THE MYSTERY over the fate of South Philly's empty Engine 46 firehouse has finally been solved.
Pennsport Civic Association president Jim Moylan snapped a photo earlier this week of a demolition notice that had been tacked onto the 119-year-old building, at Reed and Water streets, in the shadow of the I-95 overpass.
The notice indicates that the firehouse will be torn down on or after July 30.
But trying to find out why the beloved red-brick building will be reduced to rubble - or what sort of development will take its place - continues to be a maddening task for Moylan, nearby residents, preservationists and even City Councilman Mark Squilla.
Their phone calls, letters and emails have been ignored for weeks by Cedar-Riverview LP, which owns the firehouse and numerous local establishments, including the neighboring Riverview movie theater.
"We've used everything but smoke signals and carrier pigeons," Moylan said. "If you're going to do work around here, involve us, talk to us. If you don't, people are going to be distrustful."
Several months ago, local residents noticed that a demolition permit had been posted in one of the windows of Engine 46, which was an active city firehouse until 1957 and later had a 10-year run as a steakhouse.
Squilla said he tried in vain to get in touch with officials at Cedar Realty Trust, the Port Washington, N.Y.-based parent company of Cedar-Riverview.
"Are they tearing it down for a parking lot or to build something else?" Squilla asked. "I'm trying to help the community, but how do you give answers when you can't get any?"
Tony Santora, the president of A&E Construction, the Upper Darby firm listed on the demolition notice, declined to comment.
Bruce Schanzer, Cedar Realty's president, could not be reached for comment.
A woman who answered the phone at his office yesterday told the Daily News that the company doesn't own Engine 46. Real-estate records, however, indicate otherwise.
"As far as the city's concerned, they do own it," Squilla said. "If they don't, who does? Who's paying the taxes?"
A resident previously tried to have the firehouse added to the city's Register of Historic Places, but the application didn't have enough information about the building's history, said Ben Leech, the advocacy director for the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia.
"It certainly seems our legal options are slim to none," he said.
Still, Squilla said he's asked the Department of Licenses and Inspections to determine if the incomplete nomination letter could give the city legal grounds to temporarily halt the demolition, because it was filed before Cedar-Riverview secured the demolition permit.
"Maybe we could at least bring them to the table and sit down and talk," Squilla said.