PlanPhilly

Look Up! The Poth dynasty on the Drexel campus

    • The bold red brick and brownstone Poth Mansion was home to a 19th-century brewery and real estate mogul.
      The bold red brick and brownstone Poth Mansion was home to a 19th-century brewery and real estate mogul.
    • The brewer's home has been a fraternity house since 1939.
      The brewer's home has been a fraternity house since 1939.
    • The ornate Victorian porch rolls around the front and side of the house.
      The ornate Victorian porch rolls around the front and side of the house.
    • Rounded bays emerge from the sides of the Poth Mansion.
      Rounded bays emerge from the sides of the Poth Mansion.
    • Original ironwork and other details adorn the well-maintained exterior of the house.
      Original ironwork and other details adorn the well-maintained exterior of the house.
    • The speculative homes started by Willis Hale consisted of 17 houses along Powelton Avenue and 36th Street.
      The speculative homes started by Willis Hale consisted of 17 houses along Powelton Avenue and 36th Street.
    • Milligan and Webber filled the space between the houses with stair towers, defined by exterior granite arches.
      Milligan and Webber filled the space between the houses with stair towers, defined by exterior granite arches.
    • Smooth columns and porches welcome visitors to the apartment buildings.
      Smooth columns and porches welcome visitors to the apartment buildings.
    • A central tower created a sense of symmetry on Powelton Avenue.
      A central tower created a sense of symmetry on Powelton Avenue.
    • Decorative column capitals distinguish what began as separate houses.
      Decorative column capitals distinguish what began as separate houses.
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“Look Up” is a PlanPhilly feature that encourages appreciation of our architectural and historical environment. Each week, the photo essay will focus on a different Philadelphia area neighborhood and its distinctive building styles and details, all of which make up the physical fabric of the city and region.

The Powelton section of West Philadelphia was home to wealthy industrialists and businessmen in the late 19th century, including Frederick A. Poth, who built a dynasty along Powelton Avenue.

At 33rd and Powelton, the successful brewer commissioned A.W. Dilks to build his 1887 home, a striking mansion of red brick and brownstone, and towers, bays and dormers that reflected the German Gothic heritage of the homeowner and the High Victorian style of the time. Poth and son-in-law Edward Schmidt used revenue from their breweries to develop real estate throughout Powelton, with many of the homes designed by Dilks.

But for the 3500 block of Powelton, Poth hired Willis Hale, renowned architect of the Widener Mansion, (Divine) Lorraine Hotel, and Hale Building, to design a row of speculative houses in 1902. Poth sold the unfinished project to a new owner, who converted the homes into apartments. In 1908, architects Samuel Milligan and Frederick Webber filled in the spaces between the houses with stair towers, and built a tower at the center of the row on Powelton Avenue to unify the complex.

The Poth Mansion has been the home of Drexel University’s Alpha Pi Lamda fraternity since 1939. The Powelton Apartments were renovated and renamed The Courts in 1998.


"Look Up" Wright's Ardmore Experiment

"Look Up" Contemporary neighbors in Society Hill

"Look Up" Imaginative Eyre on Locust Street

"Look Up!" Elfreth's Alley has issues

"Look Up" Architectural exercises on Boathouse Row

"Look Up!" John Notman's brownstone temples

"Look Up!" 19th Century luxe on Locust St.

"Look Up!: 20th Century evolution in East Falls

"Look Up!" Rural retreats in Northeast Philly

"Look Up!" Modernist lines on Haverford Ave.

"Look Up!" Chestnut Hill's modernist gems


Contact the writer at ajaffe@planphilly.com.


"Look Up!" The Art Deco Palace of Mt. Airy
"Look Up! An architect's legacy on Spruce Street
"Look Up!" The French Village in Mt. Airy
"Look Up" and check out the nouveau mansions of North Broad

"Look Up" and check out elegant Southwark
"Look Up" and check out Henry Disston's company town
"Look Up: and check out Spruce Hill
"Look Up" and check out Green Street
"Look Up" and check out West Laurel Hill
"Look Up" and check out Parkside
"Look Up" and check out Awbury Arboretum
"Look Up" and check out Nicetown
"Look Up" and check out Overbrook Farms
"Look Up" and check out Girard Estate
"Look Up" and check out Rittenhouse/Fitler Square

About the author

Alan Jaffe, Contributor

Alan Jaffe has been a contributing writer for PlanPhilly since 2008, focusing on overlooked buidlings and historic preservation issues. He was a writer and editor in the newspaper industry for nearly 30 years, including eight at the Philadelphia Inquirer and nine at the South Jersey Courier-Post. He is currently the director of communications for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. He is also an antiques writer and collector and the author of “J. Chein & Co.: A Collector’s Guide to an American Toymaker.”

ajaffe@planphilly.com



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