The house was declared "a hazard to the health and safety" of occupants and the public in a 1987 violation notice from the city's Department of Licenses and Inspections (L&I). But even after the city went to court against property owner William McCabe, neighbors complained that the house continued as an unlicensed rooming home that was filled with late-night noise and strewn with garbage, high weeds and raw sewage.
Neighbors said they have not seen McCabe since last year, and that vagrants began using the house at night.
The turning point came in August. In response to another demand for action by neighbors, the Holmesburg Civic Association and City Councilwoman Joan Krajewski, L&I reinspected the house and declared it a "public nuisance"
because it appeared to be vacant, open and abandoned.
"I guess they were worried that we would block Rhawn and Frankford," Gronendahl said, referring to residents' threats to stage a street protest.
McCabe did not respond to the public nuisance declaration with a cleanup plan, as required, so L&I on Aug. 28 and 29 boarded up the house and trimmed overgrown weeds and bushes, said L&I spokeswoman Cynthia Bayete.
McCabe, 60, has been in Graterford Prison since December on an unrelated offense. He is serving a sentence of one to two years for risking and endangering another person, according to prison records.
Gronendahl and Dence said the initial "clean and seal" work left much to be desired. Garbage and shrubbery clippings littered the yard, and a second- floor rear entrance remained open.
However, the civic association subsequently was allowed to remove a makeshift set of wooden steps from the rear of the twin to prevent vagrants
from getting inside, Gronendahl said.
And after several residents hauled tires, a refrigerator and a freezer from the sideyard to the curb, city crews collected the items in early September, Dence said.
"It looks very, very good," she said. "It doesn't look like the same property. Every single piece of debris is gone. . . . It's safer for us all."