Historical Victorian Home Scheduled for Bulldozer
The city approved demolition of 5901 Ridge Ave. Neighbors try to salvage property.
If all remains the same, an historical Victorian home at 5901 Ridge Ave. could be demolished within a few weeks.
Residents near the stately multi-family home at the corner of Ridge and Roxborough Avenues scrambled Thursday to halt, or at least delay, the house's demolition, which was approved by the Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections Sept. 6.
The Office of Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr. is working to prevent a demolition, but without a court injunction, bulldozers could level the building after Sept. 27.
"That's an absolute shame. As an old home owner in the area, these types of buildings are what is maintaining the charm Roxborough has left," Elysse Ricci Achuff said on the Roxborough-Manayunk Patch Facebook page.
The Bunting House
Called the Bunting House, after Dr. Ross Bunting, a trustee of the Roxborough Home for Indigent Women, according to The Roxborough Review, the home was believed to have been constructed in the 1880s. The property most recently served as the offices for Erb Law Firm and rental apartments. After it was sold earlier this year, tenants say they were evicted so a renovation could occur. Now, the only plan, according to city records, is demolition.
Mitchell Karp and Michelle Greenlee, an engaged couple, lived at the Bunting House until they received eviction notes in April, leaving in June. They were told remodelings and renovations were set for the historical home. Some of their neighbors even planned to move back in.
Karp said Giovannone Construction Inc., the new owners, seemed to care about preserving the home, and signs of improvement occurred. He said they completely modernized one unit and rented it out—raising rent, of course.
"They presented themselves as pretty nice people. They said they'd fix it, make it modern," he said. "Then we got an eviction notice... but the understanding was people could come back after they completed it."
A Lot of Nothing?
Giovannone Construction Inc. did not return a message for an interview. Joshua Cohen, a staff member for the councilman, did talk to the owner Thursday.
"According to him, he has plans to demolish it as it is structurally unsound and he does not have the finances to repair it," Cohen said. Other than creating a "vacant lot, he has no further plans on it."
Cohen said he's handled calls and emails on the property all day.
"There's huge support for the building. It really is unprecedented to receive so many calls on one property, but it's a beautiful property. There are so few Victorian homes left on Ridge Avenue," he said.
Residents writing on the Patch Facebook page, emailing and calling agreed.
"I loved the house, and it's not structurally unsound. I've been in the basement and upstairs, it's not true," Greenlee said.
Kelly Erb, who formerly worked in the building, encouraged residents to speak out about preservation.
"If you care about the razing of lovely old buildings like this one, please let (Councilman Jones) know 215-686-3416," she said.
Jo Ann Desper questioned how quickly the project got approved.
"The community has not been presented the plans for the property and there is an uproar over its destruction," she said.
Cohen said the councilman's office did not receive notification on demolition, nor does it usually. All a property has to do is get L & I to sign off, and demolition can commence.
L & I will soon post notices alerting residents to the demolition. According to the city, "There are no other restrictions noted on the permits for demolition. If the demolition starts before (Sept. 27) the work can be stopped. The only other way would be to get the work stopped is by a court injunction."
So Cohen is working to determine the likelihood of stopping the project through an injunction.
Karp's lived in Roxborough for 20 years. He says there's a lot of history here, and Ridge Avenue jeopardizes losing its uniqueness.
"If they tore it down and put anything there, nothing would really satisfy me," he said. "I was thinking, playing devils advocate, but it's tough. Like in Old City they preserved a lot. To me, it's worth it to keep the history."
Check back with Patch for more updates.