Now covered in tin siding and somewhat forgotten in West Philly, a late 19th-century building designed by famed Philly architect Frank Furness, is getting a second chance at life.
The building, which was designed in 1874 and sits at the corner of 40th and Ludlow Streets, was purchased by development company U3 Ventures last year. They plan to start renovations this summer and hope to be finished bringing the structure back to its former glory by the end of the year, said Tom Lussenhop, president of U3 Ventures.
That’s no small feat. The three-story building is currently covered in tin siding on the first level, which the developers hope to tear down to reveal the ground floor beauty beneath. They’ll also need to restore the windows and the roof and put in a new electrical system, Lussenhop said.
The building underwent its first big renovation in 1927, when the second floor was split into two stories. The developers hope to bring it back to that early 20th-century style. The renovations will cost around $2.5 million, $250,000 of which is coming from a state grant called a Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grant. U3 Ventures has also gotten the building listed on the federal register as an historic building, Lussenhop said.
It’s a big undertaking, but it’s worth it, he says, for the building he calls a West Philly “castle.” In addition to its three stories and Center City views, the building also has columns and 17 foot high ceilings on the first floor, Lussenhop said.
But its most notable aspect may be its designer, Frank Furness, who’s also responsible for the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, The Girard Trust Bank and The Fisher Fine Arts Library. Furness made an indelible mark on the face of Philadelphia and surrounding towns, even though many of his estimated 200 works have since been demolished. He also influenced many young architects, including Louis Sullivan—known as the “father of modernism”—who once did an apprenticeship at Furness’s office.
It’s partly for Furness, partly for the beauty of the building itself, that Lussenhop said he’s had his eye on 22 South 40th Street for the better part of a decade.
“It had been so disguised over the years,” Lussenhop said, adding that he knew the potential that lay under the tin. “You can go from something as ordinary and humble as it is today, to what it can become.”