If you walk down Martha St. in Kensington today, you will notice that the old Weisbrod & Hess Brewery barrel house sticks out like a sore thumb. Across the street from the barrel house, you will see other buildings from the former brewery that have been restored. A large section of the complex now hosts Philadelphia Brewing Company’s brewery and taproom. You will also find Martha, a hip restaurant serving local foods and drinks in another converted building from the old brewery. Philadelphia Brewing Co. has set up an outdoor beer garden and often brings in food trucks to satisfy their patron’s hunger. New residential units are going up in every direction. The nearby Monkey Club and Atlantis the Lost Bar keep neighborhood residents’ thirst for drinks and billiards quenched.
The hulking former barrel house has stood in a state of disarray for years, being used as a storage facility. The building’s magnificent brick and terra cotta facade have sat quietly, begging for restoration.
In 2016, local preservationist rockstars were able to get the building (2117 E York St.) designated historic by the Philadelphia Historical Commission. This process almost guaranteed the building could not be demolished, but also increased future costs of rehabbing the property. We’ll take that tradeoff any day as you never know what demolition-minded developer will scoop up a good deal in a hot neighborhood.
The building went up for sale more than a year ago at a price we remember as being $1.7 million. The former owners were looking to cash in as they purchased the building in 2004 for $80,000. Our sources indicate that the building finally sold in March for $1 million.
We are not sure yet who the development team behind the project is. However, it looks like they are wasting no time and getting to work quickly. A plumbing permit to seal the lateral drain was pulled on April 4th. This permit usually indicates that demolition is on the horizon. Sure enough, demo permits appeared on the property soon after. However, do not be concerned. It looks like the new owners are only demolishing the modern building attached to the old barrel house, which they also acquired in the sale.
We have not seen any plans for the site, but have heard rumors that the building will be converted into some kind of dining establishment. The plot is zoned ICMX, so no residential use can be included by right. We are crossing our fingers that some kind of brewery operation is re-established in this historic building. What would you like to see here if you had your wish?