Condemned History - Always by Design - Philadelphia Architect
VERTICAL historic archive

Condemned History

As a landlocked institution, CHF jumped at the opportunity to acquire a contiguous parcel of land, even without an immediate use for the 19th Century cast-iron and brownstone building. Subsequently, facing the problem of owning a building designated as historic yet condemned as structurally unsound by the city, AxD was retained to study feasibility options.

VERTICAL historic archive

Adaptive Reuse

After AxD prepared a number of alternatives ranging among residential, commercial and institutional uses, CHF decided to pursue archival storage as their greatest need. Thornton Tomassetti Engineers were retained to determine how to stabilize the historic front façade independent from the rest of the building.

Adaptive Reuse - Always by Design - Philadelphia Architect
4 Stories or 1? - Always by Design - Philadelphia Architect
VERTICAL historic archive

4 Stories or 1?

Given the building's narrow 16 foot width and four stories of varied ceiling heights, inserting conventional fire stairs and elevators left minimal usable space. Only after AxD proposed to refashion the building as a one-story, high-bay structure (with mechanical mezzanine) did archival usage become feasible.

VERTICAL historic archive

Technological Innovation

Using high-density, mobile, high-bay shelving 34 ft. high, AxD was able to provide the owner with 1-1/2 miles of shelving capacity. A man-aboard, high-reach lift (occupying the area of a Cooper Mini) is driven between aisles to enable trained staff members to retrieve collection materials for scholars on demand.

Technological Innovation - Always by Design - Philadelphia Architect
AxD - Vertical Historic Archive
VERTICAL historic archive

Façade Restoration

After removal of the failing fire escape, the brownstone façade and cast iron storefront were repaired and cleaned. Historic wood windows and doors were repaired or replaced, based on their condition. The project received a Grand Jury Award from the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia in 2014.


PROJECT:Historic restoration and adaptive reuse of cast iron building to house high-density archiveLOCATION:Philadelphia, PAARCHITECT:Always by Design; Ed Barnhart, principal-in-charge; Justin Tocci, designer