South Philly firehouse headed for demolition?

TOM GRALISH / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER A historic, 19th-century firehouse in South Philly may be torn down.
TOM GRALISH / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER A historic, 19th-century firehouse in South Philly may be torn down.
Posted: July 08, 2013

DOES ENGINE 46, the empty, eye-catching firehouse that lords over a chunk of South Philly, have a date with a wrecking ball?

That's been the buzz around Pennsport since reports first surfaced in the spring that a demolition permit had been tacked to a window of the 119-year-old building, which sits at Reed and Water streets.

The news website PlanPhilly reported last month that Cedar Realty Trust, the New York-based company that owns the firehouse and the nearby Riverview movie theater, had indeed filed for a demolition permit in January and February.

Whether the company still plans to tear down the old firehouse is unclear.

There's no sign of any demolition permit on the imposing, redbrick building, which sits directly across from the I-95 overpass. A Cedar Realty representative did not respond yesterday to a request for comment.

A smile crept across the face of Mary Ann McHugh, 76, as she eyed the vacant firehouse from her front door a few blocks away on Reed Street near Howard.

"I remember when it was an active firehouse," she said. "They had a big Dalmatian called 'Bum,' and he used to run down the street and hop on the back of the truck when they were going out."

PlanPhilly reported that Engine 46 remained an active firehouse until 1957. It had a 10-year run as a steakhouse that ended in 2006.

"In a way, I guess it would be sad if they tore it down," McHugh said. "But every empty lot around here is getting built on."

Across the street, Charlie Piechoski craned his neck toward the firehouse and grimaced.

"I'm surprised it stayed empty this long. It's not like it's falling apart inside," he said.

"It's a pretty building. It'd be a shame to see it go."

Despite its ancient, awe-inspiring stature, Engine 46 was never awarded a historic designation.

PlanPhilly reported that a citizen recently nominated the building to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places, but the nomination letter was incomplete.

An official from the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia could not be reached for comment.


On Twitter: @dgambacorta

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