History of the William Penn House
The William Penn House was the idea of Frank M. Steinberg and Efriam J. Frankel. Together the partners, along with Frankel Enterprises, purchased most of the required land from the Wolf family, the owners of the Penn Fruit Company and the William Penn Shop. There was actually a Penn Fruit market on the southeast corner where the Stock Exchange building now stands.
The land purchase included the wholesale flower market fronting on Ludlow Street between 19th and 20th Street. Ranstead Street ran through from 19th to 20th Street. Several buildings on Chestnut Street were also purchased so the new cooperative would have a Chestnut Street address. Directly across the street from today's front entrance was Helen Siegel Wilson's renowned restaurant. Part of our front garden and the neighboring State Store was the private dining club known as the Alpha Club. The Alpha Club relocated further east on Chestnut Street where Victoria's Secret is now doing business.
The city administration was encouraging people to locate to Center City with its offer of shopping and cultural advantages not to mention short walks to work.
Sample apartments were constructed in Strawbridge & Clothier department store at 8th and Market Streets. Much to the store's dissappointment, the samples sold in record time and had to be dismantled.
With the spring of 1964 came the groundbreaking for this the third cooperative apartment house in Philadelphia and by October, 1965, the new cooperative's tenant-members were moving into their spacious, all electric, luxury apartments.
The neighborhood looked different back then. You could see City Hall from the terraces on the north side of the building, along with an unobstructed view of the Philadelphia Art Museum. Thirty-five years later, with many of the original tenant-members still living here, the cooperative continues to be maintained as a modern, attractive, comfortable, state-of-the-art building. Our tenant-members continue to enjoy tax and financial advantages of cooperative living in the heart of our great city. All of this is due to the diligence and dedicated hard work of the men and women who have taken the time to serve on our Board of Directors and House Council. Residents feel that the William Penn House is the best managed building in Center City.