C. J. Moore

C.J. Moore (1929-2015) bought 401 Pine Street (also known as 352 S. Fourth Street) in 1967 and spent the next three years renovating it. The building and the one next door (350 S. Fourth Street) had previously been made into a single property and used as a Spanish record store. When C.J. was considering buying it, the corner house had no stairs between the first and second floors. He had to use the stairway in 350 to get to the upper floors of 352. Following a disagreement with the Historical Commission concerning whether the front door belonged on the Pine Street or Fourth Street side, in which C.J. and Pine Street prevailed, he renovated the house, doing much of the work himself. Initially, his parents were mystified about why he was doing this, but they took out a mortgage for him and came to realize the wisdom of his decision. C.J. lived in the house from 1970 until 2004, when he moved to Hopkinson House.


DS:      This is an interview with C.J. Moore. The date is May 8, 2009. The location is the Hopkinson House at Sixth and Washington Square. The interviewer is Dorothy Stevens. C.J., tell me when did you decide to buy 401 Pine Street?

CM:     Well, actually, the address of that building, according to the city, was 352 South Fourth Street. I made it 401 because I put the front door on Pine Street, after having a battle with the Historical [Commission] which we can go into if you like. (1:00)

DS:      What was the year?

CM:     1966.

DS:      1966.

CM:     Right. And it was purchased in ’67, and the restoration went on from 1967 to 1970.

DS:      Why did you come to this neighborhood to buy that house? What brought you here?

CM:     I knew a friend of mine, name of Walton Stowell, who was an architect for the Park Service, and I had met him when I was living at the other end of town. And he (2:00) was living right on the corner of Pine – oh, I’ve forgotten their names – well, anyway, that doesn’t make any difference. I came down, and I kind of saw it, and when I saw it, it was on sale. Two of the properties, 350 and 352. Then after a while I thought, “Well, I don’t want all that.” I thought back, “Maybe I should have done all that.” But at any rate, I didn’t. Then later on they installed a wall between 350 and 352, and so I had the portion that was 352, which was on the corner. (3:00)

DS:      Three fifty-two is on the corner.

CM:     Yes, but the only time I ever used that address was for taxation purposes. Where were we?

DS:      Why did you come to the neighborhood? A friend was here.

CM:     A friend was here, who was an architect. He said, “Why don’t you look at this?” And I did, and one thing led to another. It was quite a project.

DS:      Was there a sign on the house, or did you go to Redevelopment?

CM:     I’ve forgotten that detail. I certainly bought the property from Redevelopment, and my memory say I paid $16,000 for it. (4:00)

DS:      What was the condition of the house?

CM:     Well, first of all, there was no stairway. There was no way to get up, because the two properties had been made into apartments. So the only way I could get into my side of the building was to go into the other building, which fortunately was not sold. I was able to do that until I had stairways put in.

DS:      So the house next door was not sold –

CM:     Until later.

DS:      Until later. But you’d already made the decision to buy just the one house on the corner. What was the condition of the inside? Had it been vacant for a long time?

CM:     Well, I can actually show you this better. Then you can say how to (5:00) describe it. This was pretty much the condition. It had been – the whole thing – before I got it, had been a Spanish record shop.

DS:      The whole first floor.

CM:     The whole first floor. And actually I think extending maybe – this was the building I didn’t buy.

DS:      The storefront was on Fourth Street and also on Pine.

CM:     That’s correct.

DS:      And people were in apartments above?

CM:     Not when I got it. When I got it, it was totally vacant, as was this building. For a period the only way I could get upstairs – (6:00)

DS:      Do you know the name of the record store? You said it was a Spanish –

CM:     No, someone just told me, and I was in a taxi at one point. He drove me up to the house, and he said, “I used to bank here.”

DS:      [Laughs]

CM:     It was typical. If you look around, very few corner houses of that period exist, because they were the ones that were made into stores, and they were demolished.

DS:      The outside looks, other than the storefront, it doesn’t look too bad. It has no shutters and it needs some paint, but what was the condition of the inside? Did it have varmints and pigeons?

CM:     No.

DS:      It hadn’t been open to the elements?  (7:00)

CM:     No. I guess it was so exposed or something.

DS:      So the inside was tight and dry.

CM:     There was a boiler in the basement that had to be removed, and so forth. The architect was Wanton Stowell, recently deceased.

DS:      And who restored the inside, you or he?

CM:     He did the design.

DS:      A contemporary design?

