Philly Neighborhood In Running for National Preservation Grant to Bring Historic Black Landmarks Back to Life

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African-American Landmarks
Parker Hall was once a USO-style party venue for African-American World War II veterans. (Image courtesy of Curbed Philadelphia)

Two African-American landmarks in Philadelphia’s Germantown neighborhood are finalists in the running to receive a national historic preservation grant to revitalize and restore their facades.

Parker Hall and the John Trower’s building, both located on Germantown Avenue, are contenders in National Geographic’s “Partners in Preservation: Main Streets” campaign, which will award shares of $2 million in grants to Main Street districts across the nation that need a little extra help with their preservation efforts, Curbed Philadelphia reported.

The campaign, created in conjunction with American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, invites people to cast their votes for their favorite main street rejuvenation project in order to determine the winner.

“It’s time to open the doors of Germantown,” the campaign’s website reads. “This project will provide facade and structural improvements to significant 20th-century African-American historic sites. Replacing these facades will bolster Germantown and increase community pride.”

Formerly a USO-style party venue for Black World War II veterans, Parker Hall is now home to the private practice of Dr. Althea Hankins and the ACES Museum, a gallery honoring minority veterans of World War II.

As for John Trower’s building, today it’s known as the Crab House restaurant, according to the news site. It was originally home to Savings Fund Society of Germantown & Its Vicinity before Trower, a successful Black businessman, bought it and turned it into a catering business serving wealthy locals.

Organization Germantown United Community Development Corporation entered both landmarks into the competition earlier this year. If it wins the grant of up to $150,000, the money would go toward facade and structural repairs for the buildings. Not only would this boost community pride, but also highlight the contributions to African-Americans to the community, the group said.

Among the main street districts also in the running for the grant are New Orleans’ Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard, Detroit’s 6 Mile corridors and Atlanta’s Sweet Auburn Avenue.

The national campaign runs until Oct. 31.

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