Touring District Health Center No. 1 and Casa Farnese


Ricki Sablove


Docomomo US/Philadelphia


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The Philadelphia Chapter of Docomomo US inaugurated its 2018 One Building/One Brew series on Thursday, March 29, with tours of two buildings that reflect the role of Modernism in the city’s rich history of dedication to civic values. Emily Cooperman, architectural historian, preservationist, and board member, served as our guide.


The evening began at District Health Center No. 1 (1959) at Broad and Lombard Streets. One of 10 health centers constructed in Philadelphia during the mid-twentieth century, the three-story building was designed by Montgomery and Bishop, a firm known for its commitment to social issues. Centrally located on one of the city’s liveliest streets, District Health Center No. 1 greets visitors with a dynamic, colorful façade featuring green glazed bricks, glass blocks, and red columns.  We are happy to report that this engaging landmark, with its sleek lines, graceful curves, and ribbon windows, was recently listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places.


A block away from District Health Center No. 1 is Casa Farnese (Stonorov & Haws, 1964-66), the first senior housing development created in Philadelphia under the Section 22 Housing Program of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Originally known as Casa Enrico Fermi, it was renamed in honor of its founder, attorney Andrew N. Farnese, in 2004.  Situated on a residential street close to mass transit and other amenities, the 18-story, reinforced concrete apartment building features 288 studio and one-bedroom units, equipped with terraces and designed for efficiency and comfort. Casa Farnese also features a pleasant garden for residents to congregate.  In 2012, the building underwent an expansion of its lobby and C-shaped breezeway. During our visit, the building projected an energetic mood, with residents gathered outside, chatting and enjoying the early spring evening.


Following the tour, participants headed to Jet Wine Bar, a neighborhood gathering place decorated in a buoyant mid-century style.  Our thanks to Dr. Cooperman for the informative talk, and to Dan Macey for arranging the happy hour.