Theses (Historic Preservation)

Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version



Suggested Citation:

Kuntz, Samantha E. (2014). Why We Demolish: Assessing Heritage Loss in Philadelphia as a Catalyst for Policy Innovation in Historic Preservation. (Masters Thesis). University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.


Demolition of listed historic resources through policy provisions such as economic hardship and public interest has, in recent years, led to increased controversy and tension in the preservation community. As approvals to demolish such heritage anchors as the Sidney Hillman Medical Center, the Church of the Assumption, the Levy-Leas Mansion, the Episcopal Cathedral's Parish House, and the Boyd Theater interior continue to place the Philadelphia Historical Commission and developers at odds with preservation advocates, it is important to review the policy documents at the core of the issue. This thesis proposes that it is not the Commission but the policies that are complicating the Commission's ability to best protect heritage assets. By examining how and why historically designated properties are demolished in Philadelphia (through a review of policy precedents and local case studies), this work proposes policy recommendations to stimulate innovation in preservation and reduce prolonged demolition cases in the future.


Philadelphia, historical commission, hardship, public interest, redevelopment



Date Posted: 03 September 2014