Near as I can guess, this row of 19th century trinities in a delightfully secluded row near Rittenhouse Square was given a sort of Venetian stucco treatment in the early 20th c., complete with porthole windows, Juliet balconies, and mosaic tiles.

“TRINITIES,” IN PHILADELPHIA PARLANCE, are three-room, three-story houses — one room per floor — built between the 1790s and 1840s.  They’re cozy, charming, evocative, historic, and, some might add, un-livable.

IMG_7572

Rear unit of my ‘double trinity’ in South Kensington. The property consists of two back-to-back trinities under one roof.

Trinities are not for everyone, especially those with king-size beds. The smallest are only 100 square feet per floor. There’s a lot of going up and down stairs — narrow, twisty stairs at that. (Good knees a plus.) They’re fine for singles and couples; babies and dogs could be difficult.

IMG_7525

They’re cherished archetypes in Philadelphia (I know there are also some in Baltimore and perhaps other cities, but Philly abounds in them). I’ve never seen or heard of such a tiny house in New York — correct me if I’m wrong.

IMG_7556

You can see very early trinities lined up on Elfreth’s Alley in Old City, but trinities are not just historic curiosities. They’re all over Craigslist, and real-estate websites, for 249K and up in the very best neighborhoods.

IMG_7543

I’ve owned a trinity in South Kensington since 2007 (all pictures in this post except the top one). I paid $135,000 for it. In fact, it’s two trinities, back-to-back under one roof. The rear unit was vacant; I fixed it up nicely, but it still took a while to find a tenant. One woman said the stairs gave her vertigo. Someone else used the word claustrophobic. But when an agile young man bounded up and down those stairs with a big smile on his face, I knew I had the right guy.

IMG_7530

Trinities are found throughout the city, in Fishtown, Queen Village, the Graduate Hospital area, in Center City — often on narrow, cobbled alleys.

IMG_7538

I fell in love with another trinity, above, near Rittenhouse Square, after spotting it for rent on Craigslist. I wanted to live in it so badly, I almost took it as a pied-a-terre, but decided that was silly (I don’t need a pied a terre, though I like the sound of it). This was last fall, and guess what — it’s still for rent! The price has come down from $2,000 to $1,850/month. This for a whole house, albeit a small one, in one of the best parts of town.

IMG_7523

As of this writing, there was a trinity for sale for 299K in Center City, and one for 249K in Queen Village. This greedy old-house fanatic wants another Philadelphia trinity!

About these ads