May Advocacy Update

Preservation Alliance Halts Proposed Demolition

In mid-April, the longtime property owner of 208-12 Vine Street applied to the Historical Commission for complete demolition under the financial hardship provision in the City of Philadelphia’s historic preservation ordinance. These properties date back to the American Revolution and are part of the Old City historic district.

The Preservation Alliance immediately sprung into action, working with an expert team to study the hardship application and develop a preservation alternative. We also contacted the local RCO, Franklin Bridge North Neighbors, early on and outlined our thinking to them.

We initially submitted testimony opposing the application before the April 25 Architectural Committee meeting. The Architectural Committee voted to recommend the denial of the application. We continued working diligently to submit our full counter proposal ahead of the May 2 Committee on Financial Hardship meeting.

At that meeting, the Committee declined to approve the demolition application and recommended that additional review be completed. Committee members thanked the Preservation Alliance openly and publicly for our stance and the time and effort we put into our proposal.

The property owner has since requested a continuance to the June 9 Historical Commission meeting. We are hopeful they will seriously consider our proposed alternative plan. While this may not be the final chapter, we believe we have raised considerable doubt that these historic properties must be demolished.

Henry Ossawa Tanner House Receives National Recognition  

On May 9, the National Trust for Historic Preservation announced America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places for 2023. Two Philadelphia sites were included- Philadelphia's Chinatown neighborhood and the Henry Ossawa Tanner House. Preservation Alliance staff and board members attended an announcement event at Franklin Square that celebrated these important sites and their community supporters.

The Henry Ossawa Tanner House, built in 1871, was home to Henry Ossawa Tanner, an internationally recognized painter the Smithsonian American Art Museum has described as "the most distinguished African American artist of the 19th century." From 1871 to 1950, this National Historic Landmark was also home to many of Tanner's family members who were esteemed in their own rights. The Friends of the Tanner House—a Black-led, multi-generational coalition of community advocates formed in 2021 to champion the site's preservation and reuse—is currently working to acquire the property and reimagine the house's future.

Earlier in May, the Friends of the Tanner House and the Center for the Preservation of Civil Rights Sites (CPCRS) at the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design received a grant from the Mellon Foundation to support a planning, community engagement, and capacity building process for the rehabilitation of the Tanner House. The grant project, entitled Henry Ossawa Tanner House: Annunciating a Community Cultural Platform with Holistic Preservation, will support community arts and cultural programming to create a holistic preservation planning process for the Tanner House.

The Friends of the Tanner House is hosting a fundraiser on May 25, 5-8 PM, at the Rhoden Arts Center at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. The group is only $25,000 away from achieving their urgent, immediate goal for emergency roof stabilization that would allow for future preservation and design work to continue.

More Information and Tickets

New Historic Districts Featured in the Inquirer

The journeys of three new local historic districts were the focus of an Inquirer article, "Preserving Community Character." It featured the Victorian Roxborough historic district, listed in June 2022; the Christian Street/Black Doctors Row, listed in July 2022; and the Powelton Village historic district, listed in November 2022. Over 1,400 properties are now protected with these districts in place!

The Preservation Alliance is honoring the three neighborhood groups who championed the creation of these districts, Central Roxborough Civic Association, South of South Neighborhood Association, and Powelton Village Civic Association, at next month’s Preservation Achievement Awards. The Preservation Alliance is working to build on this momentum and support more historic district nominations through partnerships with community groups. 

Read the Article


For many years, the Preservation Alliance has worked to advocate for the preservation and transformation of the Police Administration Building or the Roundhouse. We are proud to release a new website to educate about the building's architecture, history, and preservation possibilities.

The Preservation Alliance and Docomomo US / Greater Philadelphia prepared and submitted a nomination to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places, which would protect the building from demolition and insensitive alteration. The nomination is currently awaiting review by Historical Commission staff. The City of Philadelphia intends to issue an RFP later in 2023 for the sale and redevelopment of the Roundhouse parcel at 700-34 Race Street.

This website will contain updates and resources as the nomination progresses and the City's RFP process continues.

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