Anyone doubting that Philadelphia is a small town could have learned something from the chat Branden Albaugh and Guy D’Andrea were having recently on their rooftop oasis in Point Breeze.
The two lawyers — both former prosecutors in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office — bought the rowhouse new in the summer of 2017. The pandemic has given them the chance to turn the unfinished roof space into a scenic retreat.
“We come up here for a drink, to decompress, talk about our day,” says D’Andrea, who is now in private practice representing victims of sexual abuse. “We wanted it to feel like a little resort.”
But the story of how they wound up at the house is just as interesting, so turn back to the spring of 2017.
The two, who had been living together in D’Andrea’s home nearby, were walking to brunch when they spotted an “Open House” sign.
On a whim they popped in and were greeted by Davinder “Daz” Singh, a former paralegal in the District Attorney’s office who had become a Realtor.
“Daz, what are you doing here?” asked D’Andrea, who had not kept up with him and had no idea that he’d left the D.A.'s office.
Albaugh, who joined the office after D’Andrea and is now clerk to an appellate court judge, didn’t know him.
But D’Andrea did, and Singh asked him, “Guy, are you really looking?”
“I said, ‘No, I’m not,’” D’Andrea recalled.
Not easily discouraged, Singh asked, “Would you look?”
Actually, the couple had thought of buying a larger place in the same neighborhood eventually but expected to remain where they were for another year or two.
And, of course, there would be the small detail of selling their current house.
But Singh had an ace up his sleeve: a potential buyer.
“I said, ‘That’s impossible,’” D’Andrea said. "He said, ‘I know he’ll buy your house. Trust me.’
“And 48 hours later — 48 hours, no exaggeration — my house was under contract, and this house was under contract.”
The buyer for D’Andrea’s house turned out to be another former colleague in the D.A.'s office who had attended parties at the house and had told Singh he wanted to buy a place just like it.
“This is how small a world Philadelphia is,” D’Andrea said.
Meanwhile, back on the rooftop ….
Albaugh had installed IKEA wood flooring tiles a couple of years ago, but when the pandemic hit, he and D’Andrea shifted into high gear.
“We wanted to spice it up and make it our own,” Albaugh says. “We’ve taken the quarantine opportunity to do a lot of painting, a lot of decorating.”
That includes a new table, sofa with a rainbow array of cushions, and plastic palm trees because they liked the look and the real thing could never survive a Philadelphia winter.
It didn’t always go smoothly. “There might have been a couple of fights about the painting,” D’Andrea admits.
And attempts to install space heaters didn’t work because they kept coming loose from their mooring in high wind.
Still the views are excellent and even better for anyone willing to climb to the top of the “pilot house” and see even farther, into New Jersey and way up the Delaware River.
“It’s amazing what a difference eight or nine feet can make,” D’Andrea says.
There’s also a convenient sunning ledge overlooking the street: D’Andrea says his mother shudders at the thought of him going out on it.
Sometimes, the couple install a screen on one of the walls for outdoor movie night.
So everything is set through October. After that?"
“Wait for 2021,” D’Andrea says.
Is your house a Haven? Nominate your home by email (and send some digital photographs) at firstname.lastname@example.org.