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Architects granted award for restoration of 1912 automat

They renovated the Steele Building in center city

A center city building, which used to house the once-popular Horn & Hardart’s Automat, has undergone a restoration, bringing the building back to its 1912 glory and winning the architects recognition in the process.

DAS Architects will be given an award for restoring the Steele Building at 15 South 11th Street during the Preservation Achievement Awards in June, according to an announcement this month.

“(The Steele Building) was derelict for years before our client, Brickstone Realty, purchased it.” David A. Schultz, AIA, co-founder and principal of DAS Architects said in a statement.

During the renovations, DAS Architects replaced the windows, repaired tile floors and the lobby’s marble staircase, and restored the terra cotta fleur-de-lis cornice, the statement said. The renovations were completed last year.

But The Steele Building has something unique about it. The towering white structure was once home to a popular Philly staple: the automat. Some may remember the automat, a well-known early and mid-20th century invention, in which customers would feed nickels into the wall and get out ready-made food in return.

Automats have been long-gone from most cities—the last one closed in New York in the early 1990’s—, but the newly renovated Steele Building is paying homage, in a way, to the former vending machine-restaurant. The first floor, where the automat used to be, now holds Honeygrow, a Philly start-up that serves healthy food.

The upper levels of the building, which were once home to garment manufacturers, now hold office spaces.

“The Steele Building is at the center of the Midtown Village revival, surrounded by apartment, bars, restaurants, shops and gyms. It’s another place for creative Philadelphians to thrive,” said Susan Davidson, IDC, co-founder and principal of DAS Architects.

The firm will be presented with a Grand Jury award from the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia in June.

  • The old Horn and Hardart automats of Philadelphia [Curbed Philly]

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