FOR RENT: Philadelphia 1 BR, Prime Queen Village, Private Yard, $1,300/month


NOW THAT YOU’RE ALL FIRED UP about Philadelphia from reading my last few blog posts, perhaps you’re ready to go live there? Or know someone who is? (If so, please pass this on.)

Because I happen to have an apartment for rent, starting January 1, in Queen Village, the beautiful, civilized, convenient neighborhood I came to know and love while spending time in Philly recently. (This is not the apartment I’m in the process of renovating, by the way; that’s on the top floor of the same building. That’s a two-bedroom, and will be ready in mid-winter.)

The apartment available January 1 is a one-bedroom of 650 square feet, on the ground floor of an 1810 building that was once the parsonage of the church next door (which is now co-ops, with a lovely planted courtyard in front).

It has its own entrance (red door on left, top) and, rare in Philly, a huge private backyard.

The rent is $1,300/month, plus utilities. Scroll down to the bottom of this post for my no-frills craigslist copy with a bit more info.

For more details, photos, or to schedule a viewing, please contact me at caramia447 [at] gmail [dot] com.


Dining area with ceramic tile floor,  adjacent to kitchen at front of apartment.


Kitchen with dishwasher, renovated 2006.


Living room at front of apartment, coat closet at rear. Wood floors throughout.


Three views of large bedroom at rear of apartment overlooking gardens at back and side. Built-in bookshelves, walk-in closet.


Bathroom with staking washer/dryer, pedestal sink, tub/shower.


Large east-facing backyard, approx. 300 square feet, for grilling, dining, entertaining. Three-season use. Think containers!


Nearby Mario Lanza Park, right around the corner. For more neighborhood views, go here.

Some fine print from my Craigslist ad:

Renovated ground floor apartment with large private yard in historic building on beautiful, quiet, upscale block.
Private entrance. Approx. 650 sq.ft. apartment consists of: living room with closet; kitchen with DW, Ikea cabs; separate dining area with ceramic tile floor; large bedroom with walk in closet and French door leading to backyard; modern bath with pedestal sink, stacking washer dryer. High ceilings, wood floors throughout. Central AC.
Monthly rent $1,300 includes water. Other utilities (gas heat & cooking, electric) are tenant’s responsibility. Cats OK, dog negotiable.
Prefer one person. Previous landlord, employment and credit references will be checked.
Flexible move-in date between Xmas and Jan. 23.
No fees. One month’s rent + one month’s security deposit required on lease signing.

Once again: for more details, photos, or to schedule a viewing, please contact me at caramia447 [at] gmail [dot] com. Thanks!

Vintage Storefronts of Philadelphia


ONE OF THE THINGS that makes Philadelphia so not-New York is the abundance of old storefronts, even whole rows and blocks of them, that have endured through the decades without being demolished or remodeled out of existence.

Philly still has its retail “districts,” which in New York have been largely squeezed out by residential development. There’s Jewelers’ Row, a low-rise block of Sansom Street tucked into a commercial precinct of Center City; Fabric Row, on South 4th Street in Queen Village, where bolts of fabrics and trimmings fill the windows of numerous small stores with old, faded signs; and there’s Antiques Row on Pine Street in the neighborhood known as Washington Square West, where these photos were taken on a long Thanksgiving morning walk intended to preemptively head off the effects of certain gorging.

Or at least there used to be an Antiques Row. It was quiet in the streets, and drizzly, and I got the sense that things were not what they used to be. There are fewer of the dusty, cluttered shops than I remember from even a few years ago. Quite a few storefronts are vacant, and those that have changed hands haven’t been replaced with anything more upscale.

I fear that Philadelphia’s Antiques Row may be on its way out, and I certainly hope the vintage storefronts there survive whatever changes are coming. For now, though, it’s worth giving thanks for those that remain, in styles that go back to the early 20th century at least.


A few blocks away is gaudy South Street, full of head shops (or whatever they’re called these days) and tattoo parlors.

South Street may be under threat, too. A new Whole Foods recently took over an entire block, and further gentrification is likely to follow. It’s not my scene, but South Street’s exuberant tackiness is preferable to chain stores. Without places like South Street and Antiques Row, Philadelphia could become not-not-New York.



There’s Always More to Explore in Philadelphia


WAITING FOR MEN… that’s how I spent much of the past week, camped out in a vacant apartment in Philadelphia, planning a renovation there (I own two 19th century row houses in Philly).

