Philadelphia Brewing Company’s RowHouse Red

RowHouse Red Beer

RowHouse Red Beer

Originally posted summer 2009. Photos by Frank Dreitlein.

Departing from our normal presentation, technically this is not a row house but rather a homage to row houses in the best way we can think of. In the years we’ve been researching row houses, we’ve come across many business owners who name their businesses after our favorite abode, Row House Restaurant, Row House Framing, Row House Decoration etc. However, this is the first specific product we’ve found and it’s from right in our backyard.

The Philadelphia Brewing Company is a micro-brewery located in East Kensington, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The brewmeisters, Dean Brown, John Rehm and Josh Ervine have been brewing since 2001. Previous known as Yards Brewing Co., they separated from their previous partners and started The Philadelphia Brewing Co. in 2008. Since then, they’ve been producing four beers throughout the year, including RowHouse Red, and several seasonal beers.

RowHouse Red is a ruby farmhouse ale, made according to a traditional recipe from Belgium. It’s made using rye, Lachouffe Yeast from Belgium and has a rich, spicy, malty flavor. We’ve found that it highly complements cheesesteak, which may or may not be coincidental, BBQ burgers or a nice robust vegetarian chili.

When it came time to name the beer, seeing as Philadelphia is rather short on farmhouses, the brewers named it RowHouse Red to honor Philadelphia’s long-standing tradition of red brick, row house architecture. Several of the other beers are also named after places and people from Philadelphia. The regulars include Kenzinger (the neighborhood of Kensington), Newbold IPA (a neighborhood in South Philly) and Walt Wit (Walt Whitman). Seasonal releases include Shackamaximum (a local street), “Joe”” (it’s made with coffee), Philly’z Navidad (holiday brew), Phila-buster, Fleur de Lehigh and, new for the summer, BiBerry.

The brewers from the building's original owners.

The brewers from the building’s original owners.

Dean, a brewer, who was serving up samples for the afternoon’s guests, greeted us warmly and explained about the brewery’s history and answered our questions about RowHouse Red beer. They offer free tours and tastings on most Saturday afternoons. After we tried a few varieties, for research purposes, David, our tour guide, took us through the brewing process, from start to finish. We started in the room where they process the barley, creating wort, which is a special kind of sugar water. The wort travels to the brew kettles where it’s heated for a few hours, after which, bitter hops are added to balance the sweetness of the wort. At this time, other ingredients including berries, ginger, herbs, rhubarb, lemon grass and rose hips, depending on the recipe, are added to the beer. Then the mixture is cooled to about 72 degrees and put into the fermentation tank where the appropriate variety of yeast is added. The yeast happily munches away on the sugar creating alcohol and CO2. The type of beer determines how long the fermentation process is and if the beer will be filtered or not. Once the fermentation process is complete, the beer is bottled.

Philadelphia has a long history of brewing beer. By the 1890s, there were more than 100 breweries in the city. The building that houses The Philadelphia Brewing Co. was originally a brewery called the Weisbrod & Hess Oriental Brewing Company. Weisbrod & Hess operated from 1885 to 1939. The building still retains the original mosaic and brick work depicting the founding brewery’s name. By 1987 there were no more breweries operating in Philadelphia. Today, a handful of micro breweries have re-established the brewing tradition in the city. The Philadelphia Brewing Co. distributes RowHouse Red, as well as their other beers, locally which they say is the best way to ensure maximum quality control. A small quantity is shipped outside of the general Philadelphia area.

The Philadelphia Brewing Co. is very engaged with their community and supports several local charities. They host the East Kensington Neighborhood Association’s monthly meeting.

Inside the pink pig is the seasonal brew.

Inside the pink pig is the seasonal brew.

Barley.

Barley.

The tasting room.

The tasting room.

The facade of the building with the original mosaic work.

The facade of the building with the original mosaic work.

Brewing.

Brewing.

Bedbugs and Row Houses

Although it’s been quiet in the news, experts predict the creepy-crawlies will be back this summer. Because their homes are attached, row house dwellers may be especially concerned that they may be more susceptible to infestation than those who live in detached houses. Never fear, row house residents are no more at risk than any other person and there are things you can do to prevent bedbugs from ruining your summer.

According to a recent e-newsletter from Harvard Medical School:

“Bedbugs are small, flightless insects that feed on the blood of (usually) sleeping people and animals. During the day, they hide in dark, protected places around beds, and their flat bodies allow them to squeeze into cracks and crevices in bed frames, headboards, and box springs and to tuck themselves along the seams of mattresses. They also hide behind baseboards, under wallpaper, beneath carpet edges, and amid clutter.”

