Even as the construction plans were being made, they got a phone call out of the blue.
"A friend of ours suggested that we have a look at a home just a block away, on Pine Street," says Bob. "I agreed, privately thinking it was a waste of time."
But the moment he set foot into that three-story space dating back to the early 1800s, Bob was smitten. Even though it had been through many incarnations, most recently carved up into a series of small offices for an AIDS clinic, he called his very pregnant and startled wife and suggested she join him.
"The place didn't even have a single full bathroom or a real kitchen," says Bob, "and even though we're not usually people who act on impulse, I just sensed that this could be a great family house."
Debbie agreed. Three weeks later, the Fleischmans had signed on the dotted line, knowing they faced an enormous renovation project.
Every room in the house needed something, and many rooms needed everything. The house was decidedly a work in progress when they moved in just a few months after buying it in 1997.
A public relations specialist for nonprofits, Debbie kept reminding herself that renovation is a bit like childbirth: Once it's over, you forget the pain.
She also recalls thinking maybe the house would finally be finished by the time of new baby Abraham's bar mitzvah. She wasn't far off.
Debbie and Bob have spent years making the Pine Street place their own, and, yes, everything was basically finished when Abe was a bar mitzvah two years ago. Their house is a tribute to their patience, their sweat equity and, in many ways, their deep connection to Judaism.
Every Friday night, the Fleischmans' dining room - an expansive, art-filled room on the second floor - is filled with friends with whom they celebrate a Shabbat (Sabbath) meal. Jewish holidays are always special.
Five bedrooms have served the family well. Three active children, two now grown and gone, happily took over the third floor; the master suite is on the second.
But it is the second-floor kitchen that is undeniably the heart of this home. Initially, the emphasis was on simply creating a kitchen where there had been none, and on adding a deck just beyond it.
Three years ago, they did an additional kitchen renovation, moving the sink for maximum utility - and for better views of a neighbor's beautiful urban garden.
"We can enjoy it without maintaining it," Bob says wryly.
The charming first-floor living room is another much-used space, the polar opposite of a "don't touch" showplace. In it, the Fleischmans have many of their treasures from extensive travel - and from their collection of Judaica.
Masks from various cultures and countries create a fascinating focal point on one wall, and a lighted curio cabinet on another contains Debbie's collection of miniature pianos. A full-sized piano occupies another space, testimony to her longstanding devotion to piano study.
Puppets and dolls, each with a history - a replica of a hot-air balloon from Venice and even a hanging replica of an early "flying machine" from Prague - are part of the eclectic mix and a nod to Bob's fascination with aviation.
During Hanukkah, the celebration of Jewish freedom from ancient Syrian tyranny that begins this year on Wednesday evening, the family's remarkable collection of menorahs becomes even more significant. The menorah is the candelabrum that holds eight candles, with a ninth, known as the shamash, typically set above or below the others.
The Fleischmans' menorahs come in all shapes, themes, and sizes, and include traditional pieces along with those made of Murano art glass, one designed in an airplane motif, and a rare combination of a dreidl (a spinning top) configured as a menorah.
There are folk-art menorahs, modern sculptural menorahs, and a newly purchased one that captivated Debbie when she saw it in the current "Touch of Glass" menorah collection at the Gershman Jewish Y in Philadelphia.
"We're so glad that our home reflects our interests, including our Judaism. . . . And we're really glad," says Debbie, "that, for now at least, no more renovations!"