William Leatherbee

William (Bill) Leatherbee and his wife Tabitha may have saved 333 S. Sixth Street from the wrecking ball when they bought it in 1964. They did not move into it for three years. It had not been occupied for decades and needed a great deal of work, including stairs between the floors. Until the stairs were built, they used ladders, which their four-year-old daughter thought was great fun. Bill had recently completed graduate school in architecture at Penn and wanted to put his architectural training to use for himself and his family. He describes the renovations made to the house. Bill joined the group of Society Hill residents who sought to build housing for long-time neighbors who had been displaced by redevelopment. The group formed a nonprofit organization called Benezet Court to study the problem, find some sites, and identify a developer who knew about subsidized housing. Opposition to the idea developed among some Society Hill property owners, and Alan Halpern held many meetings of advocates for both positions; but they were not able to reach an agreement. Meanwhile, the displaced residents hired a lawyer from Community Legal Services and brought a lawsuit against HUD and the Redevelopment Authority for failure to provide housing that had been promised to them. Ultimately, the plaintiffs won the suit and housing was built. Bill talks about his two daughters (thirteen years apart in age), their experiences growing up in Society Hill, and the effects on them as adults. He talks about the schools they attended and why. He describes some of the recreational activities the neighbors pursued together. He concludes by discussing some of the restoration work he designed for his neighbors on Delancey, Sixth and Pine Streets. Keywords: Sally Aiken, Baldwin School, Benezet Court, candy store, Community Legal Services, Samuel Emlen, four-inch party wall, German shepherd, hardware store, Masterman School, McCall School, Owen Lowry, St. Peter’s School, subsidized housing, Bedel Toy


DS: This is an interview with William Leatherbee. The date April 5, 2008. The interviewer is Dorothy Stevens, and the location is 116 Delancey Street.

[Tape is turned off, then on again]

DS: OK, Bill, tell me when did you come to Society Hill?

WL: I first saw a shell on Sixth Street in 1964, and we actually closed on it with the Old Philadelphia Development Corporation at the end of ’64. It took a while to do the design and renovation, and we moved in on Memorial weekend 1967.

DS: What was the address of this building?

WL: 333 South Sixth Street. It was truly a shell, and later on I discovered on looking at the original redevelopment plan that it was due to be demolished, along with most of that block, which would have included 331 through 337. It was full of pigeons, and (1:00) the windows were missing. In fact, the first thing I had to do was buy a ladder to get to the second and subsequent floors.

DS: There was no staircase?

WL: There was a staircase, but it was falling down, in the back. It was built in 1809 by a mason named Bedell Toy, sold to him by Samuel Emlen, Gentleman. We actually had the original deed. Sorry to say when my wife [Tabitha] and I separated, and I don’t know what happened to that deed.

It was very interesting. It was built as Bedell Toy’s house, and then some time later, maybe in 1820, that early, it was converted to a store on the first floor. The first floor was lowered, and there were two entrances. And there was a back addition put on, pretty typical of row houses then. The extension in the back where the stair was relocated, I should say. There was a door on the south side of the front, which led to a long hall down to the back and the stairs. And the first floor was at various times a hardware store, a storage for a hardware store, a candy factory – which we learned from our neighbor, who was still operating the dry cleaners down at 335, next door.

We were the first on the block. I had a wife and a 4-year-old daughter. When we moved in, we couldn’t afford to finish the house. When we moved, the stair was still being built in the middle of the house. The contractor provided us with (3:00) ladders. My 4-year-old thought that was great. [Laughs] We had to go down below her or come up behind her, just to feel safe, and we had to build temporary railings. We had a two-story space from the basement up to the first floor ceiling, and we put on a balcony in front, which became a library. Across, you could call it a bridge, to a music room in the back of the first floor overlooking the garden. Then the stair was part of that and was open to a two-story living room in the basement. The dining room with a window to a dug-out garden and a kitchen were all in the basement. The living and dining areas were flooded with light because it was a two-story space. (4:00)

When we moved in, there had been several rapes in the neighborhood. So that was a concern. But we had a big, white German shepherd, sort of a puppy still [Laughs]. He was pretty intimidating. My wife felt perfectly comfortable walking him.

DS: There was nobody living [there] when you bought it.

WL: Oh, no. Well, some pigeons. [Laughs] No human beings had lived there for many, many years. I don’t know how long. But probably at least 60 years, probably back to the beginning of the century.

DS: It went up four stories?