Sounds like the perfect roommate, doesn’t it? In case bedbugs aren’t welcome in your home, Harvard suggests the following things to protect your house. When you’re on the go:

  1. Put your luggage on a table or luggage rack away from the bed and off the floor. You can also keep it in the bathroom. To be extra careful, keep your suitcase in a large plastic bag. Placing each day’s outfit in its own sealable plastic bag will also deter the bedbugs from hitching a ride home.
  2. Upon arrival, check mattress seams for reddish-black dots (bedbug poop). Inspect the headboard, bed frame and underside of the box springs if possible.
  3. Do not put coats or jackets near any beds.

At home:

  1. When returning from trips, wash (hot water) or dry clean all of your clothing or put your clothes in a dryer for 20 minutes. Inspect and vacuum your suitcase.
  2. Refrain from buying used upholstered furniture. If you have to, inspect the piece thoroughly and treat for bedbugs before you bring it into your house.
  3. Plug holes and cracks in walls and around pipes, baseboards, and moldings in your bedroom.
  4. Place mattresses and box springs in protective mattress and box spring encasements.

On The Street Where We Lived

Children sitting on a stoop of a row house on Croskey Street in Philadelphia, PA.

Children sitting on a stoop of a row house on Croskey Street in Philadelphia, PA.

Article and photos contributed by Catherine Varano. Originally published October 2011.

I stood nervously in the vestibule of The Waterfall Room. It was a cold, November Sunday, but my temperature was rising. Why should I be anxious? This event was my idea or, at least, an idea that was suggested to me enough times that I had to take action. It was the reunion of the people from my childhood domain in South Philadelphia—the 1900 block of Croskey Street.

I hadn’t seen my neighbors in years and I had concerns. Would my memories of an idyllic upbringing in the enclave of small row houses be shattered by anyone who remembered me as an annoying brat? Would the terror on my face be evident when I saw what age had done to my old friends? Or, was it something else?

A year before, it had seemed impossible to gather so many people who now lived far from the old neighborhood. The reunion committee performed the arduous task of recalling the street’s occupants from the 1940s to the 1990s when all but a few older neighbors had moved away. Even when we remembered the names, the search for new addresses was daunting, but when the invitations were sent, the response was overwhelming. It was apparent the other Croskey Streeters had little fear of seeing their old pals.

In the beautifully decorated banquet room, tables overflowed with penny candy and pastel cardboard ’57 Thunderbirds that held plastic cups and tee shirts embossed with our logo – a pair of worn sneakers thrown over a street sign that beckoned, “Croskey Street.” Through the doors, entered the moms, dads, and kids with whom we once had lived side by side. Surprisingly, they were glad to see me. They looked the same except for some graying hair and a few added pounds, and their smiles immediately transported us to our former surroundings.

On mornings long ago, we headed to “swimmies” at Smith Playground, organized a game of halfball, dressed our Barbies for dates or made numerous trips to Val’s candy store to buy comic books. In the afternoons, we skated, jumped rope, and occupied several porches “playing house” or “playing school.” The only quiet point in the day came after our nightly baths when, pajama clad, we waited on our front steps for the most anticipated arrival of the evening—the Mister Softee ice cream truck.

The men of Croskey Street.

The men of Croskey Street.

At the party, I greeted each old friend and marveled at the unique camaraderie formed by living in such close quarters. Thankfully, our parents never equated square footage or privacy issues with the attainment of happiness. They were working class and had families who, occasionally, had sudden drops in already average incomes through layoffs or the deaths of primary wage earners. Our cramped accommodations begged diminished procreation, but many families had four or more children and made it work.

People helped people on Croskey Street. It was acceptable for your elders to discipline you, and punishment was your reward for disrespect. Our mothers discreetly brought food to families in need. Our tradesmen fathers gladly fixed a washer or rewired a house and were paid in sponge cakes or cases of beer. With over 70 children inhabiting the block, birthday parties were frequent, and cake, ice cream and potato chips prolonged our nirvana.

We danced at the serenades of couples who were soon to be married and slid on the catering hall floors on the days of their weddings, stopping only to eat roast beef sandwiches and drink cans of soda. At midnight on New Year’s, we marched up and down the street banging our pots and pans until our mothers called us in to bed. We brought meals to the homes of those who lost a loved one, and our moms cooked and served the funeral luncheons after the burials.

Women gathered in a row house on Croskey Street.

Women gathered in a row house on Croskey Street.