In between appointments with contractors, the appliance repair guy, the HVAC guy and 1-800 GOT JUNK, I made forays to the hardware store or in search of a meal, and each time took a different route.

I saw houses like the yellow-shuttered charmer, below and top, on Queen Street in Queen Village, with all the Colonial hallmarks: dormer window, fanlight over the door, steeply pitched roof and brick set in Flemish bond.


The wood frame house, below, a rarity in Philadelphia (most of them burned long ago), was new to me.


I passed through serene Mario Lanza Park, below (named for the beloved opera singer who grew up nearby). I hadn’t been there in some time, and was relieved to find that one of my favorite Philadelphia murals, featuring a large weeping willow, is still there on the side wall of a building.


From there I made my way to Gloria Dei, or Old Swedes’ Church, and its peaceful churchyard (if you allow the roar of I-95 to become a sort of celestial hum).

Built 1698-1700 by Swedish settlers, it’s the oldest church building in Pennsylvania and among the oldest in the country. Its architecture and interior are very plain, much to my liking.


I had to see the Sparks Shot Tower, below, at Front and Carpenter Streets. It’s not a smokestack; it was built to make ammunition for the War of 1812 (they cooled molten balls of metal by dropping them from the top). It’s still there, to no purpose (but historic).


Since my reno is starting soon, I had to move out of the vacant apartment myself yesterday (just as well, since my air mattress was starting to need topping up at least once in the middle of each night).

A friend from England had asked me to photograph a painting at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, below, so that’s where I found myself on my final afternoon in town, taking in the fabulous Paint the Revolution: Mexican Modernism 1910-1950 exhibition that’s on until January 8.


My Philadelphia story is not over. I’ll be returning frequently over the next few weeks to check on the progress of this renovation, which will turn a one-bedroom apartment into a duplex, incorporating space at the top of the house that has been sealed off for decades.

Post-Election Philadelphia


PHILADELPHIA WAS A POIGNANT PLACE to spend time in the immediate aftermath of the election (after casting my vote in NYC, of course).

Everywhere you look, there are statues and portraits of presidents and patriots, reminders of genius, courage and high-flying ideals. As you walk the very streets and pass the very buildings where our country was founded, you have to wonder where our new President-elect fits into the picture. At what point, exactly, did the Roman Empire begin to  fall, and are we there yet?

Certainly there were internecine battles as vicious as the recent campaign in the run-up to the Revolution, and after. The Civil War was far more horrific than our recent electoral War Between the States, and we survived that.

So I have to say that, yes, the perspective gained by walking Philadelphia’s über-historic, über-charming streets (and Uber-ing through them as well, as a matter of fact) helped to quell the panic.

I had a visitor from Brooklyn, a friend who couldn’t bear to spend the first few days of the new reality alone. We steeped ourselves in great art at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the country’s first art museum; visited the new Barnes Foundation and were moved by its monumental modern architecture and landscaping, overwhelmed by the sheer number of masterpieces; took an impromptu tour of the 18th century Powel House in Society Hill, a fine and under-visited house museum; checked out the Italian Market and the Maxfield Parrish-designed, L.C. Tiffany-executed stained glass mural at the Curtis Publishing building in Washington Square; and ate and drank at any number of restaurants and watering holes.

They say you can get used to anything, and indeed the initial shock has begun to taper off. But last week in Philly, we were tourists in a strange land. There was something especially surreal about that first post-apocalypse day, when people in blue Philadelphia’s cafés and cobbled streets exchanged rueful glances and sad smiles, the rain fell, and it seemed the world wept.


Below, the high Victorian splendor of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, founded in 1876, filled with all-American art.


Architects Frank Furness and George Hewitt pulled out all the stops.


There are modern works too, including some great examples of the Ashcan School, O’Keefe, Hopper, Feininger et al.

We checked out a temporary exhibition, on through January, of Thomas Eakins’ provocative, mostly nude photographs, an early exploration of the new medium, below. Eakins, a Philadelphia painter, taught at PAFA, then and now also an art school, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. (And we hippies thought we invented skinny-dipping.)


The powerful architecture and landscaping around the new Barnes Foundation building, below, off Benjamin Franklin Parkway (Philly’s Museum Mile), make it difficult to take a bad picture.


