Art deco distinctiveness with the modern touches Built in '29, the building once was medical offices and laboratories. The apartments are new.

Posted: November 15, 2002

The brown-brick, art deco building at 19th and Lombard Streets, constructed in 1929 as the Philadelphia School of Occupational Therapy, was a modest two stories, but perhaps it suggested higher aspirations.

Above a bluestone water table, two-story brick pilasters capped with decorative sandstone chevrons reached skyward. In 1939, an unadorned third story was added, to provide the successful school with additional space.

More recently, the building served as physicians' offices and laboratories for Graduate Hospital. Then it underwent a major change of purpose, becoming an apartment building.

For some of its new residents, the transformation was just what the doctor ordered.

"I had looked for months and months and months for the right place . . . this was brand new, and I felt it just fit me," said Frank Rich, 33, an IT communications director for Loews Philadelphia Hotel. A resident since August, Rich said: "Being the first one in the apartment very much appealed to me, and I liked the area. It's a very unique building with a lot of character . . . and the price was right."

Preserved architectural details include an unusual front steel door set in a decidedly deco carved-sandstone surround. Below the first-story windows is a ribbon of sculptural-iron side panels portraying laborers and tradesmen.

Beyond the controlled-access entrance (featuring closed-circuit television and intercom), and reached via one elevator and the original stairway of terrazzo treads and metal risers, each floor has four apartments and a laundry room. Studio units (600 square feet) rent for $800 to $900; one-bedroom units (700 to 850 square feet) rent for $950 to $1,150. Cats are permitted, for a fee, but dogs are not allowed.

Shannon Foy, 27, a manager for sales and marketing at Comcast Cable, moved in about the same time as Rich.

"I liked being close to Rittenhouse Square, but far enough away so that you're not paying a huge premium. I came from Florida, where everything is new and modern, so I like that it's an older building. I like the architecture . . . it has character," Foy said.

"I especially like that it has the old-building feel with a new interior. I think [the developer] did really well with the apartments," she said. "The countertops are beautiful, and the huge windows have marble sills. The apartment is a nice size, with high ceilings. Each apartment is different. Mine has hardwood floor in the living area and carpet in the bedroom, and a big bath."

Central air-conditioning, and a thoroughly modern kitchen - with granite countertops, pass-through and breakfast bar, and a full complement of appliances, including a dishwasher and microwave oven - are part of each unit. Entryway, kitchen, and bath have floors of ceramic tile; all other rooms have hardwood or wall-to-wall carpet. The large windows are one of the perks of a converted commercial building.

". . . And the people in management are very nice, very genuine," Rich said. "If I call with anything, they're pretty quick to respond."

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