The prettiest block in Mayfair

Posted: June 13, 2007

A little bit of Merion lies nestled off Frankford Avenue in the heart of the Great Northeast. It's very little: One single block lined with stately sycamores and populated by a stately variety of Tudor-style homes with immaculate flowering gardens. And as residents describe it, it's more Mayberry than Mayfair.

"It's almost nauseating how nice it is," says Elizabeth Ward, a nurse-practitioner and nursing instructor who moved with her husband onto the 3200 block of Brighton Street nine years ago. "It's perfect-perfect living. It's something out of a storybook."

The prettiest block was the brainchild of a starry-eyed developer who not only had the largess to leave side yards between the attached double homes but also built the houses like tanks. Houses on the 3200 block of Brighton Street have steel beams in the basement, overlaid with concrete floors: great for a nuclear crisis, not so great for the cable guy. Ward forewarns all her home-improvement contractors to bring a concrete bit for their drills.

Everyone in Mayfair seems to know the address, along with the advanced level of difficulty involved in buying a home there. "You never see a house go for sale on that block," says Joe Mallamaci, who runs Tony's Place, the Northeast's acclaimed purveyor of tomato pies. "If you do, it sells by word of mouth."

Like Wisteria Lane, though, the 3200 block of Brighton Street has sadness beneath its sunny exterior; in this case the taint of dashed dreams.

Its developer didn't tend to the balance sheet as carefully as he did to the streetscape, and he went bankrupt when the Depression hit.

The block, which he envisioned as the first of many storybook lanes for middle-class living, instead became the rare exception. *

- Becky Batcha

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