Two vacant homes collapsed Tuesday on a street in South Philadelphia. Officials said no one was hurt but neighbors were left shaken.

The three-story rowhouses at 717 and 719 Mercy St. collapsed around 12:10 p.m. while construction work was taking place at 719, officials said. No workers were injured.

“It felt like an earthquake,” said David Mostoller, who has called Mercy Street home for a year and half, and lives next to one of the buildings that collapsed.

Mostoller said he was on his third floor when everything began to shake. When he looked out his window, he said, he saw the building next door crumble.

He said the first thing he was worried about was gas lines, as he was haunted by a December gas main explosion less than a mile away that left two people dead and collapsed five homes. He said he was grateful that no one was injured.

Following the collapse, bricks, cement, and pieces of metal covered Mercy in front of the homes. A small white car was buried by debris, and the windows and back half of a second car were smashed.

Lindsey Tyrrell’s car was one of the vehicles partially buried in the rubble. The 31-year-old nurse was packing her suitcase to head to the Shore for a few days when she heard a large boom and saw a cloud of dust outside her window. She said her first worry was for the safety of the construction workers she had seen in the building earlier that day.

A police officer carries groceries from a crushed vehicle to the owner, Lindsey Tyrrell, along Mercy Street.
TYGER WILLIAMS / Staff Photographer
A police officer carries groceries from a crushed vehicle to the owner, Lindsey Tyrrell, along Mercy Street.

According to Karen Guss, a spokesperson for the Department of Licenses and Inspections, Eastern Consulting holds a construction permit for 719 Mercy. A June construction permit indicated plans to add a roof deck and complete extensive renovations that involved rebuilding much of the interior — so much that the work qualified as a new-construction permit, Guss said.

While most of 719 came down in the collapse, the walls left standing will be demolished and cleaned up, Guss said.

Eastern Consulting could not be reached for comment.

The Fire Marshal’s Office and L&I will investigate the cause of the collapse, a Fire Department spokesperson said. Electricity and gas were shut off on the block.

Philly 311 records show that since January 2018, neighbors had lodged nine complaints about 719 and six about the adjacent 717 concerning vacancy, poor condition of properties, and the piling up of trash.

In March 2019, L&I found that both 717 and 719 Mercy were unsafe under the city’s property maintenance code. An unsafe property is one where unless the building’s deterioration is stopped, it is expected to get to the point of “imminent danger” of collapse.

According to Guss, 719 had an unsafe front wall, but it was replaced. The house at 717 also had an unsafe front wall and rear bay, which as of Thursday L&I inspectors still considered unsafe.