Federal Row House

Row Houses at Work – The Row House Storefront

Every now and then, a row house has to be more than a house. From the beginning of urban development, people have worked and live in the same buildings. Larger row houses are perfect for this intimate commerce. Below are a few of our favorite examples and we’ll be adding more as we come across them.

Zinc Bistro & Wine Bar

Zinc Bistro & Wine Bar
Zinc is a local French bistro restaurant and occupies the first floor of a Greek Revival tenement-style row house.
246 South 11th Street, Philadelphia, PA
215.351.9901
http://www.zincbarphilly.com/

Blendo boutique gift shop in a row house.

Blendo Boutique
Blendo Boutique sells vintage and unique gifts and occupies the first floor of a Federal Revival row house. Pine Street is known as antique’s row and most of the shops occupy row houses.
1002 Pine Street, Philadelphia, PA
215.351.9260
http://www.shopblendo.com/

 

Hidden Row House Rows in Philadelphia – Queen Village

One of my favorite things about Philadelphia is the small, hidden rows inside of blocks. Most of the time, these aren’t visible from the streets and require navigating through passageways between other houses. Every now and then, I get invited to someone’s house or interlope during an open house and get the opportunity to view one of these little secret little rows.

The row houses below are situated in the middle of a block in the Queen Village neighborhood. To access the pair of rows, four homes on each side, you pass through a gate from the street and walk through the street-facing row houses. Often, there is a little courtyard between the houses and gardens. This particular pair has a mural and a bench.

Hidden Row House Rows in Philadelphia

Below, we’ve turned around and you can see the back of the street-facing row house. Technically, these homes are built within the original property lines of the street-facing house. During the 19th Century, Philadelphia had such a population boom that they were building these little rows wherever they would fit. If you needed extra income? Pop in a few extra row houses in your backyard.

Hidden Row Houses in Philadelphia

These are small row homes and the house I got a chance to view the inside, revealed a living room and kitchen on the first floor, and likely two small bedrooms and a bathroom on the second floor; I didn’t want to impose. It wasn’t uncommon for these homes to have the kitchen in the basement, which would have made the main room larger. I also don’t know if there is a third floor loft space but it is possible to add a small space.

Hidden Row Houses in Philadelphia

The last home has a lovely bay window and in general these homes are small enough to be very well lit, despite the close quarters with the neighbors.

Hidden Row House in Philadelphia

These are rather small homes but they’re also very private, aside from your immediate neighbors. The outer, street-facing row homes buffer out most of the street noise and keep any creepy-types from lurking about.

Whenever I discover one of these blocks, and even after nine years in the city I’m still finding hidden blocks, it’s like finding buried treasure.

It Can Be Yours! 130 Queen Street, Philadelphia, PA

The neighborhood of Queen Village in Philadelphia, PA, is fast becoming the most-desirable place to live in Philadelphia. Recently, Philadelphia Magazine praised the positive growth and development of the greater Center City area and for local residents, myself included, the neighborhood just gets better every year. Learn more about Queen Village.

Most residential properties in Queen Village are brick row houses from the 19th Century. 130 Queen Street is a very typical representation of this style and dates to the earlier part of the Century. Houses like 130 Queen were typically a single room in length, note the half roof, with one room per floor. It is likely that once the plumbing was added, an expansion was built to accommodate the interior bathrooms and kitchen. Although 130 Queen is a row house, it’s a corner property and has windows on three sides, which lets in lots of natural light.

Once inside, the renovated home retains several charming historic features. Each floor has a working fireplace with original hand-carved mantle and two of these have charming built-in cabinets.

On the stairs, overlooking the living room.

A closer look at the hand-carved mantle.

One of the charming built-ins along the fireplaces.

Through the living room is a first floor kitchen that has been tastefully updated in a style sensitive to the age of the house.  The placement of the appliances, all normal-sized, offers ample work space and, thanks to the high ceilings on the first floor, there is plenty of cabinet storage as well.

