Historic 26th Dist. headquarters to get new life

The build­ing that once housed the 26th Po­lice Dis­trict was ap­proved for a new apart­ment build­ing and bank.

Where Dauph­in Street meets the cobble­stone of Trenton Av­en­ue, the former home of the 26th Po­lice Dis­trict sits un­used, long va­cant and show­ing dec­ades of neg­lect.

Covered in over­grown weeds and worn graf­fiti, the build­ing has been un­used for more than 30 years.

But soon, that will change.

At a meet­ing last week, the Phil­adelphia His­tor­ic­al Com­mis­sion ap­proved a pro­ject that will see the struc­ture, built in 1896, ren­ov­ated in­to nine apart­ments and a ground level bank.

It’s a pro­ject Vic­tor Barr Jr., of VL­BJR Ar­chi­tects, Inc. be­lieves will bring new life to the East Kens­ing­ton land­mark.

“I think it’s go­ing to gen­er­ate a lot of ex­cite­ment,” he said on Fri­day, Aug. 12, after the His­tor­ic Com­mis­sion ap­proved his pro­pos­al to ren­ov­ate the build­ing.

The former po­lice dis­trict build­ing, va­cant since the 1970s, comes from something of an ar­chi­tec­tur­al ped­i­gree. It was de­signed by John T. Windrim, who went on to design both the Frank­lin In­sti­tute and the Fam­ily Court Mu­ni­cip­al Build­ing in Lo­gan Square.

Over the years, the 14,250-square-foot struc­ture was used as a po­lice dis­trict headquar­ters — it was built on the foot­print of the city’s ori­gin­al 18th Po­lice Dis­trict — and then served as a cen­ter for the Po­lice Ath­let­ic League.

In 1969, PAL stopped util­iz­ing the build­ing, and the win­dows were bricked over when the space be­came a stor­age freez­er.

Dur­ing a hear­ing on the pro­ject last week, Re­becca Sell, a pre­ser­va­tion plan­ner for the His­tor­ic Com­mis­sion, dis­cussed the cur­rent con­di­tion of the former po­lice pre­cinct and what it will take to re­store the build­ing.

She said the “ma­sonry has de­teri­or­ated in sev­er­al spots” and wood doors and win­dows would need to be in­stalled to keep it his­tor­ic­ally ac­cur­ate; the build­ing has been on the Na­tion­al His­tor­ic­al Re­gister since 1984.

Dur­ing the meet­ing, Barr said his com­pany would abide by any con­di­tions the His­tor­ic Com­mis­sion would im­pose.

His plan would turn the three-story struc­ture in­to an apart­ment build­ing with about eight 800-square-foot apart­ments. On the first floor, the space will be fash­ioned in­to a space for an as yet un­named bank.

Barr said the renov­a­tion, which could cost more than $1 mil­lion, will at­tempt to re­turn the build­ing to its former glory.

“It’s go­ing to look just like it did back in 1900,” he said en­thu­si­ast­ic­ally.

He said that aside from an area where a few hold­ing cells stood, “there wasn’t a lot” in­side the build­ing that points to its past as a po­lice dis­trict headquar­ters.

Still, the build­ing it­self is in good con­di­tion, said the de­veloper. 

Barr said he be­lieves the build­ing will look nearly his­tor­ic­ally ac­cur­ate when renov­a­tions are com­plete. His com­pany isn’t new to restor­ing his­tor­ic prop­er­ties.

In his 20 years ex­per­i­ence, Barr said his com­pany also re­stored the Drake Tower at 1512 Spruce St., which was once the tallest build­ing in Phil­adelphia, as well as 1835 Lofts, at 1835 Arch St., which was ori­gin­ally the Bell Tele­phone Build­ing.

“I think it’s go­ing to be ex­cit­ing to some people who want to live in the old po­lice dis­trict build­ing,” he said.

Barr is still wait­ing on the ne­ces­sary per­mits, but he be­lieves that work on the build­ing could be­gin be­fore the end of the sum­mer and be com­pleted in as little as nine months.

Re­port­er Hay­den Mit­man can be reached at 215-354-3124 or hmit­man@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at hmitman@bsmphilly.com.

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