In recent years, the century-old building has housed a furniture store on the first floor and has been put up for sale at least twice. It had also once been a warehouse and a dance hall before serving for 40 years as a gym for boxers.
By naming the gym to the list of endangered historic places, preservationists hope to encourage efforts to save it from demolition or major alterations.
"Joe Frazier was a sports legend, and he deserves a place that celebrates his legacy and his contributions to the sport of boxing," Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust, said in a statement. "Without question, Joe Fraziers’s Gym is an important historic and cultural site, and bringing both protection and recognition to this site by placing it on the local and national registers would be a fitting tribute to one of our greatest athletes of all time."
An announcement is to take place at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Architectural Building at Temple University at 13th and Norris streets.
Dennis Playdon, an adjunct professor of architecture, had just started teaching a class in architectural preservation at Temple last fall, when, while driving to school one day, he noticed the gym was for sale. He would later learn the asking price was about $1 million.
"I got alarmed, because I was quite a fan of Joe Frazier’s," Playdon said Tuesday. He said his students were shocked when Frazier died a few months later as they were researching the history of the building and Frazier’s life.
The students nominated the building as a historic site to the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia. Their success there got the attention of the National Trust.
Playdon’s students are continuing to work to nominate the gym for the city’s Register of Historic Places.
Under the law, any citizen can nominate a building as a historic site, whether the owner agrees or not, the professor said.
"History belongs to everybody and especially to the neighborhood," Playdon said. "It [the gym] is a very important monument to the neighborhood." n
Contact Valerie Russ at 215-854-5987 or firstname.lastname@example.org