Final Review for Gershman Y Building Scheduled for April 13


On April 13, the University of the Arts-owned building at 401-11 S. Broad St. — home to the Gershman Y — will get its final review for historic designation at this week’s meeting of the Philadelphia Historical Commission at 1515 Arch Street.

Built in 1924 as the Young Men’s & Young Women’s Hebrew Association, the building was nominated last year by the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia for historic designation. The Alliance took the action after becoming concerned that the university was planning to significantly alter or even demolish the building.

In December, the Philadelphia Historical Commission’s architectural committee met to give the 30-page nomination an initial review. At that meeting, committee members commented that the building’s rich history — both in the spheres of Jewish community life and modern art — was a welcome surprise.

Designed by architects Frank E. Hahn and S. Brian Baylinson in the Georgian Revival style, it was, at the time of its construction, “the largest Jewish institutional building of its kind in the United States,” according to the nomination.

A who’s who of Jewish Philadelphia was involved in the building’s conception and completion: Albert M. Greenfield, Charles and Ellis Gimbel, Samuel and Jacob Lit, Joseph Snellenburg, Samuel Fels, Jules E. Mastbaum, Samuel S. Fleisher and family, and more.

The architectural committee approved the nomination, sending it along for final review.

Lawyers for the University of the Arts — which says it has no particular plans for the building beyond its current mixed use — asked to have that final review postponed from January to April so they had more time to prepare. The university does not believe the building warrants designation and will present its opposition to the commission at the April 13 meeting.

“The Gershman Y is one of the most significant buildings on South Broad Street that remains (surprisingly) unprotected,” said the Preservation Alliance’s Patrick Grossi this week in advance of the meeting. “It clearly meets the threshold for historic designation on both architectural merits and its social and cultural historical significance.

“Furthermore, as new development continues to emerge along Broad Street, North and South (much of it welcome), now seemed the ideal time to pursue local designation of this celebrated local landmark.”

The Gershman Y, the UArts tenant whose Jewish-themed programming represents a tie to the building’s original use, will rent the space at least through the end of 2017, when their lease is up. Asked if they had comment in advance of the April 13 meeting, Gershman officials said, “Not at this time.”

Photos via Preservation Alliance



  1. It is a shame that the Gershman Y part of the building is rarely used other than for film festivals. There are thousands of Jewish singles in Delaware Valley, for example, who could have a large venue for meeting others in their age range, for friendship or even romance, if creative people would run the Y in a proper manner At this time The Gershman Y is WASTING much of its valuable assets!


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