Morning Headlines: After Collapse, L&I Warns Homeowners to Check Foundations

Photo prior to collapse courtesy Google Streetview.

Photo prior to collapse courtesy Google Streetview.

The Inquirer has details on what caused Monday’s Cobbs Creek rowhouse collapse. L&I told Jason Grant that the homes at 6015 and 6017 Spruce collapsed because the foundation beneath their shared party wall had been deteriorating over decades.

The culprit, according to L&I Commissioner Carlton Williams, was a foundation that had been made of rubble stone and mortar. Modern construction relies on foundations made of continuous slabs of concrete, but older construction commonly used the same mixture found on Spruce Street.

An ominous warning about how easily deteriorated foundations can lead to structural problems:

Generally, Williams said, even one loose or missing stone in a rubble wall – which can get dislodged as mortar surrounding it gradually deteriorates to dust – may lead to a collapse.

If reading that gave you heart palpitations, Williams has a suggestion:

Williams noted Tuesday that many homes in the Northeastern United States were built with rubble stone and mortar foundations. He and L&I Emergency Services Director Scott Mulderig said anyone with turn-of-the-century or early-1900s homes should check basements at least yearly for loose or missing rubble stone; a dusty or sandlike buildup of deteriorated mortar; or water that could signal a compromised foundation or wall.

Most importantly, no one was hurt in Monday’s collapse. Grant talked to one of the homeowners who was at work when she got the news and raced home to find her two Scottish deerhounds – both safe.

A self-described pragmatist, she said, “Good things happen, bad things happen – you just hope the good ones outweigh the bad ones, but sometimes they don’t.”

More news this way …
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Historic Townhouse in Old City Has a Secret

TREND photo courtesy Maxwell Realty.

TREND photo courtesy Maxwell Realty.

From the outside, this Old City home looks like any other brick townhouse on tiny Cuthbert Street. Which is to say, darling and vaguely historic. What is not immediately discernible from the cobblestones outside is that this home was honored twice in 2006: once with the AIA Philadelphia Honor Award and once with the AIA Pennsylvania Citation of Merit Winning for a Renovated Home. From the inside, the meticulous rehab becomes apparent.

The two-bedroom house was renovated with a contemporary style which – frankly – feels refreshing on a tiny and storied Old City street. Floors are made from Brazilian walnut and the walls have been replastered. Lines are sleek and clean, and details like pocket doors and transoms have been transformed into chic, modern elements that now hardly evoke the home’s 1850s construction date. The gourmet kitchen features a hidden table that springs out from under a double-sided fireplace.

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Contemporary Treehouse Vibe in Wayne

TREND photo courtesy BHHS Fox & Roach.

TREND photo courtesy BHHS Fox & Roach.

We suspect a very specific kind of Star Wars fan might be into the exterior on this contemporary Wayne home. Something about the heavily wooded land and the monochrome facade evokes an all-terrain walker.

Inside, the home provides treetop views for days with a relatively open plan. The home features an upgraded kitchen and a wet-bar-adjacent dining room. There are five bedrooms and two full baths with a powder room. The master suite includes dual closets and an en-suite bath.

The most interesting feature? The deck out back which has been built around a mature tree. Definitely adds to the treehouse vibe.

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Two Elfreth’s Alley Options to Celebrate Independence Day

TREND photo courtesy Keller Williams.

TREND photo courtesy Keller Williams.

Property is available relatively rarely on America’s oldest continually inhabited residential street. Elfreth’s Alley hosts only 32 homes, and two of them being on the market simultaneously is the real estate equivalent of a blue moon.

First up: 133-35 Elfreth’s Alley. A double lot means 45 glorious feet of width to this three-bedroom home. It also means two decks, a side garden and a tremendous master suite. A finished basement includes a spa-like bathroom. Plenty of period details, including exposed stonework and brick. Our favorite room is the basement, with its romantic canopied ceiling, dreamy lighting and old fireplace.

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Another I.M. Pei Gem in Society Hill Hits the Market

TREND photo courtesy BHHS Fox & Roach.

TREND photo courtesy BHHS Fox & Roach.

There are many good reasons to revere I.M. Pei and his Philadelphia handiwork. Sure, the Society Hill homes are uniformly the coolest. And the Society Hill Towers pair beautifully beside them. But the guy also turned down a place in Oxford because he liked Bing Crosby movies. And then he got one look at Penn and immediately transferred to MIT.

There’s another Pei on the market around the corner from this one, at $1.395 million. One sold in April for $1.1 million on South Third. So it’s a safe bet that this Saint James Place property will be a solid, 3-bedroom investment. The home home has been totally renovated, but hews to the unspoken rule that Pei houses shall be decorated with only modern artwork. The eat-in kitchen is all clean lines. Bathrooms throughout – including the en-suite in the master – are sleek and inviting. We are still puzzling over the lower-level library; we see books, but is that also a collection of … jars?