During the party, I observed my fellow Croskey Streeters. Parents and children danced, laughed, told stories, exchanged numbers and complimented each other on how they hadn’t changed a bit. That’s how it was on Croskey Street. No one remembered past disagreements, just as we had chosen to forget a glimpse, through a bedroom window, of a friend’s father staggering home from a nearby bar or the yelling of frustrated spouses carried through an open window on a sweltering August night. We preferred to recall the happy functions that required large groups of people – our mothers’ Pokeeno Club, cars lined up for picnics to Sunset Beach, New Jersey, fathers and sons stringing Christmas lights on porch roofs, a parade of giggling children following a family to church to baptize a baby. Even running through the alley to school required a crowd as did the many photo montages of us in our finery for May processions and Easter Sundays.

Ultimately, the Croskey Street Reunion was a success, quieting my apprehension to see the people I once loved so much. Although the experience of sharing party walls was likely a common occurrence in other neighborhoods of Philadelphia, on that cold November day, we were convinced that no others could have done it quite as well as we had.

Sometime after that celebration, my mother died. She lived in her little Croskey Street row house until she was 93. When my brother and I sold it, it was the hardest thing I had ever done. Shocked at my attachment to a house that I left 29 years before, I spent days there before the sale perusing my childhood in an old report card or a story I had written in grade school. Through the kitchen window, I envisioned our neighbor Mrs. Dieni hanging her laundry on the line. My father’s piano in the living room evoked the voices of neighbors calling their musical requests through the screen door. I stood on the small porch that echoed the laughter of mothers hosing down the cement on hot days and the screeching delight of teenage girls wafting through an open door the first time Elvis Presley appeared on the Ed Sullivan show.

A collage of childhood photos from residents of Croskey Street.

A collage of childhood photos from residents of Croskey Street.

I recalled the reunion and how time had been so good to us that day. It took us back to summer nights when we sat on our porches with trusted friends and dreamed our dreams. Perhaps my hesitation to revisit the past was the fear of losing the dreams that had meant so much to me. Perhaps I realized there was no dream greater than that blissful world where we were wrapped in the cocoon of our parents’ love and the protection of an army of people who cared.

Row Houses in the Arts

Just a few things that have caught my eye recently. I was in New York a few weeks ago and saw row houses on a subway ad for an Edward Hopper exhibit at the Whitney – http://www.whitney.org/Exhibitions/ModernLife. I’m guessing since the painting, “Early Sunday Morning” was used in the poster, it should be showing. Hopper is one of the prominent realist painters of the last century and all his art is definitely worth a view. The exhibit is running through April. We missed this walking tour. On Sunday, the Municipal Art Society of NY toured “The BLOOMINGDALE blocks.” The tour stopped at some of New York’s finest remaining turn-of-the-century row houses and apartments.

For upcoming tours, visit http://mas.org/tours/. Spring is in the air and that means open house tours! Hopefully I will get the calendar in order soon!

Traditional dutch wooden clogs.

Walking in the City

Traditional dutch wooden clogs.

Traditional dutch wooden clogs.

More often than not, row house dwellers live in the city. We’ve discovered that urban row house living can be totally environmentally friendly, thanks to public transportation, white roofs, and eco-friendly sharing programs. But can living in a city be a more healthy way of life as well?

On Monday, March 3rd, CNN (http://www.cnn.com) posted a story about Ms. Lois Fletcher, who walked her way to a lower weight. She simply started to take the train and walk one mile to her job and voila, she’s 30 pounds lighter and she feels great. Not that everyone is going to have such results but it doesn’t hurt to get yourself moving, especially if you have a job that pins you to a chair for eight hours, or more, a day. Read more about Ms. Fletcher and the CNN story at http://www.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/diet.fitness/03/03/

hm.urban.fitness/index.html

Doctors recommend getting at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise, like brisk walking, a day. It seems like a lot until you consider that walking 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the afternoon, about one mile each way, is enough to be beneficial. Think you’re too busy and don’t have the time? Well, since you have to go to work anyway, you might as well combine your work-out with your commute.

If you decide you’re ready to start walking to work, at least part way, you might want to invest in a comfortable pair of shoes. Running shoes are great for brisk walking but there are other options just in case the Working Girl look is not for you. A short list includes, Born – http://www.bornshoes.com/, Rockport – http://www.rockport.com/, Merrell – http://www.merrell.com/, Dansko – http://www.dansko.com/flash.aspx, and Clarks – http://www.clarks.co.uk/. Regardless of what shoe you choose, you want to keep a few
things in mind. The sole should be flexible, your arch supported, the ball of your foot cushioned and no rubbing, which could cause blisters.

