Antique Corner House, NoLibs (Philly) 309K


IN PHILADELPHIA LAST WEEKEND, I squeezed in a quick look at a house whose listing I found intriguing for several reasons:

  • It’s in Northern Liberties, a neighborhood full of restaurants, bars, and history with which I’m familiar, and where a lot of young, hip, solvent people want to live. Hence: easy rental territory.
  • It’s a corner building, at the end of a row, which means three exposures instead of just two.
  • It’s old, and you know my philosophy: the older the better. I could tell from the roofline — an inverted V, with steep sides peaking in the middle and two dormer windows at front and back — that it was c.1800 Federal style, which is entirely possible in that nabe.



Living room and one of two bedrooms in the upper duplex, above

The ask had been 329K; it recently came down to 309K. It’s a two-family — a 1BR ground floor apartment, presently renting month-to-month for $700, and a 2BR duplex above for $1,100, with a lease ending next April.



Kitchen in the duplex, above

However, I decided against pursuing it, despite its income potential and a few undeniable charms (exposed-beam ceiling in the upper duplex, cozy attic bedrooms, sunny hippie-style bath, pleasant roof deck, below).



It’s on the fringe of Northern Liberties — diagonally across from Liberties Lofts, a converted warehouse-turned-rental building, but also directly across from some depressingly ill-maintained modern row homes. It also needs more work and money than I’m prepared to put in right now.


But it is an opportunity for the right someone. With the two current rentals totaling $1,800, and room to go quickly higher with some fixing up — plus a rentable off-street parking space, above — it would be possible to break even or better right out of the gate.

If you’re interested, give Ken Krauter of Zip Realty a call (215/450-0605).

Prospect Heights Then & Now


Mansard roof with dormer windows, Prospect Place. You can see them in the row of brownstones on the left in the second vintage photo, below.

IF I COULD HOP into a time machine and go back to Brooklyn in 1914, I would. I’m not sure how long I’d stay; I’d want an open return ticket, just in case I missed some things about the 21st century.

But old photographs, like the ones in this post from the site Brooklynpix, which claims the most comprehensive collection of vintage Brooklyn photos anywhere, are sure a balm for eyes tired of bad contemporary architecture, ugly cars, brash advertising signs, and lately, heaps of garbage on dirty snow.


Above, an undated view of Flatbush Avenue looking north (toward downtown Brooklyn and Manhattan) from Prospect Place. The buildings are crisp and uniform, the signage tasteful. Of course, it was all relatively new back then, this area having been developed mostly in the 1870s and ’80s. Below, the same block today.


Prospect Place in 1914, looking east from Flatbush Avenue, below, had trees and lovely striped window awnings. The turreted building on the right, once a real estate office, is now a burrito place.


Below, the same block as it looks today (I couldn’t get exactly the same angle as in the vintage shot without standing right in the middle of Flatbush Avenue, which would be foolhardy). The six-window-wide brownstone, third from the left in the contemporary shot, below, is the one in the left foreground of the view above.


It’s easy to match up the red building with the Romanesque arches in the picture, above, with the same one in the 1914 picture below, a slightly different angle on the same block.


If I’m not mistaken, the shop with the barber pole in front, above, is now a hairdresser’s. Some things never change.

Walk and See


ONE OF THE THINGS THAT SHOCKED ME when I moved to the country was how much driving one has to do to get anywhere. The other day a friend and I combined yard-saling with a fitness walk, and in the process I noticed several fine old houses on Springs Fireplace Road — four in a row — that I sort of knew were there, but that had more or less escaped my notice as I whizzed by at 50mph.


One’s a mid-19th century farmhouse, above and top. I love the fresh coat of white paint over everything – the clapboards on the lower level and the shingles above, the arched window in the attic, and the restrained gingerbread on the porch.


Then there’s a very plain and unprepossessing cedar-shingled house, above, with an offset front door that looks exceedingly  informal — perhaps it’s not the original front door.  The duck decoys, below, made me smile, as did the purpose-built box to hide the electric meter (I need one of those).


Right next door is another cedar-shingled farmhouse of the late 19th century, below. with blue trim on the fence tying in to the front entry and window lintels. This house deserves better in the way of an entry portico, I think.


A little ways down from that one is a house, below, with painted shingles, dormer windows, a picket fence, and a plaque reading 1839.


There’s a marvelous barn, below, behind it.


Walking. It’s an eye-opener.