Coats,’ above, is one of several fun shows ongoing in the Perelman Building, along with 20th century photography and furniture, and fiber arts inspired by the botanical world.
The view from our 7th floor room at the Alexander Inn, above.
Behind an 18th century house museum (all of three rooms) on Elfreth’s Alley in Old City, the oldest continuously inhabited street in the U.S.
Above, Franklin Fountain, an old apothecary shop turned ice cream parlor in Old City, trying to make scaffolding a festive feature.
Mysterious building, above, in Old City, presently vacant but… what potential!
Self-portrait with iPhone at Anthropologie’s flagship store, in an over-the-top mansion on Rittenhouse Square.
The horse’s head on a brick building off Rittenhouse Square probably signifies its earlier use as a stable.
Tony townhouse near elegant Rittenhouse Square.
On Day 2, we had brunch at Sabrina’s in the Italian Market district, where produce and other food stalls are arrayed on the sidewalk underneath corrugated awnings. Italian Market signage, above and below.
Later, we strolled through Society Hill, below, admiring brickwork, shutters, and window boxes and peeking through gates at gardens filled with tidy boxwoods (that’s the garden of the late 18th century Powell House, below). Society Hill was where, in the 1950s, the preservation movement took hold and the revival of Philadelphia’s derelict vintage housing stock began.
Below, Philadelphia’s most extraordinary hidden treasure: an early 20th c. wall mural rendered in colored glass by L.C. Tiffany Studios, after a painting by Maxfield Parrish. It’s in the lobby of the Curtis Publishing Building on Washington Square, open to all.
BACK FROM TWO BUSY DAYS in Philadelphia and a fair amount of wandering in neighborhoods previously admired only from behind the windshield of my car.
I wanted to go back to Fitler Square, a few blocks southwest of elegant Rittenhouse Square and far quieter. It’s a pleasant residential district of very young families and very old houses (mid-18th century, if the plaques are to be believed), colorful shutters and cobbled streets.
THERE’S ONE REDEEMING FEATURE of Interstate U.S. 1 as it runs from southern New Jersey to New York City — unless you count the colorful, post-modern Michael Graves Miele factory near Princeton, always a welcome sight. Then there are two.
The one I’m talking about is the retro-styled Skylark Diner in Edison, N.J. It’s not an old diner that has been restored, but a recent one that’s at least as attractive, to my eye, as the vintage stainless steel thing (and I love the originals). The Skylark is screaming ’50s, with all the starburst, Sputnik, and ameoboid motifs that implies.
I often stop at the Skylark for a plate of eggs or a Greek salad on my way back to Brooklyn from Philly. It’s Greek-owned, and the food is way, way better than diner-normal, and reasonably priced.
I always gawk and marvel. I love the extent to which the decorative theme was carried out, partly with familiar mid-20th-century furnishings like fiberglass Eames chairs, below, but mostly with custom seating and lighting cannily designed to mimic a ’50s look.
Last Sunday night, I asked, finally, who designed the place.”Someone from Canada,” I was told. Not very illuminating. Also wrong. The interior design turns out to be primarily the work of Josh Nathanson of the Pawtucket, R.I.-based firm Morris Nathanson, which specializes in hospitality projects like resorts, cruise ships, nightclubs, and restaurants. Makes perfect sense.
Heading north, the Skylark is about a mile before the near-impossible-to-find turnoff to 440 (Outerbridge Crossing/Staten Island), on your right. It’s a place worth stopping, whether or not you’re hungry.