March 27, 2018

Demolition of fire-damaged Old City building begins

Fires Old City
Carroll - Old City Fire Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

This was the scene Monday, Feb. 19, following the four-alarm fire that damaged buildings on the 200 block of Chestnut Street early Sunday morning in Old City, Philadelphia. City inspectors have determined some of these buildings are imminently dangerous of collapsing and they my have to be demolished.

It’s been more than a month since a four-alarm fire in Old City destroyed a historic building on the 200 block of Chestnut Street. Now, after weeks investigating the cause of the fire and weighing the risks of destroying the gutted building, two cranes officially began taking down the structure on Wednesday, April 4.

When the fire struck 239 Chestnut St. in the early hours of Feb. 18, about 100 people, including guests staying in the neighboring Independence Park Hotel, were displaced. A reported 13 animals were killed in the fire. Local businesses, including the Museum of the American Revolution, temporarily housed displaced people while others, most notably the adjacent Little Lion restaurant, will be closed for months recovering from fire damages.

Though the city ordered the building be demolished shortly after the fire, it was postponed for several weeks as officials weighed structural concerns. Delay was further lengthened as federal investigators hoped to enter the building to help identify the cause of the fire. In the wait, the neighborhood has had an enduring view of the ravaged site.

The six-story apartment building, which was built in the 1800s, will take about a week to knock down, NBC10 reported. During that time, Chestnut Street between Fourth and Bank Streets will be closed to vehicles. Third Street between Walnut and Chestnut streets also will be closed to both vehicles, with the area of 235 Chestnut St. to Third Street closed to pedestrians as well.

The Department of Licenses & Inspections told NBC10 that the building's cast-iron facade on the first floor will be preserved in the demolition.

Despite high wind warnings for Wednesday, crews are proceeding for as long as conditions will allow. Crane operations are extremely sensitive to wind, said Karen Guss, director of communications for the City of Philadelphia, in an email. Demolition will be halted if necessary for safety.

The cause of the fire has not been announced publicly.