THIS TIME, Miguel Santiago said, he really means it.

He plans to start construction on the historic, but deteriorating, Robert Purvis House in Spring Garden in a matter of months.

"I've gotten some potential buyers to call," Santiago said last week.

On the red-brick house, on Mount Vernon Street near 16th, a bright, yellow sign announces: For Sale, Pre-Construction, 3 Condos, 2 Baths, 3 Bedrm, 3-car garage, Balconies - Decks.

But a rear section of the house, a later addition, has been torn down. A chain-link fence protects passers-by from crumbling bricks.

Santiago's father bought the house, which predates the Civil War, in 1977. City records show that it was sold for $15,500 that year.

Santiago, 43, said he is happy with how the neighborhood has changed.

"When my father bought it in the '70s, that was the worst neighborhood in Philadelphia. People used to sell drugs [on the streets] back then."

His father, who lives in another neighborhood now, had a dry-cleaning business on the first floor and rented out five apartments upstairs. But the Santiago family used to live nearby.

Despite its blighted condition, the Purvis House has a significant history.

It was the Philadelphia home of Robert Purvis, known as the president of the Underground Railroad, and he lived there from 1873 until his death in 1898. It is the only one of his homes that remains.

Purvis worked with William Lloyd Garrison to start the American Anti-Slavery Society. His records show that he and his wife, Harriet Forten Purvis, helped 9,000 people escape slavery.

The son of a black woman and a wealthy, white Charleston, S.C., cotton merchant, Purvis was so fair-skinned that he could have "passed" for white, but chose to identify with the black community. His wife was a daughter of the affluent, black sailmaker James Forten.

The couple first lived at a house in Center City but had to flee after a white mob rioted there in 1842. They moved to an estate in the Byberry section of the Northeast.

The couple took in escaped slaves at both houses, which no longer remain.

In 1873, after his wife's death - and after slavery and the Civil War ended - Purvis moved to Mount Vernon Street. He continued to work on behalf of black people and women's rights.

Santiago said he's been trying to rebuild the house for 10 years, after going back and forth with the Historical Commission and facing court fines for failing to repair rotting floors.

But last week, he said he finally secured financing for construction.

Pat Freeland, of the Spring Garden Civic Association, said she wasn't aware that Santiago had gotten building permits.

"It would be good to see the Purvis House redone," Freeland said in an email.

"We look forward to seeing Mr. Santiago's current plans for the restoration of the property. It is the last building on the 1600 block of Mount Vernon in need of rehab and restoration."