WL: Well, it was three, three full stories and a dormer attic. We cut out (5:00) most of the fourth floor and just had a balcony in the front and preserved the dormer. The dormer in the back was falling off; we just took it off. In the back, the Historical Commission wasn’t concerned with it, because you couldn’t see it from any street. The front, of course, you could. We restored that with proper windows and door and door surround in Georgian – not Georgian, Federal period style, which is what that house would have been dated. But the back was fairly contemporary with casement windows and stucco.

DS: The Historical Commission told you what you had to do in the front? Did they have pictures of it? Or did you have pictures of it?

WL: I had pictures from the Redevelopment Authority of what it looked like in the 1950s. You could tell by the cars when the pictures were taken. And then – (6:00)

DS: Do you still have those pictures?

WL: Yes. I do. And of course, pictures of the finished house. And we got the historical plaque after a few years, when we finally got the shutters on.

DS: Did you have any trouble with the Redevelopment Authority?

WL: No, I had – I think that was in the days when the Redevelopment Authority was very good. They had good leadership. And they really wanted to get Society Hill developed. I even got a three percent government loan, what was part of a Redevelopment grant, a grant/loan, I guess. However, the irony of that was that I had to prove that I didn’t need it before I could get it.

DS: That you didn’t need it? (7:00)

WL: Well, [Laughs] I paid off a construction loan and part of the first mortgage with the proceeds with that and that came on as a second mortgage. It was kind of a funny – I had a job with an architectural firm. I was starting out as an architect. I kind of say that maybe ironically. You had to qualify as being creditworthy.

DS: But you didn’t have any trouble getting it?

WL: No, it was a lot of paperwork and it took a while.

DS: Why did you and your wife – why were you interested?

WL: We lived in an apartment on 22 nd Street in Center City. We had moved in when I was in graduate school at Penn in architecture. We lived out in southwest Philadelphia. We had always wanted to move to Center City. We found an apartment on (8:00) 22 nd Street and lived there, I guess – by the time we moved there it was almost, probably three years. I just wanted to put my architectural training into something for ourselves. It was just serendipitous, I guess. I found a shell that we could totally renovate for $2,800 from the Redevelopment Authority.

DS: Did you go to them, or did you find it by yourself first?

WL: I guess I got a list of properties from OPDC [Old Philadelphia Development Corporation] and then went to look at them. I know my parents came down at one point, and after we had at least signed the agreement, I don’t remember if we had bought it actually or not, I thought they would say, “What are you doing this for?” It turns out, they thought it was a great idea. Get our own house for a reasonable cost.

DS: And they were not appalled by the condition?

WL: No, they were not appalled by it. Well, maybe they were, but they didn’t say they were.

DS: And your wife’s parents? How did they feel?

WL: Her father had passed away a few years before that. Her mother was enthusiastic, too.

DS: And your friends thought this was fine?

WL: Most of our friends at that point were either other architects, or my wife was taking modern dance classes and subsequently joined a dance company locally. So they were – they thought it was great, I guess.

DS: All city folk?

WL: Yes, pretty much all city folk. I could just add it took us three or four years (10:00) to really finish the inside. I built all the closets. We didn’t have any finished floors. We lived on a concrete floor in the basement. Subflooring on the first and second floors. Finally, we got carpet. We got insulated, but we didn’t have finished trim around windows and doors. It was in stages that we finally got that done. It was kind of rough living for a while, but it was ours. And we were in our 20s and it didn’t matter. [Laughs]

DS: So, you said how much you paid for it. How much would you think you put into it in the restoration?

WL: Probably about $30,000 to move in, and then another – I don’t know – probably 10 or 20 to finish it off.

DS: Did you do a lot of the work yourself? (11:00)

WL: Yes, I built all the closets and – I didn’t do flooring or – some dry walling I did. I wasn’t very good at that. I did a lot of the carpentry, but we did hire a carpenter to do trim work, the really tricky stuff that I didn’t feel qualified to do. Did all the garden. Built concrete steps in the garden myself. Laid brick and paving in the garden. We had a two-level garden because of the dining area downstairs.

DS: Do you remember what the real estate taxes were at that time?

WL: Gosh, I don’t. I know I got hit with a tax bill in ’67 or 8 that went back to ’64, because that’s when I bought – officially went on the tax rolls, I guess, as the new owner. It was in the low hundreds, I think, because it was a vacant building, and it took (12:00) a while. I don’t remember what we ended up paying in taxes. I think it was probably somewhere around $2,000 a year. And it was all incorporated in the mortgage payments.

