1500 Broad Street is a remnant of a wealthy North Philadelphia that many who visit this area now would be shocked to learn. The prominence of wealthy individuals building their large city homes here in the early 20th century is a part of North Philadelphia history that has fallen to the wayside because of redevelopment and neglect of many of these previously grand homes. Those who built their home here tended to be newly wealthy industrialists who needed to be near their factories. 1500 Broad Street otherwise known as the Burke mansion falls in line with this historical trend. The home was built by Alfred E. Burke a leather executive in 1906. Alfred Burke was involved both politically and economically with the city and even had a longstanding relationship with Philadelphia’s mayor. When Burke died in 1921 in the home the property is left to his siblings, the last of whom sells it off for $100,000. The home was sold to the Upholsterers
International Union who made the mansion their headquarters in 1945. Once the UIU grew out of the space the mansion was bought by Temple University in 1971. The mansion was slated to be the home of the School of Social Administration. The mansion ended up functioning as a daycare service until an electrical fire due to the explosion of an air conditioning unit forced its closure. This closure also aligns with an 18 million dollar budget cut by the university which compounded with the building’s need for repairs was an aspect of why the property was vacated.
The structure currently stands vacant. No one is allowed inside the home. Temple does upkeep the landscape and the roof but the inside of the mansion still remains untouched. There is currently a public history graduate class, which the student presenting to us was a part of, that is looking into the history of the space and trying to determine the university’s intentions for the home. In a time at Temple that is full of rapid construction and development, many preservations fear for the welfare of this mansion. The home is listed on a national registry but the risk of a teardown is always a reality. These graduate students are working hard to come up with ulterior options that would once again give the property a purpose that would not result in its destruction. Two of the suggested of the possibilities that our guide told us were the of reinstating a daycare service, which Temple does not currently have, or a community garden space for the local community. These students have done extensive work to research this home and ensure that all parts of its property will be protected.
“1500 N. Broad Timeline,” Hist 8152: Managing History, < https://bit.ly/2yL867c> (11 October 2018).
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