If it isn’t totally clear, we’re pretty fond of this here town we call our home. Philadelphia pretty much has it all. History, arts, culture, great parks, a booming restaurant scene, some top notch universities, frustrating but lovable sports teams, and so much more. But that’s not to say it’s not without its shortcomings.
And one area that we often find ourselves grousing about is a lack of first-run movie theaters near downtown Philly. And it’s because of this scarcity of places to see such incandescent hits as The Internship or This is the End that we occasionally find ourselves at the UA Riverview Theater on Delaware Ave., usually against our better judgement.
Our movie palace
Standing in direct contrast to the gaudy architectural monstrosity pictured above is a firehouse originally built in 1894 which stands just a couple hundred yards away and is owned by the same New York-based company. Last home to Engine 46 Steakhouse, the old and handsome former firehouse has sat vacant for several years… and may soon meet the wrecking ball.
According to Plan Philly, property owners Cedar Riverview LP applied for and received a demolition permit for this property at the beginning of this year. In response to this effort, someone in the neighborhood put in a nomination for the building to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places, but the application was incomplete and therefore returned. Not that it would have mattered if the application would have been better done, because an active demolition permit essentially ties the hands of both the Historical Commission and the Preservation Alliance in terms of protecting threatened structures.
Many have tried to get in touch with the owners in the last six months, to no avail. At this point, the community and preservationists are most interested in learning what plans these developers have for the site, and ostensibly whether those plans could include saving some or all of the old firehouse. Of course, given our natural mistrust of anyone from New York, we’re fearing the worst.
It seems likely that there will be several more chapters written about this building before all is said and done, and we’ll be sure to pass along any new information we’re able to learn as the months go by. Hopefully, this wonderful building will stick around for decades to come, and maybe even outlive the mediocre movie theater next door. Wouldn’t that be just great?