DS: [inaudible] Tell me about your involvement with the Benezet Court group.

WL: OK. I was a member of the Civic Association, and perhaps Phil Price – or maybe it was David [Stevens] – was President of the Association in the mid 70s?

DS: David was in the late 60s. But it could have been Paul Putney or it could have been Carter Buller.

WL: Either one of those two. I remember the group of former residents who had been displaced by the Redevelopment Authority. Dorothy Miller – I’m trying to (13:00) remember the name – Mabel Dobson – and the group that they kind of organized had been promised housing in Society Hill by the Redevelopment Authority at the time that the buildings they lived in were bought up for resale to developers as market-rate housing. Twenty years went by, and the Redevelopment Authority never did anything for them. They finally came to the Civic Association and asked for help.

The President of the Civic Association at that time – and I think you’re right; it was either Carter [Buller] or Paul Putney. They wanted to form a group that would study the problem and identify some sites. Actually, some sites were already identified. One was right across (14:00) the street from our house, which was Delancey and Sixth Street. Another was Sixth and Pine on the southeast corner. And the other was Sixth and Lombard. They were all on Sixth Street, within a block.

Lou Reed, who lived on Sixth Street in the block between Pine and Lombard, and I and a group of people – Sam Maitin was one – formed a nonprofit, Benezet Court, to see how we could get a developer. We were – I suppose some people may have thought of us as a developer, but we thought of ourselves as (15:00) a catalyst for a developer, for somebody else who really knew how to do subsidized housing. We hired an architect, who presented some schematic proposals. I guess about the same time, a lot of opposition kind of coalesced, and the Civic Association doubled or even tripled membership and turned against the whole idea of housing for displaced former residents of Society Hill.

DS: The increase of people into the Civic Association were people who were against Benezet Court?

WL: Well, it seemed that way. The Civic Association turned around and no longer supported Benezet. Then Alan – who lived right down here – (16:00)

DS: Halpern?

WL: Halpern, right, contacted us at Benezet Court and also people who led the opposition – and some of those names I just don’t remember – to see if we could work some compromise and come up with a plan. We met, gosh, I think dozens of times, mostly at Alan’s house. Nothing really came of that. At the same time, this group, Mabel Dobson, had gone to Community Legal Services, and a young lawyer, Sally Aiken, represented them. They ended up suing HUD and the Redevelopment Authority for housing that had been promised to them. I think this now was the early ‘80s, and finally HUD (17:00) did issue a – or the Redevelopment Authority – a Request for Proposals for developing those three lots for subsidized housing. A developer was found, the housing was built. Let’s see, it was built probably by ’83; and as far as I know, and at least while we lived there, it was well maintained. Dorothy Miller was a crossing guard, until she retired, at Sixth and Pine. My oldest daughter, when she went to McCall, used to take her birthday cake – share her birthday cake with Dottie Miller. The housing did get built. These people were able to come back and live there, but I think it tore the neighborhood (18:00) apart quite a bit. Several of us, including myself and Lou Reed, went and talked with Richardson Dilworth at his house. He supported it, but he wasn’t out front. He was retired, even from the School Board, at that point. Lou Reed had his car’s tires slashed during these whole years. I had a flyer stuck under my door with a Nazi swastika [Laughs]. It got nasty at times.

DS: Yes. People were very passionate.

WL: Yes, and the attorney who represented the opposition, and he taught at Temple, I’d recognize his name if I heard it, but I just can’t think of it – Owen Lowry – (19:00) he wrote a brief in support of the opposition, why these people shouldn’t live here. One of his arguments was that they can’t afford the same things that people in market rate housing can, and why should they have subsidized housing in an area that had market-rate housing, and so forth. They lost, of course, because the case was adjudicated in Federal court.

DS: Thank goodness.

WL: Yes. Lou Reed moved to Washington, changed jobs; I became President then of Benezet Court. Let’s see, I guess the Redevelopment Authority hired the (20:00) architect to design the houses. Frankly, I don’t remember – they seem – they fit in adequately to the neighborhood. As far as I say – actually, they were better maintained than a lot of the houses.

DS: Who maintained them?

WL: The owner. They’re privately owned, I think under – at that time, was it Section 2? Not Section 8. There may be Section 8 now, but it was a law under Section 206 or something like that for rental housing. It subsidized private developers to build it and maintain it. To the best of my recollection. So many of these housing programs come and go that I can’t keep track.

DS: So you were part of the group that started Benezet. Why did you pick (21:00) Benezet?

