Yorktown Historic District

Philadelphia CIty, Philadelphia County, PA

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Yorktown Historic District

The Yorktown Historic District [†] is a post-World War II urban renewal, planned, low-rise development of 624 row houses, of which only 10 have lost integrity and therefore do not contribute to the district. The district also includes two churches, both considered contributing resources. Yorktown is located in lower North Philadelphia and was built between 1959 and 1969. Yorktown is located immediately to the south of the Temple University campus, and is roughly bounded by Cecil B. Moore Street on the north. North 13th Street to the west, Flora and Stiles Streets to the south, and North 11th and 10th Streets to the east. It also includes a single block of Oxford Street—between 11th and 12th streets—and a single block of 13th Street between West Jefferson and West Oxford Streets. Yorktown's layout is a hybrid of suburban planning principles of the period and the city's indigenous grid plan: the development consists of groups of between 4 and 11 rowhouses located on new, mid-block, cul-de-sac streets, which were introduced into the city plan by the project, and rows set back from the existing north-south streets behind curbed islands to reduce through traffic and encourage neighborhood enclaves. The development also created pedestrian access ways linking the cul-de-sac streets and the north-south streets. Yorktown's houses are either 2 14 or 2 stories in height and are faced in either red or tan brick. All are fronted by a driveway, a planting area, and feature an enclosed back yard. The 2-1/2 story houses feature a front-entrance and integral garage at the lowest level of the houses. The house groups are arranged in symmetrical or balanced compositions of mirrored pairs that vary the brick color and such details as roof shape and setbacks on the front or rear elevations. Yorktown's houses were designed in a modern, somewhat simplified Colonial Revival style, and feature such details as asphalt-shingled pent eaves on the front elevation and pent and Mansard roofs and louvered decorative shutters. The developer offered purchasers a series of standard options in the houses, which include a choice of smaller or larger windows (originally all metal frame sliding windows in three standard sizes) in various locations, and the choice of a side light or decorative panel adjacent to the front door in the 2-1/2 story houses. Historic options also included awnings. Despite minor alterations to individual buildings, the character-defining features of the development, such the houses' pent roofs and eaves, overall row compositions, patterns of openings, landscape features, and streetscapes retain integrity, as, therefore, does the district as a whole. The district includes two churches. Bright Hope Baptist (1964) and Mount Zion United Methodist (also 1964), which were associated with and participated in the creation of Yorktown.

The Yorktown neighborhood development, designed and built between 1959 and 1969, is located in a portion of the former City of Philadelphia's post-World War II Southwest Temple Redevelopment Area, named as the southwest portion of a larger redevelopment area originally proposed around the North Philadelphia campus of Temple University. Yorktown stands immediately to the south of the campus of Temple University today, and to the east of the commercial and institutional corridor of North Broad Street. The area to the east and south of Yorktown is dominated by subsidized housing redevelopment consisting of low-rise rowhouse and garden apartments that were built shortly before Yorktown and were part of the same overall redevelopment initiative in Southwest Temple. Yorktown differs from this other residential redevelopment area in several important respects. First of these is provision for parking and automobiles. While there are off-street parking lots in this other area of redevelopment, there are no garages and no driveways, which is one of the character-defining features of the Yorktown design. Further, Yorktown's cul-de-sac street layout creates neighborhood enclaves that do not function as the shared walkways do in the other redevelopment areas. Finally, while the other redevelopment buildings have brick exteriors, as do Yorktown's, those around Yorktown are essentially unornamented, with flat roofs. In contrast, Yorktown's buildings feature such decorative details as original window boxes, window shutters, pent eaves, and Mansard roofs. This general area was extensively redeveloped in the mid- and late-20th century, and only the complex of St. Malichi's Roman Catholic Church, on the east side of North 11th Street between W. Master and W. Jefferson streets, survives essentially unaltered from before the 1950s in Yorktown's immediate surroundings.

All of the resources of Yorktown development are buildings, organized as a series of red or tan brick rowhouse blocks of similar configuration. Each row is comprised of mirrored pairs, usually with unpaired houses at one or both ends of the row group depending on whether the number of houses in the row is even or odd. Pent eaves often unite pairs or groups on those houses that feature this detail, depending on the specific grade change from one end of the row to the other. Within some of the rows, there are minor setbacks (i. e., changes in plane) at the front and/or rear elevations that break up the unified surface of the elevations of the rowhouse blocks as a whole respect to the rhythm of red and tan brick facades within the group, the variation of window sizes and numbers from one house to the next, and the setbacks.

Overall, the original building fabric of Yorktown is intact. Every rowhouse within the survey area appears to be original to the 1960s Denny development, and the overall structure and form of the vast majority of the development's buildings is generally unaltered. The appearances of the two churches are modern in style, and their design, materials, and scale are in keeping with the residential buildings. Their presence in the community was an intentional part of the plan. Only 10 homes of the 626 buildings in the Yorktown development have received changes or losses to character defining features to the extent that they are considered non-contributing, although property owners have made a wide variety of minor alterations to the buildings. The most common of these consists of the replacement of the original window sash, in some cases within ten years of the completion of construction. A very small minority of the buildings have received rear additions and no buildings have been added to above the original roofline . A number of the garage doors have been replaced with a combination of smaller doors and windows in order to convert the garage space to another use. Despite these changes, the streetscapes, patterns of fenestration, landscape features and Yorktown development as a whole retain integrity. The setting and feeling of the neighborhood remains intact.

<† Adapted from: Emily T. Cooperman, Ph.D., .ARCH Preservation Consulting, Yorktown Historic District, nomination document, 2012. Ntional Park Service, National Register of Historic Places.

Nearby Neighborhoods

Street Names
12th Street North • 13th Street North • 19th Street North • Betsy Ross Place • Ceil B Moore Street • Curtis Place • Dondill Place • Kings Place • Lafayette Place • Oxford Street West • Patrick Henry Place

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