A well-designed kitchen, in which two people can work comfortably.

Beyond is a patio, realtor Carolyn Perlow at Space & Company describes as “private, with plenty of room for a barbecue, furniture, and a city garden – a lovely place to entertain or just sit and enjoy a cup of coffee.”

There is a bedroom and bathroom on each upper floor, with a few wonderful surprises. Both bathrooms feature marble tile but the second floor bathroom has French doors, opening to a Juliette balcony.

The second floor bedroom is a good size and can accommodate a twin bed without preventing the occupant from accessing the closet. It’s important to note that older homes were not designed to have closets and sometimes adding them in later creates some floor space challenges. So, it’s always nice to report a historic home that has the modern conveniences we’ve come to appreciate. Speaking of modern conveniences, back in the kitchen there is a dishwasher.

I imagine that originally, 130 Queen was a three-and-a-half story row home with a dormer. It will be a nice mystery for the new owner to solve because today the third floor bedroom ceiling extends to the roof. Overlooking the bedroom is a balcony, accessible via spiral staircase, that has French doors opening to the roof.

The master bedroom balcony and ceiling fan.

The ceiling fan, normally not possible in the short ceilings of historic homes, simply sends any hot air right out – fantastic – reducing the need for the central a/c to be running all the time! A roof deck is feasible and would be a nice addition.

A summary of the details includes:

  • 1,300+ square feet
  • Located within the Meredith School encatchment (locals know why this is awesome and this is a great house for a family of three, or cozy for four)
  • Close to snazzy South Street/Head House shopping and restaurants
  • Historic brick row house around 200 years old
  • Gas heat, water heater, and range
  • Lovely, new wood floors throughout that are a period appropriate width
  • Washer/dryer in the third floor bathroom
  • Wired for a security system

For more information, please contact Carolyn Perlow at Space & Company, 215.625.3650. I first met Carolyn, who provided background information and the photos for 130 Queen, at one of the Queen Village Annual Open House tours.

Row House Halloween

Halloween Is for Row Houses Too!

We love how our historic neighborhood looks during the fall, especially how people decorate for Halloween. We typically spend the evening walking about. Below were some of our favorite haunts of the evening.

Halloween Row House

These skeletons climbing up the front of a row house.

This row house had a costume. I wish I had a better camera for these night shots but this homeowner turned their row house into a ship, complete with sail and cannons. These Federal row houses are fantastic with minimal decoration but this was really creative. Inside, the party-goers were in nautical costumes as well. This particular home pre-dates the Revolution so of course, British colors.

Row House Halloween

Row House Halloween

Row House Halloween

Row House Halloween

And the less spooky.

Row House Halloween

Row House Halloween

Row House Halloween

Row House Halloween

Hidden Row Homes – Bell’s Court, Society Hill, Philadelphia

It is not always easy to find out how old your row house is, especially if it was built before 1900, and even more so if it was a dwelling for the working-class. However, it helps to have someone put the date the row was built right on the side of the house.

These row houses in Bell's Court, Society Hill, were built in 1815.

I intended this to be an article about cute little row houses, situated in lovely gardens, in the middle of blocks, providing an urban oasis for those who don’t mind living with a little less space but I have discovered that the little homes of Bell’s Court tell a captivating story.

Alan Heavens, Inquirer Real Estate Writer, wrote about Bell’s Court last year (http://articles.philly.com/2013-07-29/business/40850220_1_bell-society-hill-trinities). Heavens writes that originally, the land the row homes sit on, was part of the garden of a very wealthy local Philadelphian named William Bingham, who, among other things, represented Pennsylvania as a delegate to the Continental Congress from 1786 to 1788. However, Bingham didn’t build the homes. That was wallpaper designer/manufacturer Thomas Hurley, who built not only the four present row homes but also an additional row of four row houses so that the two rows faced each other. Thanks to the little masonry note, we know the homes were completed in 1815.