WL: I think I have his first name correct – Anthony Benezet? I may not, but I’m pretty sure, he was an early black activist in Philadelphia, and there’s a Benezet Street in Mount Airy, I believe. But he seemed to represent what we were trying to do, to integrate both economically and racially Society Hill. And because these people lived here, and they had been, you could say, unfairly displaced or displaced for market reasons, not for legitimate [reasons]. So that we felt that it was an important issue.

DS: What has happened to the group now? The Benezet group?

WL: Who were on Benezet?

DS: You were the head of it with others? Mr. Reed left. Then what happened (22:00) to it?

WL: Well, we stayed with it. I as an architect did consultation with CLS (Community Legal Services) and Sally Aiken. I looked over all the plans that the Redevelopment Authority had developed with their architect for the housing and made suggestions to CLS and to the group. I met with Dorothy Miller; she was the active representative of the clients. And one of our board members – and Sam Maitin was active in talking with people and persuading people that this was an issue that they should get involved in. Kind of a side thing was that we had a board member; I think his name was Joseph Centofante, who was an attorney, married to – his wife was an attorney also. She was very (23:00) much opposed, and he was on our board, and we didn’t know if he was really a top supporter of us or not, or whether [he] was a mole. [Laughs] Unfortunately, I don’t know if you remember – they split, and he tried – he shot her on the train. I guess he went to jail. I don’t know what – she survived, of course. Obviously, he dropped off our board.

DS: What happened to the board after the buildings were done? Did it dissolve?

WL: Well, yes, we dissolved. I don’t remember if formally we sent in something or not. [Laughs] If we’re on the state list of nonprofits. We haven’t been asked to file any forms; so we must be off it.

DS: Any other good stories? You were all in the Civic Association. Did this (24:00) dampen your desire to get involved in anything else?

WL: No, I was active with Town Watch, and we walked through the neighborhood in the middle of the night and made some new friends from meeting people. We’d just be paired, usually at least one man and a couple. We would test people’s doors to see if they were unlocked, and found some. We would see keys in doors. People would just forget and leave the key in the door. Gosh, I came home and found a key in my door, (25:00) too. My wife had come home and – or maybe it was my daughter. I don’t remember.

DS: Were you and your wife afraid in the neighborhood? I mean, did you – was this on your mind constantly?

WL: Not really. I think we were prepared in the – you could read this, I think maybe even in the Civic Association newsletter to remind people: don’t leave your car door open in front of your house when you’re unloading your groceries and leave your front door open. Somebody could come walking in, force their way in. My parents, when they came down to visit, left something in the car. The car was locked, but during the time they brought their luggage in and were going back for another piece of luggage, it was gone. They could see a guy carrying it away way down the street. I would say we weren’t skittish or afraid to go out or anything like that. (26:00)

DS: You walked the dog at all hours.

WL: Sure. There was a combination of old and new residents on the 500 block of Delancey Street. The old ones would particularly sit outside and watch the neighborhood, at least until dark. Then I think the newer residents adopted that, too. It was a nice, social block. Not so much on Sixth Street – Sixth Street being, I guess, a State highway. It has much more traffic, including buses, occasionally.

DS: You got to know the older people, who were born and raised in the neighborhood?

WL: Well, just a few. There was a guy named Max, who operated the cleaner’s next door. And he lived upstairs, so 335 was occupied. During the course of (27:00) Redevelopment he was somehow able to have a house renovated, and I think there was a major subsidy, because he was certainly a low-income person on Pine Street, actually. His house I think was bought by whoever built a very large residence, on two or three lots, I think, on the 600 block of Pine Street, to the corner, on the north side. He lived there, I guess, until he couldn’t live by himself any more.

DS: Any other original people?

WL: The architect [Adolph] DeRoy Mark lived around the corner. But he was like us, a recent – who renovated his house.

DS: Were the Buells there when you –? (28:00)

WL: Yes, they lived in 329, on the corner. Duncan and Sally Buell. They were renting. Let’s see; they were probably there two, maybe three years after we moved in. They had found a house, I think, in Queen Village or some place.

DS: The 100 block of Lombard is where they went next to restore. Any other older residents on your block that were on your block that gave you any stories?

WL: No, I had – most of my contact was with the newer residents.

DW: There wasn’t a bad feeling, or was there any kind of? Animosity?

WL: No, around the corner on Pine Street, there was still an active, small synagogue. People came from seemingly all directions to go to services there. I guess people who lived – Oh, there was a good friend of my oldest daughter’s on the 500 (29:00) block of Pine Street. She lived with her mother and her grandparents, who were original residents, or long-term residents. We knew her mother, not so much her grandfather.

