Philadelphia Corner Stores: Their History, Use, and Preservation
Historic Preservation and Conservation
The corner store is a unique type of commercial building due to its placement within row house neighborhoods and on otherwise residential blocks. These buildings stand in stark contrast to the concentrations of commercial structures in shopping districts and along commercial corridors. This study examines this distinct combination, which was created to serve the needs of residents on the periphery of city centers in a specific historical moment, the latter half of the 19th century into the early 20th century. The study utilizes scholarly histories of urban expansion, neighborhood formation, and transportation advances in the United States from the mid-19th to the early 20th century, as well as a multi-neighborhood architectural survey and in-depth archival research into the histories of three Philadelphia corner stores, to gain a broad understanding of these structures from their creation through today. Though Philadelphia’s historic row house neighborhoods have undergone intense changes since their creation, the corner store still plays an active role in the vibrance and vitality of these communities. Additionally, extant fabric stands as a visual reminder of the history of these stores and their role in Philadelphia’s expansion and development. These stores act as physical representations of an important period in the growth of Philadelphia and the United States, while also promoting an active street life and serving as economic drivers. For these reasons, corner stores should be preserved and protected, their continued use supported through economic programs and their extant fabric preserved through preservation protections and oversight.