Unlisted: S.S. Kresge Co.

Unlisted: S.S. Kresge Co.

Written and drawn by Ben Leech

Unlisted is a series of portraits highlighting unique Philadelphia buildings not yet listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places.  To learn how to protect a building by nominating it to the Register, click here.

Address: 1520-22 Chestnut Street; 1521-23 Sansom Street

Architect: Silverman & Levy

Built: 1934

This  little Art Deco assemblage began life in 1934 as a S.S. Kresge Co. store, the five-and-dime forerunner of today’s K-Marts.  Designed by the firm of Silverman & Levy with frontage on both Chestnut and Sansom Streets, it’s hard to decide which end has been more abused over the years by new tenants with ten-foot ladders.  But above their ground-floor degradations, both elevations feature surprisingly intact upper stories with bold and playful machine-age ornament echoing the nearby WCAU Building and the sadly-lost  Trans Lux Theater that once stood directly across Chestnut Street.

But even the ground floors have their own curious charm.  Long before the dubiously-named “Eternity Fashion” outlet occupied a portion of the Chestnut Street side, the space was occupied by a pub named Pub, which left behind a nice little terrazzo vestibule.  And on the Sansom Street side, a bizarre homage to (or rip-off of) Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1948 V.C. Morris Store in San Fransisco turned up sometime in the 1980s.  All in all, a forgivable blend of quirk and class (though how nice would a full restoration be?).

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