DS: Was this the Powell family?

WL: No, I did know – now what’s her first name?

DS: The daughter was Gayle.

WL: Gayle babysat for my oldest, Leah. And her mother used to call me and ask what could I do to help get this housing. She was on the list – she did get on the list for the low-income housing and did finally get an apartment there. She was quite infirm, (30:00) hard to get around. She used to have McCall School children there for lunch. She would kind of oversee –

DS: She was paid to feed them?

WL: I think for them to go there and have a place to eat. Before, maybe, I’m not sure what McCall School offers in that respect. I know they never had a cafeteria. They never served food, but kids brought their lunch.

DS: Tell me about your daughters growing up. Where did they go to school? How did they feel about the neighborhood?

WL: First of all, I have two daughters. Rachel, the youngest, is 13 years younger; so there’s quite a gap. It’s like having two single children. Leah went to McCall, (31:00) starting in kindergarten, right across the street; it couldn’t be more convenient. And as I said before, she got to know Dottie Miller as the crossing guard. She learned Spanish in kindergarten. They were into it probably in the first grade. And Abe, the principal, I’m trying to think of his name, –

DS: Tobias?

WL: Tobias, yes, good, was a great principal. He created a structure and kind of discipline and knew every child there by first name. And after about the second grade, he retired, and a new principal came in. The whole atmosphere changed and became, I would say, chaotic. We suffered through the third grade and into the fourth and finally we pulled Leah out and were able to get her into St. Peter’s School. She finished most (32:00) of the fourth grade through the eighth at St. Peter’s. Then we found another private high school, Baldwin School, in Bryn Mawr, which was a shame to have to do, but we had a high priority on education, and the Philadelphia school system – there wasn’t Masterman then, there was Central High, but I think she –

DS: Teachers strikes.

WL: That’s right, major school strikes.

DS: And now that she’s an adult, how does she look back on her experience?

WL: Well, first of all, she lives in Manhattan, and she went to Barnard, and kind of bought the whole Manhattan, city, experience. And she’s lived there ever since. She worked for Jimmy Carter in Atlanta for a while, at the Carter Center, in human (33:00) rights and then went back to New York. So I think she looks back on her living in Society Hill and in the city as a good experience. She had friends, especially in her freshman year, who wouldn’t dare come into the city. Their parents said, “Oh, it’s full of crime. Why do you want to –?” And when they finally would come in to visit, and hang out with Leah, they really – then they wanted – there was so much more to do in the city. So I think at an early age she was pretty street-wise. Learned a lot about how to take care of herself.

And the same with my youngest, Rachel. She started off right away in St. Peter’s kindergarten, having gone to nursery school at Old Pine Community Center, which had just been built. I guess that was 1980 – no, 1978 or 9. So she went to St. Peter’s through the eighth grade. Again, we sent her to Germantown Friends School. (34:00)

DS: So they both had good educations and no bad memories of growing up –

WL: No. Well, personally, in our family, my wife and I split when Rachel was about 10. So I moved out. We had joint custody. So the house was sold in 1987.

DS: Nineteen eighty-seven.

WL: So we lived there 20 years.

DS: Did either of you stay in the city?

WL: I did. I bought, actually for speculation, a house in the 1200 block of (35:00) Panama Street, and I had rented it. And when it was available, I could move in. I’ve been in Center City since I graduated from graduate school, architectural degree. Grew up in the suburbs. So not around here.

DS: Do you have some old photographs of your house, before and after restoration?

WL: Yes, right.

DS: Any others of the neighborhood in the ‘50s?

WL: Not in the ‘50s. It was just the Redevelopment Authority photograph of our house with the two adjacent ones, part of the street frontage I would say. A fair number of pictures of our house, finished, was published in the Inquirer. It used to have a Today magazine, and it used to feature houses and apartments. And we were featured (36:00) in 1979. So there’s that history as well. Documentation. I’d be happy to share those if anyone asks.