Philly History is a wonderful archival website and I discovered the following photo that shows the remaining row in 1961. Surprisingly, there are cars parked in front and behind! You’ll see in photos below that it’s completely different today thanks to an urban revitilization of Society Hill, beginning in the 1960s, that saved many historic homes from demolision, including these, and restored the greenspaces.

Row houses in Bell's Court, Society Hill, Philadelphia, PA.

The row homes of Bell’s Court are indicative of the typical “Trinity” style houses that were built throughout Philadelphia during the population boom of the 19th Century. Many of this type of home were expanded in later renovations but, as indicated in the historic photo, it appears that the row was surrounded by streets. Therefore, with no room to expand, we are left with the original footprint and an intact glimpse into 19th Century working class domestic life. Inside, the homes feature two bedrooms, one bathroom, and likely have at least one working fireplace. Other distictions include the ever challenging, or intimidating, spiral “pie slice” stairs and classic Federal six-over-nine/eight-over-twelve windows. There is one room on each floor, with the kitchen located in the basement. Altogether, the homes are just slightly over 650 square feet, which is on the generous size for houses like these which range (originally) from 400 to 550 square feet. A unique feature is the loft over the top floor, seen in the historic photo above. Normally, you don’t get the extra space and it’s a nice feature on a very small house.

Today, Bell’s Court is assessable via pedestrial walk-way and the streets and cars have been replaced with a beautiful garden. It’s one of those charming secret rows that we absolutely love discovering in Philadelphia.

Row houses in Bell's Court, Society Hill, Philadelphia, PA.

Row houses in Bell's Court, Society Hill, Philadelphia, PA.

To read more about how the current residents live in their homes, see Heaven’s article – http://articles.philly.com/2013-07-29/business/40850220_1_bell-society-hill-trinities.

 

A Unique Tudor Revival Row House

I’ve lived in Philadelphia for over seven years, spending time literally running down each block in Center City, and I’m still discovering new row houses!

A unique tutor row house in Philadelphia.

This is a lovely Tutor Revival row house, which means it looks like something you’d find in a village in England somewhere. And, indeed, this rather unique example, does look like it’s wandered off of a Harry Potter movie set. I have no idea why there is a little brush sign hanging in front but it caught my eye and is just charming!

A unique tutor row house in Philadelphia.

The red windows are a very nice touch. Since the glass is leaded, it adds a bit of color. As you may notice, this house doesn’t match the others on the block and may have been added later. I’d suggest mid-19th Century for the row, which is classic Greek Revival, and this one a little later, maybe around the 1920s, when Tutor Revival was popular.

Coming around to the side, you can see this lovely extension with beautiful patina’ed copper paneling. Such a beautiful home! If only we always could get invited in.

A unique tutor row house in Philadelphia.

It’s in the Details (series)

At first glance, row houses may seem rather uniform. However, there are often small details that separate homes if you take a closer look. In an older row house neighborhood like Queen Village, Philadelphia, or the West Village, New York City, the homes are often quite a bit different than their adjacent neighbor.

These small elements of personality are some of the best things about row houses; the little signatures that owners put on their homes. Below is a collection of close-up photos of some of the nicer personal touches we’ve seen on row houses during our travels. As we discover more charming details, we’ll update the page.

Under the stucco might very well be a Greek Revival row house. What’s particularly interesting about this home, is that the white borders around the window are carried the full height of the home. The light teal door is just the right pop against an otherwise neutral palette. Altogether a very nice presentation for a row house. But, our favorite part is the iron bouquet of flowers just above the door; sophisticated, yet playful. Definitely in tune with the artistic nature of many local Philadelphia residents.

Stucco row house with iron bouquet.

Stucco row house with iron bouquet.