CM:     For the inside, because the inside – I decided it was crazy to try to make the inside 18th century. I wasn’t interested in it from that point of view, and it would have (8:00) been all fake. Then I had a little argument with the commission, the Historical Commission, because there is an early photograph that shows that the entrance to the house was on Fourth Street, and of course I didn’t want to put it on Fourth Street. So – well, they sent me a letter. They sent a letter to my architect, saying that “the Historical Commission has reviewed your excellent drawing, and because the record is incontrovertible it strongly recommends that the doorway as shown in the (9:00) 1860 photograph be restored.” That was the one on Fourth Street. “The doorway on the Pine Street façade, however, may remain,’ which is the one that is there. “And if the original doorway on Fourth Street is not needed it should be retained for the sake of historical accuracy.”

            Well, then the next letter from them – I don’t have my return letter – but the next letter says, “The architectural committee reviewed carefully the archaeological evidence discovered in the basement and first story of 352 South Fourth, and I am happy to report that they agree with your conclusions regarding the original position of the front door. In view of this the Pine Street façade may be restored as drawn by Mr. Stowell.” (10:00) And then I did really a lot of work on the house myself, those that I could do inside. That’s the reason that it took three years for the whole process, before I moved in.

DS:      What type of things did you do, C.J.?

CM:     Well, first of all, I wired the place. I used to be an electrician when I was in college. My father had a shop, and I was kind of an electrician growing up. I was able to do that. And if you remember, there was a barber across the street, named Ottaviano. (11:00) Well, he was a licensed electrician; so he’s the one that came over and looked over everything and got the approval.

DS:      This would have been Ralph?

CM:     No. Fred. And then I have photographs of the progress – oh, one thing I found on Mt. Vernon Street some, I think, early 19th century gates, and I was going to put that on the second floor, on the back of the building. There’s a bedroom above the kitchen, and there was at one time a little balcony there, but it was eventually made into an (12:00) arch, but it was going to be flat and these were going to be there. I bought them, and I stored them for a little while. Well, I have a photograph of them, where the house on the corner up the street. What little street is that that goes back into the cul de sac?

DS:      Lawrence Street?

CM:     Lawrence. I took a photograph of them there. Then I moved them to the cellar. And they were stolen from the cellar in 401 Pine.

DS:      During the construction? Or during the renovation?

CM:     During the renovation, but quite early on. It was only, you know, I mean, I just came back one day and they were gone. And I thought, “Well I can’t do anything (13:00) it.”

DS:      The house was open and vulnerable?

CM:     Well, I suppose to a degree it was. It had to have been. Or, of course, my memory could be wrong, and it could have been standing over there in that lot. I don’t think so. Oh, no, it says, “… stored in the cellar at 352 were stolen. They were going to be the gates to the garden and decoration on the second floor rear court.” Perhaps it’s just as well, I say. [Laughs] Anyway, then …

DS:      Do you have any sense of how much money you put into the restoration? Approximately?

CM:     Yes. Including the cost of the building, it was $142,000. (14:00)

DS:      Including the cost of the building. Other than the placement of the front door, did you have any difficulties with Redevelopment?

CM:     No, not after that. Interestingly enough, you may know this woman’s name. Do you remember a woman by the name of Mrs. Knauer?

DS:      Vaguely.

CM:     Well, in the Evening Bulletin of Wednesday, September 10, 1969, was an (15:00) article headlined, “Owners of Historic Philadelphia Houses Advised to Keep Original Facades.” And further down, it says, “Speaking to the Penn’s Town Historical Society meeting in Old Pine Street Presbyterian Church, Mrs. Knauer told the group to take a good look at the restoration of the property on the northwest corner of Fourth and Pine. She said, ‘The private residence is really accurate and quite good.’”

DS:      Wonderful. [Laughs] I do remember her now. Very good.

CM:     So, I got –

DS:      You lived in that house until what year?

CM:     Five years ago. I’ve been here five years. I moved out …. (16:00)

DS:      In 2004.

CM:     Yes, and moved here.

DS:      To the Hopkinson House. Do you have any memory of your taxes at that time? Your real estate taxes?

CM:     No.

DS:      Just for fun.

CM:     I know I paid taxes. I don’t recall them being particularly …. As a matter of fact, I do remember one time I objected to the rate, and it was lowered. But I don’t remember the details.

DS:      What problems, if any, did you have living on the corner of such a     (17:00) busy intersection of Fourth and Pine?

