East Falls Tour

By Tim Tice, in photos

I have long admired the quaint story book homes big and small in the East Falls section of Philadelphia.  So last Sunday I  jumped at the opportunity to spy inside a few on a neighborhood tour.

The 8 houses ranged in age from the early 1900’s to the late 1950’s.  Architecturally they ran the gamut from Spanish and Georgian Revival, English, Victorian and Craftsman, but by far the most exciting stop on the tour for me was a home designed by modernist architect Richard Neutra in 1959.

Over the past 5 years, the house has gone through a major renovation to restore as many of its original features as possible.  A labor of love, the current owners have done extensive research to help aid them in their quest.  Nestled in a secluded, wooded area just steps from the local University, the Hassrick house is an excellent example of the International Style Neutra is so famous for.

From street view the house appears as an unassuming solid blocked massing similar to that assembled by a child with wooden blocks.  It is this simplicity that makes the modern style of this home so appealing. Neutra’s thoughtful design sensibility creates a flowing open floor plan.  A quick tour around the perimeter of the home reveals the architects goal of blending interior living spaces with the natural setting while retaining  the privacy of the inhabitants. Neutra used the term “biorealism” to describe his work, emphasizing the relationship between man and nature.  The rear private elevation of the home is created by a floor to ceiling 40’ wide monumental sliding window, opening seamlessly to blur the lines between inside and  out.  This theme is repeated in the bedrooms lining the rear of the structure.  Though a home like this is not for everyone, you can’t help but admire the bold choices the architect made and the trust the homeowner placed in him to create the design. As you walk around the natural setting it is hard to believe the hustle and bustle of center city Philadelphia is just a short 10 minute drive away.

It was interesting to note and hard to ignore on this beautiful Fall day, though all the homes on the tour were unique in their own ways, nature was important to each and every one of them.  From small postage size patios on the traditional Philadelphia row homes to the sprawling private back yard oasis of the Hassrick house, one cannot deny the importance of having an outdoor space to call your own.

I can’t think of a better way to spend a crisp beautiful October day.