Love My Danskos

Although all these brands offer quality, comfortable shoes, I can offer a personal recommendation for Dansko. When I lived in Brooklyn, it seemed that everyone had a pair of Dansko clogs. I’d see them on doctors, cooks, waitresses, and anyone who worked on their feet. They come in a wide variety of styles and colors, ranging from demure black to wild bright blue, and even cheery floral patterns. They’re really fun but alas, a little expensive. I wasn’t walking enough to merit the cost especially since I needed to spend more on running shoes since I was running about 15 miles a week and needed good trainers. However, when I moved to Philadelphia, I found I wasn’t running that much due to my new work schedule. Instead, I was trekking to and from work, about two miles each way, while pushing a jogging stroller, almost daily. I decided to treat myself to a pair of Dansko clogs because the running shoe with business outfit look doesn’t work for me.

Dansko clogs have a rather stiff sole but the clog doesn’t fit tightly and your foot can pretty much move naturally. I’ve never gotten a blister, although I do wear socks and my high arches are well supported. I’ve had mine for a year and they still look brand new, even the sole, regardless of nearly daily wear. I love that the style, Marcelle, is casual enough to wear with jeans and yet dressy enough that if I get called in to an emergency meeting at work, before I’ve put my heels on, I don’t look too rediculous.

There are only two problems I’ve encountered. One, they’re not easy to drive in (standard transmission) so I have to keep a pair of sneakers in the car to drive in. It isn’t a big deal because I hardly ever drive and none of my shoes are really driving-friendly anyway. The other, is that I want another pair and it’s unlikely that they’re going to wear out anytime soon and need replacing, allowing me to stick to my one in, one out, closet rule. Perhaps rules are meant to be broken, after all.

September 2010 – A few months after writing this, the strap on my Dansko clogs broke. The great folks at Dansko read about my plight on my personal blog and contacted me. A few emails later and voila! They sent me a new pair of clogs which are still going strong after two years! Kudos to the great customer service at Dansko!

Additional Information

About.com: Walking Shoe Guide

The Walking Site

The Walking Company

The Physick House: A stand-alone home in a row house neighborhood.

One of the best things about living in a city is that typically, great attractions are located within walking distance. For the past year, or so, I have been trying to visit the Physick House, always missing the hours. Located in Philadelphia’s Society Hill, the Physick House was home to Dr. Philip Syng Physick, considered to be the father of American Surgery. It’s a beautiful house, the only remaining free standing mansion in Center City.

Our host, a decendent of Dr. Physick, was very informative and not only told us about the history of the house and those who lived there, he also told us a fair amount of Philadelphia history as well. A great feature of this tour is that because the house is still cared for by decendents of the house, most of the items on display were the actual property of, and were used by, Dr. Physick himself. And, when it’s your family’s things, you can let people touch, which is exactly what our host let us do. My favorite was a period pianoforte we actually got to hear. And everything, even the smallest items on display, had wonderful stories to go with them. If that wasn’t wonderful enough, you can actually rent the home for small parties as well.

Learn more about the Physic House at http://www.philalandmarks.org/phys.aspx.

Shopping in Manayunk, Philadelphia

Greetings from your intrepid editor at large!

The family and I walked around Manayunk today. Main Street is quite lovely. Lots of furniture stores with goodies galore for the row house. Of course, one cannot live on furniture alone. We had a wonderful burrito at Machismo Burrito Bar.

For those who don’t know, Manayunk is a row house neighborhood. Just off of Main Street are rows and rows, most built around the turn of the 20th Century. Driving down the Schuylkill Expressway, looking from the other side of the river, Manayunk looks just like a quaint model train village. Really nice. And the proximity to Fairmount Park means lots of trails.

Today, we saw no end to the people bicycling about. We were lured to Main Street by the new Restoration Hardware catalog that came in the mail this week. They’ve chosen a distressed vintage look for their new line. Items that look like they’ve been hanging around in some one’s garage or attic for years. Finishes that are well worn and well loved. We love it! Much of it looks like one of a kind finds and the entire line pretty much has one of a kind prices as well. Still, beautiful things for the larger row house since most pieces were very large in scale.

The living room, with built-in cabinets, wainscoting and a tile fireplace surround.

On the Market! 224 Bainbridge Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The living room, with built-in cabinets, wainscoting and a tile fireplace surround.

The living room, with built-in cabinets, wainscoting and a tile fireplace surround.

