Demolition Permits Filed for 838 South Cecil Street in Angora, West Philadelphia

838 South Cecil Street. Looking northwest. Credit: Google838 South Cecil Street. Looking northwest. Credit: Google

A demolition permit has been filed for a vacant two-story prewar rowhouse at 838 South Cecil Street in Angora, West Philadelphia. The former single-family dwelling sits on the west side of the block between Washington Avenue and Christian Street and will be torn down as part of the City of Philadelphia Demolition Program at a cost of $14,623. Eugenia Warren Wilson is the listed owner and Thomas Curran is the contractor.

The work will include a post-demolition addition of an erosion control mat with seed on lot and application of stucco onto future blank walls at 836 and 830 South Cecil Street next door. No sidewalk work will be performed.

The building is part of a rowhouse ensemble that lines the entire block, with adjacent structures built with the same design and the ones across the street varying slightly. The design presents hallmarks of the city’s second-tier-density rowhouses, featuring a front yard, a deep covered porch, and a second-floor bay window. Red brick and white-painted accents, as well as a Neoclassically-styled details echo the Georgian and later Federal styles, are both prevalent in the eras before and after the Revolution, a pivotal time in the city’s history.

What sets the design apart is its distinctly asymmetrical composition, uncommon in the rowhouse vernacular. The second-floor bay window is offset to the side, leaving space for a pair of small sash windows capped with an oversized pointed pediment. A prominent ornamental cornice runs above the windows and connects to adjacent buildings, visually unifying the composition across the entire block. Garland reliefs decorate the panels above the bay window, with a smaller cornice running along the parapet.

The loss of the unusually styled prewar structure is regrettable, yet, judging by the condition of the façade and the site’s location, an authentic historic restoration was likely unfeasible. The porch canopy is stripped down to the wooden beams, which appear to have rotted due to exposure to elements. Second-floor ornamentation has also deteriorated, with paint chipping on the white surfaces and rust stains marring the cornice, with a sizable gap visible at one location. The entrance and windows are boarded up.

Similarly, few buildings on the block remain intact. In many cases, ornamentation has been stripped and/or covered up with vinyl siding. Fortunately, most buildings remain standing, with only one structure missing on the entire block.

Angora, a neighborhood located between West and Southwest Philadelphia, just east of the city line, has also managed to preserve most of its prewar building stock, though it also saw minimal construction in the postwar era. However, despite a decades-long lull in local construction, development is plausible at 838 South Cecil Street as the site sits close to a number of notable civic amenities.

Sherwood Park, a triangular green space, sits two short blocks to the east on Baltimore Avenue, where the 34 trolley offers a 20-minute commute to University City and a 25-minute ride to Center City. The Angora station of the SEPTA Regional Rail, located a block further south, offers five- to 10-minute commute to both locations.

Catty-corner to the park is the Abiding Truth Ministries Church at 846 South 57th Street, situated in an imposing Neo-Gothic edifice somewhat similar to the Church of the Advocate mentioned in yesterday’s permit filing for 1937 West Norris Street. Mastery Charter Harrity Elementary School, Christy Recreation Center, and Blanche A. Nixon/Cobbs Creek Library are all located within a five-minute walk of the property. Cobbs Creek Park, which runs for a considerable distance along the eponymous creek along the city line, is situated two blocks further to the west.

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