CM:     You just get used to it. I mean, there is noise. And a number of – several car crashes. I don’t know whether you remember the one that tore up – of course the cars are going south on Fourth and east on Pine, and if someone goes through a light or something …. There were several crashes there. The one I remember is the one that took out the fire hydrant and took down half of St. Peter’s wall. (18:00)

DS:      This wall at St. Peter’s at Fourth and Pine as gotten hit several times a year, it seems.

CM:     I don’t think it’s nearly that bad. I think it was only once that it was hit while I was there. Now, I’ve heard a story about when there were trolleys on that street. A trolley fell over once.

DS:      Oh, really. The trolley went down Fourth Street, going south?

DM:     Yes, lived there. The tracks and the wires and everything are still there, and the tracks are underneath the pavement. They’re still there. I remember one day they had a special thing: they had this special trolley which was open air. It was sort of (19:00) like a boat. And you could take that from, I guess, Market Street or some place, and come down to South Philadelphia. So I took that ride.

DS:      Was it a tourist thing or was it for legitimate business?

CM:     It was a tourist thing. Pretty much, I mean, it was this peculiar car they had. I don’t recall – I don’t think there were trolleys at that time.

DS:      Did you fear? Was there crime that you were concerned about?

CM:     Not particularly. I did have from the beginning a burglar alarm. I had my home-made one for a while, and then I got a central-office one, which I think was a     (20:00) wise thing to do, because I had the exposure of people coming over the wall.

DS:      In your back yard?

CM:     Yes. I don’t think that happened more than once or twice. But I remember coming home one evening. I had dropped off some friends that were visiting me. I’d kind of forgotten about the alarm, and they had the key. I went and parked my car. There was no on-site parking and I was either parking down at Second Street at that garage, or I also had a lot up the street; there’s a parking lot there. But at any rate, they opened (21:00) the door and the alarm was on and the police came. One other time I didn’t close the door properly, and I got home and there were these policemen going through the house. [Laughs]

DS:      They were responsive.

CM:     Yes, yes. My car was parked in front of the house at one time, and I went out to get in the car one morning, and the window was broken on the street side. But of course, that still happens.

DS:      Are there any stories regarding the contractors or suppliers or …?

CM:     I have several. I have – I don’t know why I did this, but I have kept all (22:00) the receipts.

DS:      For everything that you…

CM:     Well, I think they’re pretty much all the receipts. And here are sub-contractors. I remember that there was – actually, it was Fred that got me on that. A guy named Bragon, and he evidently had worked for Fred’s brother, you know, the nasty one?

DS:      Joe Ottaviano?

CM:     Yes. Well, Joe didn’t like him. One day he was working on Sunday, and Joe reported him for working on Sunday. And then I got an anonymous phone (23:00) call from a woman, and I know she was associated with Joe. Joe was, you know….

DS:      He was watching your construction.

CM:     Yes, because he had done all the construction in the area. He thought he should be doing it. I have the receipts from all the contractors and sub-contractors. I was looking at one. The shutters were, let’s see, anyway, here’s a bill for $490.00, and it (24:00) covers cornice, trim, frames and sash for windows, etc., etc., etc. The front door. And parenthetically, since my architect worked for the Park Service, the front door on Pine Street is a copy of the one at the Dolley Todd Madison House, except it looks better on my house because, you remember, the Dolley Todd Madison House is on the ground. So there’s not steps to it. But that’s where that came from.

DS:      Sounds like you had fun doing this house.

CM:     Well, yes. I stayed in the [Society Hill] Towers. I sold my house at the other (25:00) end of town, stayed in the Towers for a few months, and looked down on an open space before your house was built.

DS:      Between Second and Front and Spruce and Delancey.

CM:     Yes.

DS:      Any stories about the banks or lenders or any difficulty with them?

CM:     Actually, the mortgage was taken by my parents. I paid them off rather quickly. It turned out it wasn’t that expensive. You know, when you do things a little $45 a time.

DS:      And $400 to do the front door and all those window sashes.           (26:00)

CM:     You know.

DS:      It was a different time.

CM:     It was a different time.

DS:      What was the reaction of your parents to this project?

CM:     Well, I showed the building before I had done anything.

DS:      It still had the store fronts?

CM:     Oh, yes. I know when I showed them the building they just couldn’t understand. My mother was very worried about it. She couldn’t understand it. But then later, of course, they visited and approved.

DS:      Did they live in the city?

CM:     No, they lived in West Virginia.

DS:      In West Virginia. This was very foreign to them.

CM:     Oh, yes.

