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Stunning: Wanamaker's Carriage House for $1.5 Million

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Interior photos by Floyd Dean.

Jeff Carpenter's first trip to look at houses in Philadelphia didn't go as planned. On the way to meet with a real estate agent in the summer of 2009, the then-New York-based artist was impressed by a historic carriage house at 18th and Brandywine. As he and his partner drove by, he craned his neck and saw a For Sale By Owner sign on the property—a sign the home's owner had just placed outside that morning.

Carpenter says that serendipity amazed longtime Philadelphians. "You just moved to Philadelphia? How did you get that?" they'd say. "I've wanted that for 20 years!"

The 19th-century building originally belonged to Wanamaker's department store, the story goes; it was where the grand dame of Philadelphia retail kept its hansom carriages for parades. Carpenter thinks the carriage house was probably completely open at one point, but by the time he began the renovation in the beginning of 2010, there were a number of details—some of them quite major—that had most likely been added later: the walls, for one thing, and a partial ceiling that opened the second floor up to the roof.

Though the renovation was quite extensive (Carpenter and his partner moved out for a year), it was done with the history of the building in mind. "We cut a new stairway," Carpenter recalls, "and where we removed that flooring, we used it in other areas. We used quite a lot of original material in the renovation." They even took one large truss from the roof that was part of the hoist and gave it to the mill to make into new stairs.

Unfortunately, Carpenter and his partner broke up during the renovation, which would have made living there together a little awkward. So they decided to sell. A savvy neighbor advised them to go the For Sale By Owner route. "We did try that at first because she said it was definitely the way to go. We had it on the market for about six months." When that didn't work, they decided to rent it out. "We actually had a tenant and he turned out to be a problem."

Now Carpenter and his co-owner are working with Joanne Davidow, Philadelphia real estate's whirling dervish, to sell the property. They're in good hands. With Davidow on the case, we're guessing it won't take long.

Size: 2 beds, 3 baths, 3,699 square feet
Extras: Elevator, artist's studio
Price: $1,495,000

· Listing: 1741 Brandywine Street [Prudential Fox & Roach]