As many of you already know, May is national Historic Preservation Month.  What better way to kick-start our month-long celebration of historic preservation than with this year’s winners of the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia’s 2017 Preservation Achievement Awards.

If you’re not familiar with the Preservation Alliance, they are the Philadelphia region’s non-profit, membership-based historic preservation advocacy group.  Their work focuses on actively promoting the appreciation, protection, and revitalization of the Philadelphia area’s historic places and spaces and advocating for strong public preservation policies.

Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia, the Philadelphia region’s preservation non-profit advocacy group.

The Alliance hosts their Achievement Awards celebration each year, which provides preservationists from across the region a chance to network, celebrate some of Pennsylvania’s best and brightest, and be inspired (I hear the food and cocktails are always good, too!).  The 2017 Preservation Achievement Awards will be presented in two categories: Special Recognition Awards and Grand Jury Awards.

In addition to hosting celebrations like this one, the Preservation Alliance also hosts architecture-focused walking tours and homeowner workshops, holds easements on historic properties, participates in a number of planning and research initiatives, and publishes their magazine, Extant, three times a year in collaboration with Hidden City Philadelphia.

Special Recognition Awards

This year, the Alliance honors ten Special Recognition award winners.  The winners, selected by a group of local and regional preservationists, are individuals and organizations recognized for their work as champions of historic preservation.  A quick disclaimer: the PA SHPO was part of the team awarded the Preservation Education Award this year for the PHMC Disaster Planning for Historic Properties Initiative.

This year’s James Biddle Award goes to Frank Matero, professor of architecture and historic preservation, and director of the Architectural Conservation Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Design for lifetime achievement in historic preservation.  In 37 years of teaching and practice, he has aided the conservation of archaeological sites in the Middle East, South America, and North America; led building teams in the restoration of the Guggenheim Museum, Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, and Ellis Island; and inspired hundreds of students at PennDesign to go forth and conserve.

James Biddle award-winner Frank G. Matero.  Photograph courtesy of the Preservation Alliance.

In addition to the Biddle, Special Recognition Awards will be presented to longtime preservation activist and architect Kathy Dowdell; the Chestnut Hill Conservancy, currently celebrating its 50th anniversary; and the Powelton Village Civic Association, among others. The Young Friends Award will go to the Community Futures Lab, a gallery, resource and zine library, workshop space, recording booth, and time capsule capturing oral histories in the Sharswood neighborhood of North Philly.

Architect Kathy Dowdell will be recognized for her work on behalf of the Preservation Alliance. Kathy also joined the PA SHPO delegation at Advocacy Week this year.  Photograph courtesy of the Preservation Alliance.

For the complete list of Special Recognition award winners, you can see the complete list here.

Grand Jury Awards

The Grand Jury Awards recognize historic building projects that have been restored or renovated in an exemplary way.  These winners are selected by a panel of preservation architects and historians from Baltimore, MD.

Twenty-three exemplary projects will be honored this year, including the restoration or renovation of seven apartments, five bridges, three academic buildings, three cultural centers, two commercial buildings, two private homes and a boathouse.

The new entrance to PlayArts. Photograph courtesy of the Preservation Alliance.

Among the most prominent winners are PlayArts, an energy-efficient, children’s enrichment center in Fishtown, built in 1907 as a public bath house; 841 North American Street, a post-war, International-style bottling plant in Northern Liberties, now the offices of renowned architecture firm KieranTimberlake; and the University of Pennsylvania’s Pennovation Center, originally a cube-shaped paint factory, now a business incubator with break-out architecture.

Pennovation Center’s striking northeast façade. Photograph courtesy of the Preservation Alliance.

For the complete list of Grand Jury award winners, you can see the complete list here.

Interested in attending?

The 24th Annual Preservation Achievement Awards will take place on Wednesday June 7th, from 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. The location this year is Vie at 600 N. Broad Street (I hear it’s the hot new place!).  I’m told there will be amazing food and drink, with the bonus of free valet parking.

For more information, tickets, and directions, please visit the Preservation Alliance website at