City to Temple: Rebuild Diamond Street property

The row home, owned by Temple since the 1970s, was originally built in the late 1800s.

A Temple-owned property, which is only its facade, on Diamond Street near Carlisle will be rebuilt to its original historic appearance. | JEREMY ELVAS / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple has until June to submit plans to rebuild a row home on Diamond Street that the university has allowed to “fall into an advanced state of disrepair,” according to the Philadelphia Historical Commission.

The property only consists of the building’s remaining facade. This will be rebuilt to its historic appearance with the original trim, stoop, metalwork and cornice, according to minutes from the PHC’s Dec. 13, 2019  meeting. 

Temple has owned the property since the 1970s, originally one of five brownstones on Diamond Street near Carlisle, according to the minutes. By 2010, only its facade remained. 

“After reviewing the property, we’ve determined the best alternative to preserve the historic nature of the facade is to reconstruct it,” wrote Ray Betzner, a university spokesperson, in an email to The Temple News. 

The university sought to demolish the property last year after the Department of Licenses and Inspections declared the structure “imminently dangerous” in August, according to the minutes. 

The boarded-up facade of 1416 W Diamond St. is a Temple-owned property that will be rebuilt, per an order from the Philadelphia Historical Commission. | JEREMY ELVAS / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Because the home is within the Diamond Street Historic District, included in the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places, Temple was required to obtain the PHC’s approval to do so, wrote Paul Chrystie, a spokesperson for the city’s Department of Planning and Development, in an email to The Temple News.

Building permits to reconstruct the facade must be filed within six months to “ensure that the historic district is not left with an extended vacancy in its middle,” Chrystie wrote.

The property was built by John Sharp, a local builder, in 1886, according to the meeting minutes.

In 1996, Temple sought to demolish the entire structure but only got approval to take down its rear wing, according to the minutes. After the rear wall and roof of the main block partially collapsed in 2010, Temple demolished the entire back of the building.

“I can’t comprehend for what purpose Temple has been owning this property and why they simply haven’t disposed of it on the private market,” said Peter Crawford, a board member of the Temple Area Property Association, a local group representing property owners.

Crawford is certain that Temple could pass on the property to a buyer who would be willing to restore it, he added.

Freeman Miller, who lives on Carlisle Street near Diamond, said that while Diamond Street has a “long, rich, classic history” and “deserves to be preserved,” it’s not enough to just see the fronts of buildings kept in tact.

“The facades do nothing for me except remind me what used to be there and that never can be there again,” Miller said.

“[Temple has] not treated us as fully equal neighbors where we should have a say of what happens in our neighborhood,” he added.

Judith Robinson, the chairperson for the 32nd Democratic Ward Registered Community Organization, said the city should not have allowed Temple to let the building fall into such disrepair.

“We don’t have a whole lot,” Robinson said. “But we have these assets as this community was built.”

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