Just (Re)Listed: Secret Trinity in Society Hill
This compact starter condo is tucked away in the back of a townhouse that got converted into first nine, then four, separate residences.
Wanna get smart?
That’s “smart” as in Maxwell, the famed Agent 86 of Mel Brooks and Buck Henry’s classic late-1960s secret-agent-spoof sitcom, Get Smart.
But it could also be what you will call yourself if you buy this attractively priced, compact-yet-comfortable Society Hill secret trinity condo for sale.
Why is this trinity a secret?
Because it comes disguised as a handsome turn-of-the-20th-century townhouse on leafy Lombard Street.
What the photo above doesn’t reveal is this house’s past. In 1954, it got carved up into nine apartments. (You could describe this as the year KAOS took CONTROL of the property.)
Then, in 1979, a new owner bought the “dilapidated” nine-unit apartment building — given the size of the house, it was probably more like the kind of cramped apartment house New Yorkers call an “SRO,” or “single-room occupancy,” hotel — and converted it into four condominium units.
I’d say that was definitely a smart move. But it had a curious twist.
A little sleuthing reveals the twist. Much as Agent 86 negotiated a seemingly endless corridor of doorways to get to the phone booth in Get Smart’s comic opening sequence, you negotiate a similarly narrow corridor, only with fewer doors, to get to this secret.
Your passage looks like this upon entry:
and just a short distance beyond, it looks like this.
And here’s your clue to what happened. Those stairs connect the three units in the front of the house, one on each floor (and probably a bi-level unit on the top floor that includes the dormer floor above it).
Continue down the corridor to the left of the stairs, and you arrive not at a phone booth, but at the trinity the developer stuck in the back of this property, next to its interior courtyard. (Which, sorry to say, didn’t get turned into a patio.)
Walk through its front door and you immediately confront that trinity trademark, a spiral staircase. This one, at least, is an open metal staircase in a well wide enough for you to haul your mattress and (disassembled) bed frame up it.
Beyond the staircase on the first floor is the unit’s up-to-date kitchen, with granite countertops and stainless-steel appliances.
Between the kitchen and the stairwell you’ll find room enough to fit a small dining table for two.
The two floors above this one are pretty much interchangeable: You can use one of them as a living room and the other as your bedroom.
You could, as the current occupant has done, put the bed on the second floor. This would be smart if your first concern is easy exit in case of an emergency, for the second floor also has a door leading to the hallway. Do this and you have enough room to add home office space.
Or you could use the second floor as a living room and put the bedroom on the third floor, which the current owner has outfitted as a living room. This would be the smart move if you didn’t want to have to negotiate the stairs to get to the unit’s bathroom while watching TV.
Regardless how you stack things up, you will have here a simple contemporary condo with clean lines and room enough to relax and maybe even entertain a friend or a date. (If it’s a first date, instead of dining in, I’d recommend going out to one of the fine restaurants you will find in Head House Square, a block to the east of here, on South Street, one block south, or along Bainbridge Street and Fabric Row, just to the south of South Street. And if you really want to wow your date, Zahav is in the Society Hill Towers Shopping Plaza, a three-and-a-half-block walk away.)
Besides all those great date-night options, you also enjoy convenient access to the Delaware riverfront and Old City, which means that all sorts of smart nightlife, entertainment and recreational opportunities abound around you.
Now how smart is that? Would you believe … that it gets even smarter when you consider how little you will have to pay to enjoy all this? You will be hard-pressed to find a starter home as reasonably priced as this one in all Society Hill. (That is, if you can find a starter home at all in Society Hill.) In fact, you will be hard-pressed to find a starter home as reasonably priced and in as good condition anywhere in Center City.
So if you’re smart, you should find the nearest phone booth — er, pick up your cell phone — and give the listing agent a call right now. For not a lot of money, you could be living in Society Hill … and loving it.
THE FINE PRINT
SQUARE FEET: 450
SALE PRICE: $189,000
OTHER STUFF: The basement contains storage space and a shared laundry. A $144 per month condo fee covers exterior building and common area maintenance, water and sewer service. This house was previously listed for $199,000 when it first went on the market in September of last year.
302 Lombard St., Unit B, Philadelphia, Pa. 19147 [Samantha Miller | Select Redevelopment via Zillow]