Joseph G. Brin, Architect & Writer

Archive for the ‘Historic Preservation’ Category

Preservation Madness: The addictive nature of home restoration

In Historic Preservation on April 11, 2013 at 3:32 pm

story by Joseph G. Brin | photo by Albert Yee

This article is part of a special (Grid Magazine, Feb. 2013) editorial partnership with Hidden City Daily on preservation in Philadelphia.

It could have been a scene from the film The Money Pit. Christine and Anthony Shippam, owners of an 1894 Georgian Revival in Mount Airy’s Pelham neighborhood, were lying in bed, rain dripping down on them. “Honey, did I tell you how much I hate this house?” asked Christine.

“Did I tell you how much I hate this house?” replied her husband Anthony.

“We don’t take vacations. We don’t do anything else,” says Christine Shippam, five years into the project restoring what was one of the dozens of suburban dream houses designed by architect Mantle Fielding. “It’s become an addiction,” she says…


Block Bustin’

In Architecture, Historic Preservation, Urban Space on April 11, 2013 at 3:24 pm

South 5th and Bainbridge | Photo: Nathaniel Popkin

It’s the old domino effect. First Charles Zarit Tailor Supplies, established in 1942, closes up. Then the corner family hardware store, in business since 1872. The particular character of a small city block–this one South Fifth Street between South and Bainbridge–quietly erodes and then vanishes…

Dr. Of History Will See You Now

In Historic Preservation on December 18, 2012 at 7:07 pm
December 14, 2012 |  by  |  Walk the Walk

Photo: Nathaniel Popkin

As an architect, I’ve tromped through obscure places chasing a unique structure or historic location. In Paris, I sought the laboratory of Claude Bernard, the great 19th century physiologist, only to end up in some ordinary basement space that had become the precise location of history lost to history. Why it took me some 20 years of casually walking past that old pile of bricks at Fourth and Delancey called The Physick House, home of the first significant American surgeon Philip Syng Physick, I just don’t know.

But I know I’m not the only one. The Frank Furness-designed Emlen Physick Estate, Cape May home of Dr. Physick’s grandson, is a better known house museum than the Fourth Street Federal style mansion of Dr. Physick himself…

“Strong In Bees & Honey”

In Historic Preservation on June 14, 2012 at 1:30 am

Walking about, a promo card flashing “URBAN APIARIES” grabbed my attention. Honey flavors-by-zip-code? I was on the bee trail in no time!

In The Beginning

May 15th 1863, was a very good day for Philadelphia’s Rev. Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth, the acknowledged Father of American Beekeeping. Inked in his carefully detailed logbook: “Strong in bees & honey.”

Rev. Langstroth | Image: Wikipedia

You Coulda Had Class, too!

In Historic Preservation on April 5, 2012 at 8:05 pm

“You don’t understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I could’ve been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am.” – Marlon Brando in On the Water-

Walking just off South Street, the famed SS United States came into view – displayed in a men’s clothing store window. That ship musta been something. It musta meant something. It must’ve had class

Snowy Farmstead in the Big City

In Environment & Infrastructure, Historic Preservation on March 14, 2012 at 1:06 pm

Only this afternoon I was tramping through snow covered hills and steep woods in Western Massachusetts…

Sounds of a sparkling creek deep in the valley rose up, ricocheted off tree bark and splintered into sunlight. We came upon an old, clapboard house in a clearing at the top of a hill. A beautiful, solitary house attended by a huge, bare tree that sent broken branches crackling high up into the cold, blue sky. A lichen-covered stone property wall stood like an ancient megalith…

Lifeboat For The Ages

In Historic Preservation, Space for Faith on March 9, 2012 at 6:35 pm

Walk the Walk: a writer steps outside and, without preconceptions, walks ’til a story materializes — serendipity and discovery in the City of Philadelphia. A new monthly Hidden City Daily column by Joseph G. Brin

In his inaugural monthly column “Walk the Walk,” Joseph Brin finds himself in a 100+ year old South Philly synagogue, where old and young alike pitch in, rebuilding the building, the congregation, and a new way of life…

I arrived on foot. Walking about twenty-five minutes took me to a neighborhood rowhome synagogue, or shul, founded by European immigrants in the early 1900s. Congregation Shivtei Yeshuron-Heysiner-Ezras Israel at Fourth and Emily Streets, deep in South Philadelphia, is the oldest and only remaining Orthodox synagogue in a neighborhood that once boasted a synagogue on virtually every corner…

Local Hero

In Historic Preservation on February 6, 2012 at 4:02 am

David O’Donnell is a local, historic preservationist hero in my book. He was head of a fledgling neighborhood preservation group I joined years ago. It seemed he was running six different committees at the time, a kind of start-up, serial entrepreneur of preservation activism…

“Civil War Docs In Town”

In Exhibit Design, Historic Preservation on January 30, 2012 at 1:46 am

You can imagine women in petticoats down there twirling their bright parasols in the sun. Men jostle for position on the riverbank and children in britches tumble playfully in the grass. A breeze ripples across the water as a cheer goes up. Listing precariously, an overloaded boat rounds into view. The cargo is human wreckage. The wounded, fresh from the Civil War battlefront, have arrived in Philadelphia. Great sport, really. Something lively to do and see on a lazy summer afternoon…