DS:      And your father allowed you to – encouraged you to … (27:00)

CM:     Well, yes. At that point, I was an only son. They had two children. Unfortunately, my brother was lost in World War II. I was the only heir. And then this was done over a period of time; it wasn’t like going up and buying a house that you were all ready to move into.

DS:      Tell me about your involvement with any of the old, original people, the people who were born and raised there, other than the Ottavianos?

CM:     Well, my only recollection was the taxi driver who said he used to bank (28:00) there. I met some people on the street. I remember Ned Boone lived on the street [at 411 Pine St.]. And I met the people next door. I’ve forgotten their name, because they aren’t there anymore. He was a professor somewhere. They were Italian and would go back to Italy every summer.

DS:      This is on Fourth Street?

CM:     No, this is on Pine Street, the next house – it’s a semi apartment house. The first floor. I was invited in once. And the way they did it, the first floor was fairly deep. You went about halfway back and there was a stairway. They had a first floor and the back part of the second floor, and other ones were apartments. (29:00)

DS:      And you knew Bob Parsky?

CM:     Yes, he lives two doors, three doors –

DS:      North?

CM:     On Fourth Street.

DS:      North of you on Fourth Street.

CM:     Yes. Oddly enough, I just – I’m trying to remember the people who lived next door on Fourth Street. Of course, I knew them, their children grew up there. They’re (30:00) still there. When I sold, they said, “We’re going to move out, too.” Of course, they didn’t. Cause I saw them. It’s interesting. Within the last month, I’ve chatted with the Parskys. I’ve chatted with them, well, coming home from St. Peter’s Sunday.

DS:      Of your friends in the neighborhood, what was the feeling in those late ‘60s? Did you all feel you were doing something unique?

CM:     I don’t have any recollection. I didn’t have – I remember, when I came to town, I was going to a parish in Bala Cynwyd. That was when I first came to this area. (31:00) I met a former pastor – well, anyway, I was at St. John’s in Bala Cynwyd. And for a while I would drive out there from Fourth and Pine. And finally it dawned on me: here was St. Peter’s across the street. Why don’t I try there? And I think when I first started going there, Charlene Fulton was there [as interim rector].

DS:      And then you became very involved in St. Peter’s Church.

CM:     Yes, eventually very, very involved. [Laughs]

DS:      [Laughs] Did you join the Civic Association? Were you active?

CM:     I joined it and went to a few meetings and so on and so forth, but I was never involved in it, so to speak. I may still belong. I’ve forgotten. You can be a (32:00) member here [at Hopkinson House].

DS:      Any other stories about the history on the house?

CM:     No, but it just dawned on me: the woman was Mrs. June Mattice, who lived at 413 Pine Street.

DS:      Very good.

CM:     And that’s where my architect was renting a room on the top floor for a while. June Mattice.

DS:      June Mattice. That’s an old name. I remember her. She was very involved in the Civic Association. (33:00)

CM:     She moved up the street or something and then away. That house has gone through two or three owners since then. And I can’t remember the people that built the house on the vacant lot next to that. Because it’s been vacant now for years, because Joe McKone died.

DS:      Which vacant lot are we talking about?

CM:     Laura’s mother. Next to – you know where Mrs. Mattice lived?

DS:      Yes.

CM:     There was a vacant lot. That’s where I have a –

DS:      On the northeast corner? [417 Lawrence St., Joe McKone.]

CM:     On the northeast corner. Well, that’s where – by the way, here is a picture – I have a picture from 1860 of 401 Pine Street. And here’s that door we were talking about with the steps. Let’s see. (34:00)

DS:      Where did you get these pictures, C.J.?

CM:     They’re from the Historical Commission.

DS:      OK.

CM:     This is the Library Company, this one. This is a picture of the house before I started. There’s a picture with me in it. Oh, here it is. This is in the vacant lot next to where Mrs. Mattice lived. This is her wall.

[End of interview]

Transcriber’s note: in reviewing the draft of the transcript, Mr. Moore added that he dealt with Mae Belle (Mabs) Segal of the Redevelopment Authority. Also, he remembered that the name of the builder of the house at 401 Pine Street was Joseph Wetherill and it was built in 1790.



© 2009 Project Philadelphia 19106™. All rights reserved.

About the Interview

Dorothy Stevens
Cynthia J. Eiseman
Interview Location
604 S Washington Square
Interview Date
May 8, 2009
Moore, C. J.
Narrator Type
Redeveloper - Restoration
Oral History Sources