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Lambertville’s Brookmill Farm: Formality Plus Lawn Chess

There’s quaint and then there’s a barn and covered bridge on your property, which strangers often rent out for weddings. There’s quirky and then there’s human-sized chess out back. This Lambertville home has its quaint and its quirky game on point.

The nearly 14-acre property includes a fieldstone and clapboard home, a carriage house, a pool house and a small barn. There are six bedrooms in all, and six full baths (plus two powder rooms). Interior design elements include stone fireplaces, wainscoting and exposed timber galore. Charming! The main home includes a private wet bar made largely of field stone, which current owners have used as a partial arcade. Quirky! The carriage house is just as lovely.

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Fitler Square’s Joseph Horn Mansion on the Market for $1.325 Million

TREND photo courtesy BHHS Fox & Roach.

TREND photo by Drew Callaghan courtesy BHHS Fox & Roach.

For the uninitiated, Joseph Horn was the Philadelphian half of Horn & Hardart, of the automat empire by the same name. For the really uninitiated, automats were something of a Grubhub for the very early 20th century. Which is to say, you could get cheap food there without having to interact face-to-face with humans. Horn & Hardart opened the nation’s first automat here on Chestnut Street in 1902. Its contents now reside in the Smithsonian. The restaurants grew in popularity through the Depression and into the 1950s, when you could still order hot meals from anonymously staffed vending machines for less than a dollar. The last one closed in New York in 1991.

Back to Joseph Horn. According to the Fitler Square Improvement Association, Horn was persuaded to build a home in the neighborhood by James Methaney, who had recently built his own mansion nearby. You might recognize his name if you spend time in Fitler Square park because he is memorialized with a plaque and tree there. Horn built his mansion in 1929.
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Walter Durham-Designed “Newbury” listed for $1.625 Million in Haverford

TREND photo courtesy BHHS Fox & Roach.

TREND photo courtesy BHHS Fox & Roach.

Walter Durham is noted for designing some 300 homes on the Main Line and for reviving the Welsh farmhouse style throughout the posh community. This five-bedroom in Haverford is in particularly good condition, featuring an updated gourmet kitchen and cherry library.

The first floor of the immense home includes dramatic living and dining rooms with rich wallpaper, connected by a butler’s pantry (someday we are going to write a thesis on the relationship between sales price and wallpaper style). The aforementioned library is part of a two-story addition, the top floor of which includes a master suite with double baths and double closets. The master suite also features one of several fireplaces. The second floor is rounded out by four other bedrooms, three full baths and a laundry room. The lower level has a rec room, another full bath and an exercise room. There is also a bar, handy for post-workout replenishment.

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Now for Something Different: A Lakefront Log Cabin in New Jersey

TREND photo courtesy RE/MAX Barnegat Bay.

TREND photo courtesy RE/MAX Barnegat Bay.

Forget the Shore. Lakefront property offers the same relaxation and waterfront views. Think: more cedar-lined closets and less boardwalk t-shirts. Doesn’t that sound nice? If you’re still on the fence, listing photos of this luxury lakefront cabin will convince you otherwise. It’s like a Thomas Kinkade painting that you actually might covet.

This Medford Lakes property includes a three-bedroom home as well as a separate carriage house with its own apartment. The log home includes original hardwood and brick flooring. And any log cabin worth its salt features a lodge room with walk-in stone fireplace. There is also a gourmet kitchen as well as a pub with its own wet bar. The master suite includes cedar closets, a private lakeview balcony and laundry room.
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What do Renters Want? Survey Says: Outdoor Space and Pet Amenities

Photo by Laura Kicey.

Photo of rooftop pool at 2116 Chestnut by Laura Kicey.

It might not be surprising that a survey conducted in early spring yielded “outdoor amenities” as the number-one goal for people on the market for a new place. In May, we all want gardens and pools and greenery. By September we could do without the weed killers and the leaf skimmers. By February we don’t ever want to go outside again. But even if the pole position isn’t surprising, the rest of the list is worth some parsing.

Urban Igloo, a real estate resource that pairs renters with landlords in D.C., Marlyand, Virginia and Philly, surveyed 1,010 people last month and asked them to rank amenities they considered important when searching for new homes. Outdoor amenities came away the clear winner with 47 percent of respondents ranking them first. The feature that came in second? “Pet amenities.” Leaving aside the ambiguity of the term for a moment, we have to admit to being surprised that more people want pet services than want fitness amenities, which came in a lowly third. Though if you aren’t interested in walking your dog, you might not be interested in the gym.
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