Photography is not allowed inside the museum, which represents one man’s collection of masterpieces (180+ Renoirs, Cezannes by the dozen, Matisses galore, Rousseaus, Modiglianis, Picassos, plus ancient Greek pottery, Navajo silver, other metalwork and furniture), all mounted for exhibit in rooms that recreate exactly the suburban home of Albert Barnes in precisely the arrangement he left at his death in 1951.

Below, houses that caught my eye, mostly in Washington Square West and Society Hill.


Here’s one that invites you in, as did the site manager at the 1765 Powel House, below, when we approached her at the door to inquire what time the next tour was. “I guess there could be one right now,” she said.


The ballroom, above. Washington danced here.


Jennifer Davidson, our lovely guide to the Powel House.

Below, one of Philadelphia’s best-kept decorative arts secrets: the glowing Maxfield Parrish/L.C. Tiffany stained glass mural, some 40 or 50 feet across, in the lobby of the Curtis Publishing building at the northeast corner of Washington Square. Called “The Dream Garden,” it was created in 1914-15 and is free for the viewing.



Some flavorful neighborhood scenes: a South Street cigar shop…


my go-to cafe, the Hungry Pigeon, in quiet Queen Village…


the nearby Italian Market, the likes of whose permanent outdoor stalls I haven’t seen in any other city…


a Polish restaurant in Port Richmond in north Philadelphia, a spot I have been known to hit on my way out of town for the cheese and potato pierogies with fried onions and sour cream, below. (Well, come on, after all that walking?!)


Here are just two of the literally thousands of building-size murals in Philly, a result of its unique Mural Arts Program, both offering glimpses into fantastical worlds: top, Center City; bottom, Bella Vista.


“Today I pray for…” says the blackboard outside Old St. Joseph’s Church in Society Hill, a tin pail of chalk at the ready.


Philadelphia: Walking in Southwark


I’VE JUST SPENT three days in Philadelphia, where I camped out in a vacant apartment on an air mattress in a building I own in Queen Village, a made-up 1970s name for the neighborhood along the Delaware River, just south of South Street.

Before real estate folks came up with Queen Village, it was called Southwark by English settlers. It’s the oldest neighborhood in Philadelphia (and surely one of the oldest in the country, come to that), settled originally by Swedes in the late 17th century.

In the 18th and 19th, the riverfront — access to which is now compromised by I-95 and the multi-lane Columbus Boulevard — was all piers and warehouses, and the small row houses were occupied mostly by the families of people employed in the shipping trades.

I walked the atmospheric streets, narrow and cobbled, observing the 200+-year-old row houses, enjoying their individual quirks and how their owners have restored them.

Colorful paint jobs and sidewalk greenery characterize the properties, and there’s no shortage of seasonal décor like chrysanthemums, pumpkins and corn stalks. People even put café tables and chairs out on their 24 inches of sidewalk (secured with discreet chains).

I took special note of dormer and fanlight windows, each of which I hope to restore in my own 1810 building nearby (which will be the subject of other blog posts as I move forward with the project).

Note shutters, dormer windows, fanlights over doors, all typical of the area’s architecture.

These photos were taken mostly on Front Street, Second Street and the narrow lanes and alleys in between. I took no notes and couldn’t easily find these particular buildings again, but I’ve captioned what I can identify.

If you want to read more about Southwark’s history and architecture, go here.

Top, a glimpse through an iron gate into a cobbled courtyard on Second Street.


Don’t know quite what to make of this clapboard house, above. Looks like the left half may have been removed somewhere along the line.


Above, along with a few photos of clapboard houses below, is the particularly charming South Hancock Street, between Christian and Catherine Streets.


Back on Second Street, above, an intact vintage storefront of the early 20th century.


Above, the c. 1762 William Spafford House at the corner of Front and Bainbridge, a Georgian gem apparently still on the market after several years.


A fine and famous Front Street row, above: Workman Place, which has another group of small rental properties in a courtyard behind it. The dates give in my guidebook are “1748, 1812.” I honestly don’t know whether the facades above are the former or the latter. Any illuminating thoughts?

Below, the reason for the development of Southwark in the first place: the Delaware River, spanned by the Benjamin Franklin bridge, which opened in 1926.

The tall four-masted ship, built in Scotland in 1904, houses a restaurant called Moshulu. According to its website, it’s “the oldest and largest square rigged sailing vessel still afloat” and “the one and only restaurant venue on a tall ship today in the world.”