In a statement written by the Philadelphia Historical Commission, the 1800 block of row houses on Liacouras Walk were described as “the center of student life as the university converted the buildings to university-related uses.”
That was 1930.
Now, notices of applications for demolition and remnants of what used to be doorbells are all that remain of student life.
But there is talk of rejuvenation.
The University is proposing to remove the interior walls separating the 1800 to 1818 block of row houses on Liacouras Walk in order to create facilities for various student services, said Temple University spokesman Mark Eyerly.
“If the removal of the interior walls and rear of buildings is extensive enough, it falls under the definition of demolition,” he said.
“The Student Health Center in Mitten Hall could use more modern space and more space in general,” Eyerly said. “It’s too crowded.”
Along with the Student Health Center, there are several student service offices in the basement of Curtis Hall that need relocating. Two major services offered are the Academic Resource Center and the Math and Science Resource Center. An addition to the Fox School of Business and Management is needed as well, Eyerly said.
“The plan is to make these row homes a new student service center,” he said. “Basically we’re asking what they think about is demolishing these buildings.”
In order for Temple to go ahead with these proposed plans, they first must be approved by the Historical Commission, according to employee John Farnham.
“Because these row houses are historically significant, the facades of all buildings facing Liacouras Walk and Montgomery Avenue must remain,” Farnham said. “The removal of the interior would be 10 feet behind these facades.”
But Temple faces a new problem.
In a Nov. 25 meeting with the Historical Commission, the architectural committee recommended the application be referred to a hardship committee because of the financial aspects Temple faces with this project.
“Because Temple needs room for all these student services, without total gutting of the interior and adding a 5th floor, the project makes no economic sense,” said Richard Tyler of the Historical Commission.
The commission will assess Temple’s financial hardship Dec. 12.
The 1800 block of Liacouras Walk is considered historically significant by the Historical Commission because of its construction in the early 1870s.
Formerly known as Park Avenue, the row houses were considered as “one of the few grand streets in Philadelphia,” according to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places, written by the Historical Commission.
These row homes first housed the working middle class, but by 1930, Temple owned most of the buildings and utilized them for student services.
Nina Sachdev can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.