On the House: 'Town by Town' series offers more

Posted: May 20, 2013

I've grown fond of "Town by Town," the Sunday Business section feature, not only for what it contributes to my understanding of local real estate but also for the ways it expands my knowledge of other things.

For example, predictions of the death of mom-and-pop real estate firms have been exaggerated greatly. Virtually every one of the communities and neighborhoods I've highlighted these last six months has at least one of these supposedly deceased businesses.

Starting in the early to mid-1990s, there was a rash of acquisitions of smaller firms by larger ones, and predictions were that only "boutique" firms - those specializing in a certain kind of real estate (condos, for example) - would survive.

That's just not the case. Many of these firms handle commercial and residential sales and property management. Their brokers or sales staffs are sort of household names in their communities.

It gives me, and you, a broader perspective of the market by adding to the number of sources - both mom-and-pop and larger brokerages - I can use to paint this regular Sunday portrait.

I have three days at the most to get the sense of the place I'm writing about any given week, and the focus is, of course, real estate. A lot of what I find you don't get to read.

When I wrote about West Deptford a few weeks back, I originally started the piece by talking about sitting on a bench near the town's kayak launch on the Delaware, and watching plane after plane take off from Philadelphia International Airport across the river.

Real estate took precedence, and the focus changed. But I do suggest a visit to the West Deptford shoreline, and a side trip to Red Bank Battlefield Park in National Park, just a mile or so down the road.

Then there's Soupy Island, not really an island but 15 acres along the Delaware River in West Deptford that has been providing a respite for inner-city children since 1877.

The area at Front Street and Red Bank Avenue is officially the Sanitarium Playground, originally intended for Philadelphia children suffering from tuberculosis.

The playground was initially on an island but was moved to its present location in 1886. The kids were transported by ferries - there were no bridges until the Ben Franklin in 1926 - from Philadelphia to the playground every day in July and August to "take the air" and have some fun.

The reason it's called Soupy Island? Apparently, each child was given a container of soup for lunch. From various sources, I learned that thousands of locals were fed there during the Great Depression.

These days, operating through an endowment, Soupy Island - Campbell Soup Co. financed a playground makeover in 2008 - plays host to hundreds of city kids during the summer, who get to use the two swimming pools and the working carousel.

When I mentioned Soupy Island to some people, they thought I was talking about Soupy Sales, the slapstick comic who died in 2009.


On the House: Town by Town

In the Sunday Business section, Alan J. Heavens takes a look at real estate and life throughout the region. This week's focus: Chadds Ford.


Contact Alan J. Heavens at 215-854-2472, aheavens@phillynews.com or @alheavens at Twitter.

 

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