Row Home, circa. late 1700s

Inside: three bedrooms, one full bath, one half bath, brick exterior, gas heat, central a/c, two working fireplaces, two decorative fireplaces, finished basement w/ laundry, private roof deck, period-appropriate kitchen, brick patio, stainless steel appliances, many original details

This is a rare opportunity to own a piece of American history! Built in the late 1700s, this home features many original details including wainscoting, wide-plank yellow pine wood flooring, 12 over 12 paned windows, spiral staircase, two wood burning fireplaces and more.

You enter the house into the living room, which has built-in cabinets with ample storage for modern audio visual needs. There are doors that close to retain historic charm when not watching TV. The back window looks into the passage way to the patio. The large windows and high ceilings make this a very welcoming and bright room. The living room fireplace features a beautiful tiled surround. From the living room you enter the first floor bedroom, which the owner is currently using as an office. This room has access to the private, brick patio with mature garden. Truly an urban oasis!

Walk up the historic spiral staircase and you have the master bedroom to your right and a large bathroom to the left. This spa-like retreat has a large claw-foot bathtub and a separate shower area and plenty of room for two to get ready in the morning.

This large room, located off the living room, can be used as a bedroom or a home office.

This large room, located off the living room, can be used as a bedroom or a home office.

The third, dormered floor, is quite cozy with built-in storage and closet space, custom fit to the dimensions of the pitched roof. French doors open to a private roof deck with easy access to the entire roof, which has a newer roof.

Back down the stairs, continue to the lower level and enter the dining room that can fit a standard table and has a wonderful side-bar built into a brick archway. Beyond the dining room is the kitchen which has full-size appliances, including a dishwasher. The cabinetry is period appropriate and nicely finished. Tucked away is a powder room and stacked laundry. There is an access door to the street located behind the laundry, and can be used if the laundry is moved, to allow for easy appliance installation if the need arises.

This home is located in Queen Village and has easy access to Philadelphia shopping, nightlife, attractions and public transportation. The neighborhood is well established and diverse.

We had a chance to ask the homeowner, Dennis Price, some questions about his house.

RowHouse: How long have you lived in your house?

Dennis: 3.5 years

RowHouse: What is one of your favorite memories in the house?

This mature garden is a pleasant personal retreat.

This mature garden is a pleasant personal retreat.

Dennis: The second Christmas in the home. My girlfriend (who was a new girlfriend at the time) spent hours intricately placing row after row of Christmas lights on the tree. I mean thorough. I had never seen anything like it. When she was done she went to clip the tag off of one of the lights and accidentally cut the cord. The whole tree went dark! We bought new lights and she sat there and repeated the whole venture. And I remember how the tree could be seen from the street and was so jolly all season. Great memory.

RowHouse: Queen Village is a very vibrant urban neighborhood. How has your experience been living in this area?

Dennis: Just great. Such a wealth of dining spots, coffee shops, bars, and parks. True neighborhood feel just off of South St.

RowHouse: Your house is very likely older than our country. What made you buy your historic home?

Dennis: I visited the Anne Frank house when I was kid and it always stuck with me. Then I saw this house and realized I could live in a house like Annie Frank’s!

RowHouse: You clearly have a lion’s share of original features. Is your home registered as historic?

A large kitchen, finished in period appropriate cabinetry, has all the modern amenities.

A large kitchen, finished in period appropriate cabinetry, has all the modern amenities.

Dennis: It is, I don’t have the plaque because of the DirectTV dish on the roof! Otherwise the historic commission is ready to put up the plaque.

RowHouse: Is there a story behind the red, claw foot bathtub? It is quite the statement piece!

Dennis: It’s the reason I bought the home. After I bought the home I dreamed that when I arrived the owner had taken the tub. I went to the palm shop (where for some reason it was) and fought for it back. It’s probably been used over 600 times in 3.5 years!

RowHouse: Over the living room fireplace, I notice a rather dashing colonial gentleman. Is he a previous resident?

Dennis: I don’t know, the photo that you saw that in was the previous owner’s photo. I have a sketch of an Armenian child who I befriended when I lived there above there now. She came as an exchange student this year and lived with my parents. So no, it’s not a dead guy! but fun story nonetheless.

RowHouse: Finally, what is your favorite feature of your home?

Dennis: The bath of course. I’ve also grown very fond of the kitchen over the last three years.

For more information about this beautiful house, please contact the realtor at john.s.duffy@duffyrealestate.com.

The master bedroom is on the second floor and faces the front of the house.

The master bedroom is on the second floor and faces the front of the house.

