UPDATE (March 2014): Restoration of the historic mansion is progressing slowly but steadily under the direction of the newly-formed non-profit Northwood Frankford Community Y, which negotiated control of the building after it went into foreclosure .
New Frankford Y/Garsed-Bromley Mansion
4704 Leiper Street, Philadelphia
Significance: This rare Frankford brownstone mansion was built in 1866 as a mill owner’s house. Also known as the Garsed-Bromley Mansion, it was acquired in 1941 by the Young Women’s Christian Association for use as a neighborhood center. During World War II, hundreds of USO hostesses were trained at the mansion, which also provided recreational and educational facilities for a growing working-class neighborhood. By the late 1960s, with demographic changes and racial tensions on the rise, the mansion was also a center for integration efforts, publishing a community paper called the Northeast Liberator.
Threat: In 2009, budget shortfalls forced the center to close, ending 68 years of community service and threatening the future of one of the neighborhood’s most distinctive buildings. Neighbors fear that continued vacancy will invite vandalism and other crime to the site, with some openly calling for the building’s demolition. Since the building is not listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places, this remains an unfortunate possibility, despite its sound physical condition.
Recommendation: The property is currently scheduled for sheriff’s sale by the end of 2011. Supporters of the building hope a clear title and a new owner will allow for its successful rehabilitation, since earlier redevelopment proposals were hampered by ownership complications. If a new nonprofit steward cannot be identified, private redevelopment which preserves the mansion and restores its grounds should be encouraged.