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Historic homes restored in Spring Garden

With white marble steps and doorways and other historical treatments, 22 rowhouses in the Spring Garden section have been restored to their Victorian beauty.

The Philadelphia Housing Authority, in a collaboration with the Spring Garden Community Development Corp. and others, on Tuesday announced the completion of the restoration of the 22 homes, which contain 58 affordable apartment units, each with one to four bedrooms. The buildings are in the 1600 block of Mount Vernon Street; 16th Street between Green and North Streets; 17th and 18th Streets between Green and Wallace Streets; and the 1600 block of Wallace Street.

"These buildings were built back in the Victorian days in the 1890s, said Nadine Bonner, a spokeswoman for the housing authority. "Over the years when people redeveloped these buildings, they ripped out the marble and the window fittings and everything that made them unique to that period. When we restored these buildings for affordable housing, we put these things back."

Officials said the architects on the $14 million project worked closely with the Philadelphia Historical Commission to restore the facades and cornices and other historical details in the area which has undergone significant gentrification over the last two decades.

Patricia Freeland, president of the Spring Garden Community Development Corp, said the restoration "has made a dramatic change in the lives of the tenants, the streetscape and the ambiance of the blocks."

The new homes represent the second phase of restorations for the area. In 2004, the housing authority restored 90 units in the neighborhood at a cost of $8.8 million, officials said.

Freeland said that the neighborhood had been a "rough area" just a decade ago, plagued by drug dealing and street crime.

It's now ethnically and racially diverse neighobhrood of restored brownstones.

"Having these PHA units has enabled us to have a substantial population in the lower income brackets," Freeland said. "Our goal is to have housing and opportunities for people of all income brackets and backgrounds. This is very exciting."