 

The full bathroom on the second floor with the very glamorous red bathtub.

The full bathroom on the second floor with the very glamorous red bathtub.

 

The second bedroom is on the third floor. A door leads out to the roof deck. There is ample built in storage in this room.

The second bedroom is on the third floor. A door leads out to the roof deck. There is ample built in storage in this room.

 

The house features a large, private roof deck.

The house features a large, private roof deck.

 

Photos: Provided by the homeowner.

Why do I love small row houses in the city?

It seems like just yesterday I Googled “row house” and only came up with random sites, most about businesses with row house in the name. Nothing I found spoke to me about the architecture and history of row houses and there was very little about the people who live in them, a group I was about to become a part of. Occasionally I tripped over a random article, lurking in cyberspace, but nothing really reflected row houses as a vibrant and vital component of urban life. So, I got the idea in my head to publish a web site that featured nothing but row houses, the people who live in them and how they live in them, and the places in which row houses are built. I didn’t aim for perfection but I did want to show a diversity I felt was sorely missing from what little I had found. Cheered on by friends and family, many of whom help out with photography and source material, I’ve been able to keep things going.

Part of being a good journalist is to be objective. As we’ve progressed, it certainly has become easier to step outside our house—a departure from one of the first articles I posted, in desperation to complete the issue, that was about my old apartment. But since this is an editorial, I thought it would be nice to knock down the wall for a moment and explain why I am such a strong advocate of the row house and urban living.

Although I think city living and row houses are fabulous, the lifestyle is not for everyone. And good thing, because not everyone can live in a row house since there aren’t enough, at present. I think row houses have gotten a bit of a bad reputation – perhaps some less than fabulous design choices in the fifties, perhaps because they are predominantly working class dwellings. In any case, I thought it was about time someone start to show row houses in a more positive light and along with the row house, also the lives of the people who live in row houses. People, who don’t live attached because they have no choice but who choose row houses on purpose. But why?

To start, you can read some of the articles we’ve written about residents in Ridgewood, Pennsport, Middle Village, or Olde City, with more on the way.

And, because we’re getting personal, below are my own reasons why I own a very small row house.

I didn’t want a house that took hours to clean. I’m not lazy but I have better things to do. My husband would like a little more space and a garage but even he will agree that our house is just the right size for us to manage with our very busy schedules. Additionally, I like to know where everything is which is paramount to keeping things running smoothly. Since I am absent-minded, the less space, the fewer things, the easier this is for me. If I had more space I would be hopefully disorganized and probably very miserable and inefficient. Besides, I really can’t be trusted and would probably shop too much which would be catastrophic for our budget.

As a first time homeowner, knowing that maintenance expenses can escalate quickly, I didn’t want more than we could handle. Likewise, our energy costs are lower. We use less because the other houses insulate ours. Typically we only have to heat or cool one room of the four as the others stay relatively constant. Even in the dead of winter, with no heat on at all, the house stays around 53 degrees. In the summer, with only the windows open, it rarely goes above 80 except on the top floor.

In the times ahead, American society as a whole, is going to have to rethink what necessity and luxury mean. I figure I might as well just start off being thrifty and space conscientious and save myself the trouble of having to adjust later on.

I fully admit that this is my own thinking. However, row houses come in all sizes, from tiny to huge, and all styles, from historic to contemporary. That’s why I love them and write about them. They work for just about everyone.

Although row houses are predominantly urban dwellings, not all row houses are in the city. But I think the best sort of row house living is in row houses in the city. The best way to explain why is to share my my typical day:

I wake up around 6 am, provoked by a cat who’s nearly as accurate as the electrical alarm clock. His method is to purr really loud and lick my face until I get out of bed. He’s relentless. Half asleep, I climb down the stairs, trying not to fall down them, tricky tiny colonial stairs that they are. On the way to the bathroom I tickle my daughter into semi-consciousness and deposit the still-purring cat on her bed. About an hour later, we’re finishing up our breakfast and getting ready to go. My husband drives to work. He doesn’t have to since public transportation is convenient for us. We don’t even need a car, a blessing in hard economic times. However, he’s a mechanic and driving makes him happy and because we only have one car, it’s a luxury we can afford, for now.

Around 7:20 am, my daughter and I begin our commute to school and work. People can’t believe we walk about two miles but it’s our special time together. It’s 40 minutes of chatting and watching the world change around us, interacting with life instead of watching it pass quickly through a car window. I’m not distracted by anything other than walking so I can pay almost complete attention to her, very valuable for a full-time working mom. If the weather’s bad, we take a 10 minute bus ride.

