By GroJLart (Hiddencityphila.org)
Thirteenth Street in Midtown Village is filled with architectural treasures. This stretch has made a wonderful transition in the last decade. Now vibrant with unique shops and restaurants, it owes much of its character to the abundance of gorgeous historic buildings. Of all of them, the 1307 Sansom Building stands out above the rest.
This slender building holds the distinction of being one of the only Philadelphia buildings remaining from the Felix Isman development empire. Isman was a real estate genius who literally wrote the book on the subject. He recognized urban growth patterns like Mozart wrote symphonies. Isman was able to identify areas of the city that would be in demand in the near future. He would buy up properties, demolish them, build small structures that alleged to be the “first phase” of a larger building, then sell off said property about 10 years later when the value of the location skyrocketed. Isman applied his incisive strategy in New York City and Chicago as well. “Daring Dealer Finds Philadelphia too Small a Field and Invades the Metropolis,” says a New York Times headline from 1907, calling Isman a “Man of Wise Saws and Big Ideas.”
Isman’s strategy in Philadelphia is still highly visible today. He was the one who bought the old U.S. Mint at Chestnut and Juniper Streets, built the short Mint Arcade, then sold the property to the developers of theWidener Building. He was also the one who bought the Dundas-Lippincott Mansion at Broad and Walnut, built the first Forrest Theater/retail building on its large lot, then sold the space to make way for the Fidelity-Philadelphia Bank 20 years later.
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