Saturday, June 20, 2009

Then and Now: Northeast corner of 40th and Walnut Streets, Philadelphia


The 3900 block of Walnut Street has seen its fortunes rise and fall. The duplex at 3931-3933 Walnut Street that still stands today in somewhat shabby condition was completed in 1887, the work of William H. Decker, whose works included several grand estates and institutional buildings in the then-booming West and North Philadelphia streetcar suburbs. The 20th century brought with it both growth and neglect. The corner building at 3939 Walnut St. first grew a storefront addition as 40th Street became a local commercial corridor, and was then demolished around 1963 when the old photo was taken by the Historical Commission. While the University of Pennsylvania devoured the other side of the street, the other pictured town homes soon made way for a 1-story shopping center, which was itself replaced in late 2008 by the massive Radian apartment complex.

These three buildings tell a very rich story. They testify of three distinct eras of the area's history - its 19th century suburban origins; 20th century commercialization and decline; and its 21st century resurgence as a vibrant mixed-use urban neighborhood.

Source: Philadelphia Architects and Buildings
Original photo: "Historical Commission-12404-37." 1963. Philadelphia City Archives. Philadelphia Department of Records. 15 Jun. 2009.

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