At the end of the day, I pick my daughter up — her school is three blocks from my office — and we either walk, or get a ride from my husband, typically on bad weather days or on days I go running. He starts dinner while I run for about an hour, which I do because it’s cheaper than the gym and if I don’t, I can’t eat dessert, which I love. As soon as I get home we eat, followed by clean up, wash up, and a little quality time before lights out.

On the weekend we have museums, parks, playgrounds, a farmer’s market, and antique shops to explore without having to use the car. Weekly housekeeping takes about two hours max which leaves plenty of time left over for fun. Occasionally there is some handyman work that needs to get done but nothing takes more than a day. Specific to Philadelphia, we find history is everywhere, which provides hands on learning for our daughter. Much of what’s available to do is free and with so many free things to do it’s easy to forget about not having extra money.

I think we enjoy a good quality of life with a nice balance of home, work, entertainment, and exercise and we’re able to do it within a reasonable budget. I’m aware that it’s not easy for all the pieces to fall into place and not everyone who lives in a row house is going to have an arrangement they love but it is possible. I do believe that there are things about urban row house neighborhoods that lend them to being able to best accommodate a well-rounded lifestyle, especially in tough times.

Camac Street Row House, Philadelphia, PA

Philadelphia’s Mayor Nutter Launches “Coolest Block” Contest

Camac Street Row House, Philadelphia, PA

Camac Street Row House, Philadelphia, PA

City of Philadelphia, Mayor’s Office of Communications
Michael A. Nutter, Mayor
Douglas I. Oliver, Press Secretary
Tel: 215.686.6210

Winning block to receive energy-saving “cool roof” and energy-efficient products thanks to the City, the Energy Coordinating Agency and The Dow Chemical Company

Philadelphia, February 17, 2010 – Celebrated as home to many “first-in-America” institutions, Philadelphia has set its sights on adding yet another accomplishment to its formidable track record – becoming the greenest city in the nation. To rally residents and stoke the spirit of friendly competition among neighborhoods, Mayor Nutter launched the RetroFIT PHILLY “Coolest Block” contest at City Hall today.

Organized under the auspices of The Energy Coordinating Agency of Philadelphia (ECA) and the City of Philadelphia, with product and technology contributions from The Dow Chemical Company and the financial support of The Dow Chemical Company Foundation, the contest invites row home owners to enter to win energy-saving cool roof, air sealing and insulation upgrades for their entire block.

“Our Greenworks Philadelphia goal is to retrofit 15 percent of the city’s row home roofs, and the ‘Coolest Block’ contest is jumpstarting this effort,” said Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter. “But changing the roof is only part of the package. Dow, a co-sponsor in this initiative, has taken a truly comprehensive approach. The energy-saving cool roof is based on Dow’s technology, and the Company will also provide insulation and air-leak prevention upgrades to the homes on the winning block – truly maximizing the energy-saving impact. I encourage all Philadelphians to get involved in this contest that will save energy, and save you money!”

“Row homes have charm and character, and have long been a unique architectural feature of the city,” said Liz Robinson, executive director, ECA, “but most were built without the advantage of modern building science or materials. The initiative to make them more energy-efficient, and in effect ‘greener,’ can help to improve the quality of life for the residents while saving them money on heating and cooling bills.”

How Cool Roofs Work

Traditional black asphalt roofs soak up the sun’s heat and allow its transfer between the exterior and the interior of the house. White cool roofs, on the other hand, bounce off solar energy to prevent it from being absorbed into the roof and house in the summer. Consequently, they reduce the amount of energy needed to cool the living space and bring the cost of cooling a home down by as much as 20 percent.

The benefits of cool roofs, however, do not end inside the house. The city environment benefits as well, as cool roofs are a proven way to combat urban heat island effect. The roof’s exterior is 50 – 80 degrees cooler on hot summer days, helping to lower high temperatures and improve air quality. The urban heat island phenomenon, aggravated by the large expanses of asphalt and black top, combined with relatively little vegetation or green space, can lead to heat-related illnesses during heat waves.

The Impact of Insulation and Air Sealing

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, proper insulation and air sealing of the home can reduce heating and cooling costs by as much as 30%. Air infiltration – which often occurs between walls and floors, around windows and doors, and through other gaps and cracks – can account for as much as 40% of heat loss in homes (source U.S. DOE). One of the best ways to insulate and air seal a row home is to use insulating foam sealants, which expand on contact to help bridge these openings, keeping heat outside during the summer and inside during the winter.