This charming row of tiles is from a Federal/Greek Revival brick row house, likely built in the mid-19th Century. In Philadelphia, this style of home is predominantly brick. The particular home features a multiple-step stoop and the first floor is a parlor floor that is a few feet above the sidewalk. It’s a very common row house aspect when your basement is actually functioning space, such as for a kitchen and dining room, to allow for the basement to have windows. The lower area on this facade has been covered in stucco and the upper area was left brick. They decided to do something a little creative in the joining area. The tiles go the full width of the house but, as you can see by the brick, they aren’t very large. Just a lovely little punctuation, a comma if you will, between the floors!

Row house details.

A Gorgeous Greek Revival Row House in Fairmount, Philadelphia

You just never know what’s going to happen during your long training run for the Philadelphia half marathon!

Philadelphia is one of the great row house cities in the United States, and maybe the world (we like to imagine it so, lol!). Certainly, there is a great diversity of row homes here, representing centuries of architectural styles. So, it’s easy to find great row homes while you’re out and about.

Still, it’s always a nice surprise when you not only find a superb example but also have the owners invite you in, even though you’re sweaty and they have a party to prepare for.

Meet Joe and Steve’s very elegant Greek Revival row house! Here, Joe is tending to his garden; just before inviting me in!

Greek Revival Row House, Philadelphia

What caught my eye in particular are the lush window boxes and the iron work around the parlor floor and entrance. A house from this period doesn’t have to have small-pane windows but it’s just a lovely touch, referencing the city’s rich Federal architectural past. I walked closer to get a better look and saw the door which is just beautiful! The iron work on the door is very cohesive with the railings around the window box.

Greek Revival Row House, Philadelphia

Joe said that the house used to be gray, pretty much inside and out. They decided to paint the 1896 Greek Revival row house a crisp white. Against the white, the green shutters contrast and punctuate the facade nicely. Most of the garden in the front is also green, giving a very coordinated face to the street.

It’s a typical feature of Greek Revival row homes to have a small foyer leading into the hall. Like many houses in this style, the hall and stairs go along the side of the home. These entryways always have wonderful tile or wallpaper and this is no exception. Look at that molding! The window above the door would have opened, allowing for heat to escape. It’s always hard to capture the scale of a space but those are quite high ceilings.

Entrance - Greek Revival Row House, Philadelphia

Here is the first look into the house. The owners have maintained the original layout of the home. Joe told me that when they bought the home in 1987, the owner had requested they keep the home a single dwelling and it remains as such to this day. He also mentioned that throughout the home, the molding is largely original.

Stairs - Greek Revival Row House, Philadelphia

Turning around before moving on, you can see the foyer and doors from the inside looking out. One thing to notice is that the interior light is very muted. Although the house does have electrical lights (naturally!) and can be perfectly bright, the owners have plenty of indirect lighting options which creates a very period feel to the lighting in the home.

Entryway and hall - Greek Revival Row House, Philadelphia

After walking into the hall, to the right is the doorway into the parlor. Although having the door and the stairs on the left of the house leaves the house asymmetrical, once you enter the formal rooms, the elements, such as these windows, are symmetrically placed. Unfortunately, my iPhone doesn’t take the best photos when the room is dark and the windows are bright and sunny, so some of the details are lost.

One thing to note is that when you have a parlor floor, or when the first floor of a home starts a few feet above street level, you can have lovely full-height windows without losing too much privacy to sidewalk traffic, except for curious runners.
Parlor - Greek Revival Row House, Philadelphia
The back half of the parlor contains a grand piano which illustrates the scale of the room. Despite having plenty of space, you can see that this room multitasks as a formal parlor, library, and music room in true row house style.

I’ve got better light in this photo so you can see the molding and plaster work on the ceiling. The red wallpaper fits appropriately with the original period of the home. Victorians were very keen on wallpaper, which was the fashion on both sides of the pond. Unfortunately, I forgot to ask if the wallpaper was based on an original design.
Parlor - Greek Revival Row House, Philadelphia

Through the door is a small passage Joe that calls the gallery. The art displayed through the home is really an incredible collection and every small area holds a treasure. The home practically frames the art.

