Just Listed is a semi-annual feature of Pennsylvania’s Cultural Resources that were recently listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Three very different Pennsylvania resources were recently listed in the National Register of Historic Places. They hold significance for very different reasons, too, ranging from design and architectural merit, to labor history in the textile industry, to the development of Philadelphia’s court system.
The home designed by prominent Philadelphia architect Louis Kahn for Dr. Norman and Doris Fisher, near Hatboro, was listed for its architectural merit as an important example of Kahn’s design in the late 1960s. The house was designed as two interlocking cubes, one portion for living space and one portion for bedrooms. It features windows positioned to capitalize on the interplay of natural light and bring the outdoors into the home. Kahn only completed nine homes in his career, all in the greater Philadelphia area, and each very different. The Fisher House’s importance was recognized by the National Trust, and at the request of the Fisher family they helped find a conservation-minded buyer to ensure the home would be appreciated for many years to come. The house is now protected by a conservation easement. Listed March 31, 2014, for Architectural Significance at the National level.
All graphics from the Fisher House National Register nomination, on file in our office.The Fisher House is featured in a current exhibit at the University of Pennsylvania’s Architectural Archives, entitled Brought to Light: The Houses of Louis Kahn, through May 23.
Brownhill & Kramer Hosiery Mill
The Brownhill & Kramer Hosiery Mill in Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood looks like many, many other textile mills that made Philadelphia a manufacturing mecca. With huge windows, a mix of concrete and heavy timber construction, and a very prominent rooftop water tank, it seems fairly typical for early 20th century mills. However, in addition to being one of the city’s largest manufacturers of full-fashioned silk hosiery (shaped and seamed for a better fit), it was also the site of innovative labor strikes, which had an impact on the unionization of Philadelphia’s hosiery and other textile workers in the 1920s and 1930s. Early strikes by Brownhill & Kramer workers were fairly conventional, but they had stronger results in the 1930s when they adopted the disruptive sit-down strike tactic and gained national attention. The Mill has been empty since the 1990s. Planning is underway to adapt the Mill for a new purpose using the federal Rehabilitation Incentive Tax Credit. Listed March 31, 2014, for Social History and Industrial Significance at the local level.
All graphics from the Brownhill & Kramer Hosiery Mill National Register nomination, on file in our office. Historic image showing the 1938 riot by B&K workers is originally from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania archives.
Philadelphia’s Juvenile and Domestic Branches of the Municipal Court building (more commonly known as “Family Court”) is important for its architectural design, its collection of public art, and its place within the city’s evolving court system. For many years, cases involving Philadelphia’s most vulnerable citizens were held in makeshift, inferior facilities, scattered throughout the city. This new Beaux Arts style courthouse would unite all those spaces and was designed to be a “civic showcase and model of judicial efficiency.” While construction was approved in 1916, it wasn’t completed until 1941, following an injection of federal New Deal money into the project. The Public Works Administration (PWA) was responsible for national infrastructure improvements ranging from tunnels and dams to schools, hospitals, and courthouses. As did many other New Deal era projects, the Family Court building included public artwork—in this case, 37 murals, some by nationally-known artists such as George Harding and Benton Murdoch Spruance; a stained glass panel by Philadelphia’s D’Ascenzo Studios; and a statue by Walter Hancock, a prominent sculptor who was one of the inspirations for the WWII movie Monuments Men. Most of the artists had a personal connection to Philadelphia, either as a resident or a student. Family Court is located in a prominent spot along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway facing Logan Circle. The exterior was designed in tandem with the Free Library next door to mimic twin palaces in Paris, and the Family Court itself became known as Philadelphia’s “Palace of Justice.” The court facilities are now moving to a new location; following a project supported in part by the Rehabilitation Incentive Tax Credit, the building will become a hotel. Listed March 31, 2014, for Architectural Significance at the state level.
All graphics from the Family Court National Register nomination, on file in our office. Mural in Courtroom A, by Alice Kent Stoddard. Historic aerial view showing the completed Free Library, the Family Court building under construction, and Logan Circle, October 1939, is originally from the Free Library of Philadelphia, Print and Picture Department, Dallin, vol. 22, no. 12650.