“We are proud to be able to help the Philadelphia neighborhoods become more energy-efficient and comfortable,” said Jerome Peribere, president and CEO, Dow Advanced Materials, which is headquartered in Philadelphia. “Energy efficiency is high on our list of priorities, both in how we run our business and in how our products can improve it for others. Seeing how Dow makes a difference through its science and quality of its materials is extremely gratifying for us.”

Competing for the “Coolest Block”

Contest entrants will be judged on a range of criteria, but blocks with the highest resident participation have the best chance of winning. Any Philadelphia row home resident is eligible to enter, but must submit a group entry through one “block coordinator.” The coordinator may be self-selected or may be one of the city’s “block captains” who volunteer to organize block activities on a regular basis. Entrants must also submit a brief profile of their neighborhood and the future they envision for it.

Along with a cool roof, the winning block will receive:

  • A whole home energy audit – from basement to rooftop – that will identify problem areas where air leakage and poor insulation are robbing homes of precious energy and provide an assessment of where insulation and air sealing products would help improve the home’s overall energy efficiency.
  • Installation of Dow’s sealants and insulation in the participating contestants’ residential homes.

Entries will be reviewed by a panel of judges that includes representatives from local media, environmental organizations, and the building industry. The deadline for entry is April 5, 2010. The winning block will be announced by May 10, 2010. In June, the winning block will receive a block party to celebrate.

More information and the official contest rules are available at www.retrofitphilly.com.

About Energy Coordinating Agency of Philadelphia

The Energy Coordinating Agency (ECA) is a non-profit corporation, founded in 1984, whose mission is to help people conserve energy and to promote a sustainable and socially equitable energy future for all in the Philadelphia region. Our services to low income people are at the heart of our mission and are provided in collaboration with our citywide network of 14 Neighborhood Energy Centers. In the past year, ECA provided over 40,000 low income families 86,218 energy services, valued at more than $27 million, leveraging our budget of $8.4 million more than 3 times on their behalf. These services include: budget and energy counseling; bill payment assistance; energy conservation treatments, and energy education. Our conservation services saved these families an average of 20% of their energy costs, enabling them to meet their expenses and stay in their homes.

About Greenworks Philadelphia

Mayor Michael Nutter created the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability (MOS) to help the city leverage its existing assets and mitigate its exposure to the effects of global warming. This means changing the way that government does business. It also means giving citizens the tools they need to lower their own carbon emissions and reduce their vulnerability to increasing energy costs. Sustainability is a core mission for the Nutter Administration and the work of MOS, primarily through the implementation of Greenworks Philadelphia, will help decrease the city’s vulnerability to energy prices and climate change, increase our capacity to compete in global markets for new jobs and new businesses, and ensure that all residents share in the city’s prosperous future.

About The Dow Chemical Company

Dow combines the power of science and technology with the “Human Element” to passionately innovate what is essential to human progress. The Company connects chemistry and innovation with the principles of sustainability to help address many of the world’s most challenging problems such as the need for clean water, renewable energy generation and conservation, and increasing agricultural productivity. Dow’s diversified industry-leading portfolio of specialty chemical, advanced materials, agrosciences and plastics businesses delivers a broad range of technology-based products and solutions to customers in approximately 160 countries and in high growth sectors such as electronics, water, energy, coatings and agriculture. In 2009, Dow had annual sales of $45 billion and employed approximately 52,000 people worldwide. The Company’s more than 5,000 products are manufactured at 214 sites in 37 countries across the globe. References to “Dow” or the “Company” mean The Dow Chemical Company and its consolidated subsidiaries unless otherwise expressly noted. More information about Dow can be found at www.dow.com.

About Dow Building & Construction

A business group within Dow’s Advanced Material Division, Building & Construction is comprised of two business units – Dow Building Solutions and Dow Construction Chemicals – each of which offer strengths in channel management, branding, technology development / support and demand creation. The two business units collectively employ about 1,700 people worldwide, and generate almost $2 billion of revenue while operating more than 30 plants worldwide. Through its strong sales support, customer service and building science expertise, Dow’s Building & Construction business units provide meaningful solutions for customers today, while also addressing the industry’s emerging needs and demands with advanced industry knowledge.

More information about RetroFIT PHILLY is available at www.retrofitphilly.com. For further information, please contact Lindsay Lathrop, Marketing Communications Manager, The Dow Chemical Company, at 215.592.2184, llathrop@dow.com; or Marissa Peterson of Gibbs & Soell Public Relations, at 212.697.2600, mpeterson@gibbs-soell.com.