40th and Pine Streets,
Past, Present, & Future
September 27, 2012
Built in 1853, the original design for the house almost certainly
came from Samuel Sloan, who was in process of becoming a prolific
and influential architect. Remodeled in 1897 for David Porter
Leas, the house remains essentially intact in spite of partial
obscurement by 1960s and 70s additions and landscaping.
The house was first sold to Philadelphia industrialist John P. Levy,
who made it his home. At the time of purchase Levy was living
in Kensington close to his business, which later became Neafie &
Levy. Their company remained a major Philadelphia manufacturer
of steam engines, propellers, and ships into the early 20th
century. After moving to West Philadelphia, Levy
invested in nearby housing development to support his brother's
church on Walnut Street. Both Neafie and Levy are
buried in The Woodlands cemetery.
> See an 1861 colored
print of Neafie & Levy's shipyard on the Delaware River (at
the Library Company website).
> Neafie and Levy jointly had a large
summer home built in Cape May, NJ. Like many West
Philadelphia houses, it was actually a two houses made as a single
The Levy-Leas house is also a part of a larger story. One that
has continued to this day: the creation of one of the earliest
suburbs. In the early 1850s, real estate attorney Nathaniel B.
Browne had a plan to develop an initial 58 acres obtained from the
heirs of William Hamilton. With a group of trustees, Browne
laid out streets for a "Western
portion of Hamilton village" and then sold these new blocks to
speculators. Browne and his partners arranged these sales so
as to create a contiguous suburban setting. The original
rendering of "Hamilton
Terrace" by Samuel Sloan gives graphic evidence of how the
architect helped carry out this vision. This interplay
between financing, real estate and the architectural vision is
described in more detail on The
Emerging Suburb page at the West Phila. Community
|A surviving corner house and one of the
Italiante twins from Hamilton
designed by Samuel Sloan for S.A. Harrison.
|Woodland Terrace, built a
few years later, was also designed by Sloan.
It survives almost entirely intact.
400 S. 40th Street is listed on both the
Philadelphia and National Register of Historic Places.
The map below illustrates how the Levy House at 40th and Pine
Streets fits in with other designated properties and districts.
Registers of Historic Places:
- Effects actions involving City agencies
- Responsibility of the Philadelphia Historical
Commission & Staff
- Effects actions involving Federal agencies and funds
- Decisions generally made by the State Historic
Districts & Properties Encompassing 400. S. 40th
Black Outline = West
Philadelphia Street Car Suburb National Register District.
Yellow = Philadelphia Register of
2012 Zoning overlay:
Zoning continues to reflect the historic residential use and scale
in the vicinity of 40th and Pine Streets.
Current Planning Documents:
Spruce Hill Renewal Plan:
Plan for West Philadelphia: www.philaplanning.org/cpdiv/WPP.html
Civic Goals and Urban Design Strategies for the 40th Street
Websites for Additional History and Images:
West Philadelphia History Center: www.archives.upenn.edu/histy/features/wphila/index.html
Philadelphia City Archives On Line: www.phillyhistory.org
& Pine Home page
of the case against a hardship demolition
of 400 S. 40th Street Before and After Penn's ownership
and Contacts for the 40th & Pine Neighbors
Announcement for Past,
Present & Future Community Meeting (pdf).
We'll forward your e-mail to the
appropriate person within the Pine Street Neighbors and
Woodland Terrace Homeowners Association.