Last May, the National Register of Historic Places formally listed Tacony’s Disston district in recognition of its founding and significance as a planned “company town” within 19th-century Philadelphia.
But that designation doesn’t necessarily mean much in the way of preservation, according to officials from the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia.
During the bimonthly meeting of the Tacony Civic Association on March 8, the Alliance’s advocacy director, Patrick Grossi, told residents that if they hope to preserve the neighborhood’s many historic buildings, they really need to get them listed on the city’s own historic registry. Maintained and enforced by the city’s Historical Commission, buildings and districts included on the local list are protected against demolition and external modifications that deviate from their historic character.
There are 1,300 properties on the city’s registry, but just one from the Tacony historic district. It’s the 1885 Tacony Music Hall at Longshore Avenue and Edmund Street. Nonetheless, in a merely cursory tour of the neighborhood, the Alliance folks identified dozens of potential additions to the registry.
The Tacony Saving Fund Safe Deposit & Title building at Longshore and Tulip Street is one of them, said the Alliance’s Caroline Slama. The former bank has had many commercial uses over the years and now houses a private residence, a recording studio and the Jack Costello Boxing Gym. The Tacony Branch Library at 6742 Torresdale Ave. is an original Carnegie library just like the nearby Holmesburg Branch, which is listed.
Other important structures, according to Slama, are the Tacony Club building at 4619 Longshore, the Mary Disston and Hamilton Disston public schools, the Disston Recreation Center, numerous local churches, the former Harbot’s Hotel (now Curran’s pub) and the original Disston Saw Works headquarters.
Tacony also has an “incredible variety” of housing that Henry Disston developed for his workers and their bosses.
Anyone can nominate a building for inclusion on Philadelphia’s historic registry, although doing so may cause tension between the applicant and the landlord if he or she has other plans for the property. The Alliance can assist in filing an application. It also administers a facade easement program for more than 240 properties citywide and publishes Extant, a quarterly journal featuring a “places to save” list. Each June, the Alliance hosts its Preservation Achievement Awards. Information about the organization is available via preservationalliance.com
In an unrelated agenda item, an outreach coordinator for the Clean Air Alliance informed Tacony residents about her organization’s environmentally friendly transportation programs. Erika Morgan said that the CAA can help commuters find or start a carpool or join a pre-existing “v-ride” vanpool. The CAA can advocate for workers who want their companies to offer pre-tax payroll deductions for public transit fares or those who are trying to convince their bosses to allow a flex schedule that suits the worker’s public transit itinerary.
Morgan said that people who commute from the Northeast via Interstate-95 may want to think seriously about alternative transportation considering that the highway will remain under construction between the Northeast and Center City for many years to come.
The CAA can also help bicycle riders get bike racks installed at work. The gophillygo.org website is the CAA’s eco-friendly trip-planning resource. It has a tool for directing travelers toward the best walking and bicycle routes. It also recommends more than a dozen recreational outings for those who want to explore the region’s watersheds, parks, gardens and museums.
In other meeting business, Suzin Weber, the Tacony Branch librarian, said that six new laptop computers are available for public use at the Library and Arts Building (LAB), 6918 Torresdale Ave. The Tacony LAB is the library’s temporary home while the regular branch is closed for renovations. The library shares the LAB with artists from the city’s Mural Arts Program.
The LAB will offer introductory computer workshops on March 19 and April 2 and 23. Sessions start at 2 p.m. and are free to attend, but are limited to 10 students. Call 215-685-9338 for reservations.
The LAB will host a celebration on April 29 for the reopening of its curbside mini-park, or parklet.
City Councilman Bobby Henon presented the Tacony Civic Association with a $2,500 grant from the city’s Activities Fund. The civic association plans to use the money to present its summer concert series this year. ••