Monday, November 16, 2009

Then and Now: Southwest corner of Lancaster and Cricket Avenues, Ardmore

c. 1920s - 2009

Built sometime between 1913 and 1920, the nameless 3-story building at the corner of Cricket and Lancaster Avenues has long been one of Ardmore's most distinct buildings. It's a wonderfully detailed specimen of Renaissance Revival design, and given the high quality of craftsmanship evident in its construction, was almost certainly built for relatively wealthy inhabitants. Though merely an apartment building in function, it easily found itself among the town's most postcard-worthy sites during the 1920s.

What's particularly striking about the building's design is how resolutely urban it is. Though most buildings on Lancaster Avenue were built with upper-story apartment space, none of them are nearly as eager in their outward expression of a specific vision of residential life. Here, the abundant bay windows and balconies are strongly suggestive of density and old-school urbanity, out of step with dominant ideals about peaceful, reserved suburban living. It seems to reveal an original developer who had grander ambitions for Ardmore's future, at a time when growth had no foreseeable end.

Today, the building is one of historic Ardmore's greatest assets. Thankfully, despite modifications to its Lancaster Avenue storefronts, the original detailing of its upper stories remains remarkably intact. Unfortunately, two of its ground-floor retail spaces continue to underperform at the hands of a nail salon and spacious ATM cubicle. Needless to say, it really deserves better.

Source: Atlas of Properties on Main Line Pennsylvania Railroad From Overbrook to Paoli. Atlas. Philadelphia: A.H. Mueller, 1920.
Original image: "7 E Lancaster Ave." 2008. Lower Merion/Narberth Buildings. Lower Merion Historical Society. 15 Nov. 2009.

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