Continuing on, the next room is the formal dining room. Again, the wallpaper is really on-target for the period. Joe said that when they purchased the home, all the walls were gray and all the trim was white. Although they agreed not to alter the layout, they did liven up the walls.

Another really nice touch is the black and white marble floor. This is a very classic look found in many grand historic homes.
Formal dining room - Greek Revival Row House, Philadelphia
Often, in a row house that hasn’t been overly renovated, you will see fireplaces. Joe says that there are two remaining working fireplaces in the house. Originally, this row house would have had two on each of the main floors and one in the kitchen for cooking. Below is the mantle of the dining room fireplace. The white and blue pottery is very complimentary of the wallpaper.
Formal dining room - Greek Revival Row House, Philadelphia
There is nothing like built-in storage!Built-in china cabinet - Greek Revival Row House, Philadelphia
Past the dining room is the kitchen which is quite lovely. However, Joe and Steve were getting ready to entertain and were bustling about so no photos. There was a finish on the window that, when the light and colors from the garden shone through, looked like the watery stained glass of a Tiffany window.
Powder room - Greek Revival Row House, Philadelphia
Just outside the back door is an oasis of a backyard garden. These personal green spaces never cease to amaze me. Often, although not on this block, the streets don’t have any trees on them and look quite bleak. What happens behind the row homes often more than compensate.
Garden - Greek Revival Row House, Philadelphia

Garden - Greek Revival Row House, Philadelphia

After visiting the garden, it was back through the house to progress upstairs to view the remaining public rooms.
Entry hall - Greek Revival Row House, Philadelphia
If I had a bathroom like this, I would never leave it. Thanks to all the reflective surfaces, this room practically glows – even without a light on. The windows are leaded stained glass and the light fixture, also glass, is just tremendous. Inadvertently, I’ve taken a selfie in my running gear.
Bathroom - Greek Revival Row House, Philadelphia
More of the fantastic bathroom. I have to say, I spent a good deal of time in the house going “oooh” and “aaaah.” My hosts were very patient and entirely gracious. Here, with the light on, you can get an idea of the reflective surfaces of the mirrored tile and the glazed subway tile. Dazzling would be the best way to describe it.
Bathroom - Greek Revival Row House, Philadelphia
Past the office area was originally a walled off area that served as a closet. There was paneling on the walls. One day, Joe shared, he drank a lot of coffee and, with a friend, pulled all of the paneling, as well as the wall, down. When they were done, they were left with a small room, overlooking the roof over the kitchen. His friend built wooden stairs, visible in the lower right corner of the photo, that lead up to french doors and out onto a roof deck. Here is another example of how the house frames the art.
Enclave - Greek Revival Row House, Philadelphia
Here are the doors opened and leading out to the roof deck.
Roof deck - Greek Revival Row House, Philadelphia
Finally, I asked if this medallion was original to the house. Joe told me that it was salvaged from the home he grew up in, also an older home painted Quaker gray with white trim, that had been demolished due to fire. It is a touching tribute from one house to another.

Mantle and wall decor - Greek Revival Row House, PhiladelphiaWalking through the house was like taking a journey. Everything has a story, from the house itself to all the carefully curated things within. Considering the Victorians themselves were master collectors, it seems quite fitting that Joe and Steve carry on that tradition.

I can’t thank Joe and Steve enough for sharing their beautiful row home with us!

Modern Row Homes in Philadelphia

During my commute, I’ve watched these row homes grow out of a big hole in the ground. One of these days, I’m going to take pictures in sequence. This particular row has beautiful full height windows on both the second and third floor, and what appears to be a roof deck. From this area, the occupants will have beautiful views of the skyline.

Modern row houses in Philadelphia.