Neighbors Patrol Palumbo's Ruins

Posted: August 30, 1994

For their own safety and to prevent further vandalism, a group of neighborhood "town watchers" has started night and early-morning patrols around the burned ruins of the Palumbo Cafe-Restaurant in South Philadelphia.

The Bella Vista Community Association took the action following last Thursday's three-alarm fire at the CR Club. The club was the only portion of the restaurant complex that remained standing after a four-alarm fire destroyed the 100-year-old landmark at 824 Catharine St. on June 20.

The fire marshal's office has ruled both fires arsons. No arrests have been made in connection with the fires.

The block-long property is being demolished.

"Until it's leveled, the people won't feel safe," said Christine Mascuilli, the association's secretary. "We're concerned for the safety of the people who live around there."

Last Thursday's fire, which some neighbors believe was started by scavengers, left six families homeless and forced the evacuation of several homes. No one was injured.

Mascuilli said vandalism, thefts and scavenging have been "ongoing" since the June fire.

"People in the community have told me people go in there with blowtorches looking for copper tubing," Mascuilli said. "One man said he saw two men coming out in broad daylight with a case of liquor."

Mascuilli said the group has spoken with Frank Palumbo Jr. about possibly employing private guards, but was told the June fire and demolition costs prevented him from hiring a security detail.

However . . .

In return for Bella Vista residents keeping an eye on the place during the day and its town watchers patrolling at night, Palumbo has given the association space to use as an office in a neighborhood building he owns. It will be the group's first in more than 50 years.

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