[Tape is turned off, then on again]

DS: Let’s just –

WL: Joan Kerr Summers, Joan Kerr lived in the building at the corner of Delancey and Sixth that had apartments in it. It was not a typical row house. It’s four stories and had I don’t know how many apartments, six at least. And her boy, Jimmy. And Joan had a dance company – Joan Kerr Dance Company – and my wife at the time took some classes from her. Jimmy was known in the neighborhood. He was a nice boy. Another (37:00) thing I remember, an anecdote, I, along with another person, organized some touch football games in a vacant lot – in fact a lot that one of the low-income housing at Sixth and Pine. Jimmy used to come over and play with us, too. There were some other kids, and every time we had a play, it would end with him and the other guy roughhousing and just having a wonderful time wrestling on the ground. It was a real kind of neighborhood family type of gathering. There was probably half women, half men, kids. It was a lot of fun. I remember those fondly. Unfortunately, Joan died of melanoma, and Jimmy was – I think his father had died. They had been divorced. His father used to come (38:00) around and take Jimmy out at times to be together. But I think he was really orphaned when she died. I don’t know what happened to him

DS: How old was he?

WL: I think he was about 12, 10 or 12, somewhere in there, when she died. And I’d be curious to find out where he is now, what he’s doing.

[Tape is turned off, then on again]

WL: Sandy Heimowitz was a friend of my daughter Leah’s, also. So parents Marilyn and – I’m trying to think of his name – they lived in I guess an apartment in one of the row buildings on a block between Delancey and Spruce. As I said, Sandy (39:00) was in Leah’s class at McCall, and the Heimowitzes came to me. They got a house on Seventh Street between Cypress and Pine, and I did the architecture for them on that. I don’t know – Manny Heimowitz, Emanuel – and I think he worked for his uncle taking care of properties. And he was pretty handy and was able to get it done for less than it would [be] if he had hired a general contractor. And I also did some design work on 337 Sixth and did some consulting on 329 – did a feasibility study on what should be done. I did an addition on a house in the 300 – 311 — I’m not sure of the address but it was for a radiologist at Pennsylvania Hospital. (40:00)

DS: On what street?

WL: On Sixth.

DS: Were any of these houses as bad as yours in the beginning?

WL: Well, they were already living there and wanted to expand. I don’t know what the condition was before they moved in or whether they were the original renovators or not. I rather doubt that they were.

Three thirty-seven [South Sixth Street] – that was original, and they became good friends of ours, a young couple, a young family. Three thirty-five went through various owners, one of whom was renovating it himself. Didn’t have any heat in it. Pipes all froze. His pipes burst and flooded our living room. [Laughs] Including the ducts – I had ducts under the floor, because they warmed the floor, and that (41:00) was a good way to heat. It was hot air. So once the ducts filled up with water, we didn’t have any heat. So we had to spend a night or two in a hotel while they pumped the water out. I did a lot of the cleaning up myself in our house and threw my back out [Laughs], and the insurance company wouldn’t reimburse us for the work that I did, of course. But we did, we collected on insurance, the major part of insurance.

So renovation of adjacent properties was not – actually, before he finished, he died. And an older woman – and I say, older than us – by herself, was a realtor – bought it. She wanted to dig (42:00) down in the basement, and I was very concerned because they wanted to underpin the party wall, and I just had visions of structural damage. Luckily, nothing happened, and I was able to go next door and see the work being done and how it was being done and meet with the building inspector.

On the other side, between 333 and 331 [South Sixth St.], our original contractor discovered that the party wall was only four inches thick. [Laughs] I guess these houses were built at the same time. They scrimped them, and if you hear the expression, “They don’t build ‘em like they used to,” the correct response is, “Thank God they don’t.” [Laughs] They build them a lot better and there are a lot more controls.

DS: What did you do about the four-inch wall? (43:00)

WL: Well, we stripped it with wood studs and insulated for sound and felt that if the house had stood for 150 years with a four-inch party wall, we were probably OK. [Laughs] We had put additional structure in when we took out part of the fourth floor to make it a balcony over the third. We had put in a beam to carry the balcony, and another beam at the roof level, because the structure was no longer working as a triangulated structure. The fourth-floor joist would be running from front to back to tie the gabled roof together. And once you take out part of that floor and structure you no longer have that. We felt those beams stabilized even more that thin party wall. It wasn’t really – only when I first heard about it.

DS: Fire? Would there have been fire problems? (44:00)

WL: We did see the ends of adjacent floor structure, the joists. You would see the end of it, because it needed four inches of bearing; it came right through the wall. You would cover it with mortar. No, it wasn’t – it could have been a concern but it really wasn’t.

[End of interview]

©2008 Project Philadelphia 19106™. All rights reserved.

About the Interview

Dorothy Stevens
Cynthia J. Eiseman
Interview Location
116 Delancey Street
Interview Date
April 5, 2008
Leatherbee, William
Narrator Type
Redeveloper - Restoration
Oral History Sources