Author: Liz Spikol

Bethlehem, Pa., Named One of “18 Best Cities for Bros” Due to High-Schooler’s Use of Axe

downtown bethlehem

Photo of downtown Bethlehem via Wikipedia.

For once, Philadelphia has not been included in an unflattering list–though had the author of these rankings visited BroLibs, he might have changed his mind. The list–”The 18 Best U.S. Cities for Bros”–comes courtesy of real estate website Estately, and puts Bethlehem at No. 17:

Bethlehem made the list primarily because a high school student there was hospitalized after suffering an allergic reaction from an overexposure of Axe Body Spray. However, oh little bro town of Bethlehem, you are much more than a toxic cloud of spray-on brodor. You are home to Lehigh University, a small school whose cultural life revolves around its fraternity scene, with a brolific 37% of male students in a fraternity. The lacrosse team was ranked 13th in the country last season and The Daily Beast considers it the #19 party school in America. Your caucasians are plentiful (65.4%), the marijuana abounds, and white baseball hats turned backwards can be seen all over campus.

More →

Most Unusual: Wilmington Home With Bomb Shelter Built During Cuban Missile Crisis


This redwood home on a woodsy acre has an outbuilding whose historic context beats that of most other Wilmington real estate, to be sure. In October of 1962, the country was brought to what seemed to be the brink of nuclear war. By this time, children had been crouching beneath their desks–”Duck and Cover!”–for civil defense test raids for a decade. But the Cuban Missile Crisis provoked the kind of fear that would lead a homeowner to speedily erect a stone bunker on his property.

What is the shelter good for now? Perhaps 21st-century end-of-days folks who want a place to preserve their potable water will find it appealing. Do such people live in Wilmington, Del.? If not, the listing suggests a wine cellar, which is much more fun.

As for the other aspects of the house, given the number of pine and oak walls, the decor may be responsible for the Delaware Wooden Wall Crisis of 1952.

More →

Today in Overblown Listings Copy: the Reading Viaduct = the NY Highline

This loft is very close to "Philly's version of the Highline."

This loft is very close to "Philly's version of the Highline."

The listings copy for what seems to be a perfectly nice two-bedroom, bi-level Callowhill loft reads:

Remarks: Walk to Lift Cafe and Prohibition Taproom or walk Philly’s version of the Highline called the Reading Viaduct!

Philly’s version of the Highline? The whole problem is that Philly doesn’t have a version of the Highline. And the Reading Viaduct is far, far, far from anything like the Highline.

To wit…

More →

Message to Dolphin Tavern: Neighbors Are Unimpressed With “Overgrown Outhouse”

Photo via South Broad Street Neighborhood Assn.'s Facebook page

Photo via South Broad Street Neighborhood Assn.'s Facebook page

The South Broad Street Neighborhood Association has taken its ire to Facebook, where it has posted a photo of the strange shed that sits outside of Dolphin Tavern. The bar is part of Avram Hornik’s Four Corners Management, which also owns Drinkers, Lucy’s Hat Shop and the soon-to-reopen Boot and Saddle. Four Corners is staging a major South Broad revitalization effort, which is much appreciated. But the shed outside does look, from the photo, out of place.

The Association posted the photo, above, along with these words:

The Dolphin Tavern has a new addition. Besides being dog ugly, it was built without zoning and permits. If you care about how our neighborhood looks, call them and tell them what an eye sore they have created.

More →

Splendiferous Interiors: Chestnut Hill Home Goes From “Grey Gardens” Shell to Bright Showpiece

Photo by Jeffrey Totaro for Philadelphia Magazine.

Photo by Jeffrey Totaro for Philadelphia Magazine.

This house is now a home–but it certainly didn’t start out that way. When a young real estate developer saw the hulking shell that Philly Mag’s Emily Goulet describes as “a Grey Gardens-esque display of faded splendor,” he knew he could do something with it–and he renovated it in six months.

Once the infrastructure work was done, he and his wife called on the assistance of interior designer Mona Ross-Berman, who they’d contracted with as soon as they bought the house. The result, says Goulet is “a bright, uncluttered home that is equal parts sophisticated and family-friendly.”

More →

For Rent: Sweet Old City Trinity With Startling Amount of Built-Ins


trinity tuesday logoThough this rental isn’t available until early October, we suspect the competition will get fierce rather quickly. This trinity seems just lovely–two floors have original, refurbished hardwood floors; there are numerous space-saving built-ins; exposed brick fireplaces and other hollows provoke a feeling of history; and the molding and dark gray paint provide a hint of elegance.

The lower level is the kitchen, per usual, and with a washer/dryer to boot. Feel that tension melt away? The second story is just a bathroom and closets, though the hallway could serve as a dressing room, and the third floor is the bedroom, which has a skylight and a ceiling hatch to climb onto the roof. True, the bedroom has wall-to-wall carpeting, but it’s brand new, so no need to worry about fleas, cat spray or other unwholesomeness lurking within.

More →

Iliana Strauss Lists Pep Boys Estate Designed By Walter K. Durham

haverford estate

Iliana Strauss, the widow of Pep Boys heir Ben Strauss (son of Mo), has put her grand, 8,000-square-foot Haverford home designed by Walter K. Durham on the market for about $2 million. The nine-bedroom home, designed by Lower Merion’s most famous and prolific architect, may look historic-stone-and-ivy from the front, but from the back and indoors, it’s actually a mix of styles, insistently surprising the eye. In many rooms, for instance, there are random-width oak floors. But the kitchen is spare, and feels thoroughly contemporary.

The home sits on almost one-and-a-half acres of beautifully landscaped grounds with a pool, a pool house, an outdoor kitchen and grill, and a carriage house with an apartment. The photos tell the rest of the tale. Note the Pep Boys decor.

More →

Morning Headlines: R.I.P. Rev. William H. Gray III

grayFormer Congressman and Philadelphia political legend Rev. William H. Gray III died yesterday in London at age 71, while visiting staying in that city for the Wimbledon tournament. The Inquirer quoted a number of Philadelphia luminaries who spoke about Gray and his passing:

Congressman Bob Brady: “He could walk down the hallway, and everybody knew him, he knew everyone. I’m absolutely positively shocked. It’s a major, major loss to the city, to the area and to the nation.”

Mayor Michael Nutter:  ”[Gray was] a transformative leader among leaders.” “He knew guys on the corner, and he knew Nelson Mandela and everyone in between. In the chess match of politics, he knew how to get things done.”

More →

Least Surprising Data Dump of the Day: Student Loan Debt Driving First-Time Homebuyers Away

First-time home buying is down by about 12 percent these days, and new research shows the reason could be that the typical first-timers are too saddled with college loan debt to get into the home ownership game. And this matters to the market. From the Seattle Times:

If predominantly young, first-time purchasers are not entering the homeownership pipeline at anywhere near their traditional rate, at some point the system begins to choke. Owners of modest-priced starter homes find it more difficult to sell and move up.

They in turn can’t buy the larger homes they crave, reducing demand for houses in the more expensive categories. A shortage of first-time buyers at the intake level eventually triggers problems all the way up.

More →