Local Woman Transforming Historic Building In Germantown Into Creative Hub For Local Artists – CBS Philly

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A transformation is underway at one well-known spot in Germantown. The project is meant to respect the past and become a beacon of light for the future.

Like many good renovation projects, this one starts with demolition all the way down to the studs. But come the fall, this 120-year-old victorian along Germantown Avenue will be transformed.

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“This is going to be the Germantown ArtHaus,” owner Keisha Whatley said.

Whatley is visualizing how the first floor will become a cafe and local space for artists.

“Artists painting in the windows, children sitting in our children’s corner, just a real kinda creative hub in the Germantown neighborhood,” Whatley said.

Including three artist studios upstairs and on the third floor a studio apartment with a rooftop deck.

“Creating spaces that inspire people and empower people,” Whatley said.

Just as the previous owners did for decades. The Germantown ArtHaus will be located in the former Swain’s Printing & Accounting shop belonging to William and Ena Swain, a prominent black family in Philadelphia.

“He was the first African-American to receive the union bug, which is a prestigious award from the Philadelphia Printers’ Union. She was the first African-American accountant at a huge brewery in Philadelphia.

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What they left behind is now inspiring what’s now to come.

“It’s just mind-blowing, the way this building became a time capsule,” Whatley said.

Whatley, an artist herself with a design company, is breathing new life into some of their old furniture and equipment. Like some printing presses.

“Our idea is to turn these into bartop tables for the cafe. We have an old typewriter where the ‘click, click, click,’” Whatley said.

And framed on the wall, a found collection of the Germantown Gazette from 1885.

The walls outside won’t be overlooked either.

“When you drive up, it is covered in art and color,” Whatley said.

Two giant murals will complete the project, with themes of social justice reform and hope for a brighter future. This will become a gateway to Germantown, and empower the next generation.

“That we begin to own our history and own property, and having a space where you can come in and kind of really relax and see something new, and get inspired,” Whatley said.

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There’s still a ton of structural work, not to mention the renovations that need to happen before the Germantown ArtHaus can open in the fall. So the business has set up GoFundMe, hoping to raise $150,000. For more information on how to help, click here.

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