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Historical Victorian Home Scheduled for Bulldozer

The city approved demolition of 5901 Ridge Ave. Neighbors try to salvage property.

If all remains the same, an historical Victorian home at 5901 Ridge Ave. could be demolished within a few weeks. 

Residents near the stately multi-family home at the corner of Ridge and Roxborough Avenues scrambled Thursday to halt, or at least delay, the house's demolition, which was approved by the Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections Sept. 6.

The is working to prevent a demolition, but without a court injunction, bulldozers could level the building after Sept. 27.

"That's an absolute shame. As an old home owner in the area, these types of buildings are what is maintaining the charm Roxborough has left," Elysse Ricci Achuff said on the Roxborough-Manayunk Patch Facebook page.

The Bunting House

Called the Bunting House, after Dr. Ross Bunting, a trustee of the Roxborough Home for Indigent Women, according to The Roxborough Review, the home was believed to have been constructed in the 1880s. The property most recently served as the offices for Erb Law Firm and rental apartments. After it was sold earlier this year, tenants say they were evicted so a renovation could occur. Now, the only plan, according to city records, is demolition.

Mitchell Karp and Michelle Greenlee, an engaged couple, lived at the Bunting House until they received eviction notes in April, leaving in June. They were told remodelings and renovations were set for the historical home. Some of their neighbors even planned to move back in.

Karp said Giovannone Construction Inc., the new owners, seemed to care about preserving the home, and signs of improvement occurred. He said they completely modernized one unit and rented it out—raising rent, of course.

"They presented themselves as pretty nice people. They said they'd fix it, make it modern," he said. "Then we got an eviction notice... but the understanding was people could come back after they completed it."

A Lot of Nothing?

Giovannone Construction Inc. did not return a message for an interview. Joshua Cohen, a staff member for the councilman, did talk to the owner Thursday.

"According to him, he has plans to demolish it as it is structurally unsound and he does not have the finances to repair it," Cohen said. Other than creating a "vacant lot, he has no further plans on it."

Continue the conversation on the Roxborough-Manayunk Patch Facebook. 

Cohen said he's handled calls and emails on the property all day.

"There's huge support for the building. It really is unprecedented to receive so many calls on one property, but it's a beautiful property. There are so few Victorian homes left on Ridge Avenue," he said.

Residents writing on the Patch Facebook page, emailing and calling agreed.

"I loved the house, and it's not structurally unsound. I've been in the basement and upstairs, it's not true," Greenlee said.

Kelly Erb, who formerly worked in the building, encouraged residents to speak out about preservation.

"If you care about the razing of lovely old buildings like this one, please let (Councilman Jones) know 215-686-3416," she said.

Jo Ann Desper questioned how quickly the project got approved.

"The community has not been presented the plans for the property and there is an uproar over its destruction," she said.

Possible Action

Cohen said the councilman's office did not receive notification on demolition, nor does it usually. All a property has to do is get L & I to sign off, and demolition can commence.

L & I will soon post notices alerting residents to the demolition. According to the city, "There are no other restrictions noted on the permits for demolition.  If the demolition starts before (Sept. 27) the work can be stopped. The only other way would be to get the work stopped is by a court injunction."

So Cohen is working to determine the likelihood of stopping the project through an injunction.

Karp's lived in Roxborough for 20 years. He says there's a lot of history here, and Ridge Avenue jeopardizes losing its uniqueness.

"If they tore it down and put anything there, nothing would really satisfy me," he said. "I was thinking, playing devils advocate, but it's tough. Like in Old City they preserved a lot. To me, it's worth it to keep the history." 

Check back with Patch for more updates.

Michael September 24, 2012 at 05:33 PM
Josh, no I was not insinuating that he's in cahoots. I was insinuating that the developer is sneaking in there to setup condo's and that the Councilmen and RDC have no idea what happens in their area. How does no one know that a large portion of highly visible Ridge is to be turned into a empty lot? Now this empty lot can join the one directly behind it to collect more trash, couches, bottles, etc.... Just what Roxbrough needs.
Michael September 24, 2012 at 05:42 PM
Great post/point Hal. I see those ugly buildings everyday and ugly trash lot behind them. My main concern....What are the plans? Empty lot is absurd and anyone believe that is all they intend is a fool. Then Frank will come back and "clean" up the lot for the good of the community. http://www.montgomerynews.com/articles/2010/01/27/roxborough_review/news/doc4b5f37564f1f9028761152.txt
Debbie Thomas September 24, 2012 at 06:51 PM
Well after reading Michael's most recent comment with the link, there's no doubt in my mind. Yet more homes or condos will be put up eventually, once those buildings are torn down. The claims by the developer that they are financially unable to fix the Bunting Home are pure BS. I don't understand why they can't convert that beautiful home into condos. Whoever bought the old church at Manayunk & Martin is doing a wonderful job renovating it. The Manayunk Post is another good example of conversion to apartments/condos.
joan October 08, 2012 at 11:19 PM
I was one of many that tried to save Dearnleys mansion. It breaks my heart everytime I walk my dog by there. To see what was put in place of that beautiful stone building. Why are the developers always trying to take down the beautiful old stone buildings?? Don't they appreciate real workmanship?? Don't they care about our neighbohood? (dumb question) It's all just for greed! There are some developers that WORK with the neighborhoods like the ones that made Millers funeral home into condo's. The building is intac. Roxborough is beginning to look like something from the Stafford Wives, all cookie cutter homes! I hate it! I will be leaving Rox when my son graduates school.
Donald P Ciotti June 01, 2013 at 06:29 PM
Bottom Dollar coming to Roxyborough

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