Monday, August 15, 2016

Frank Furness on Jewelers Row

A lot has been said about Toll Brothers potentially demolishing a significant portion of Jewelers Row for a high-rise apartment building as well as the state of historic preservation in Philadelphia, much of it more eloquent than I could ever put it.

Jewelers Row is one of Center City's gems, our equivalent to South Philadelphia's 9th Street Market or Fabric Row. It's unique, old, a little gritty, and everything you'd come to expect from what Philadelphia's Historical Commission should be protecting. But surprisingly, it's not, thanks to an oversight

Well, one building within Toll Brothers line of site on Jewelers Row could stop the wrecking ball, or at least offer a stay of execution. Take a look at 710 Sansom Street. 

710 Sansom Street, Jewelers Row
The architect is unknown, at least according to the Athenaeum's Philadelphia Architects and Buildings site. But if you're a fan of Philadelphia architecture, the C.E. Robinson & Bros. building might look suspiciously Furnessian to you. 

Frank Furness worked within this neighborhood in the mid to late 19th Century, and 710's brickwork and carved crowns reflect his signature style. While this building may not be protected, Frank Furness is something of an architectural god in the Philadelphia area and any connection, particularly if this was designed by Furness himself or his firm, could be enough for the Historical Commission to intervene.

So what do you think?

Could this have been designed by Frank Furness, his firm, or one of his students? 

Does the Historical Commission have the authority to intervene if it was designed by Furness?

And if this were hastily demolished, only to find out after the fact that it was designed by Frank Furness, would this be enough of a lesson in loss to truly improve how we address preservation in Philadelphia?