Long a vibrant residential community in northwest Philadelphia, the Wirt business demolished four residences, 5221-5227 Greene Street, each with a long lot that accommodated gardens and small outbuildings, in order to buildings, in order to build the factory. Neighbors and city officials were so outraged that it galvanized Philadelphia's zoning ordinance. Adopted in 1921, it is one of the earliest in the country. The building has been pictured in zoning textbooks.
Following the Wirt electric appliances, the building was used to develop televisions, assemble radios(we found thousands of transistors in the floor cracks), and a flooring company (related to Rineharts on the corner of Greene and Queen Lane). Greene Street Artist purchased the building from Dick Hayne, founder of Urban Outfitters, who had used it as a warehouse.
When GSAC purchased the building (December 30, 1991), it had been vacant for several years and was a mess!
A prior owner had cinder-blocked all the windows on the southeast side and east corner and built sheds on both sides of the building. The remaining windows had standard issue factory steel mullions with a center flip panel that opened. In addition to the front stairway (still in use), two long stairs connected the first and second floor along the northwest side. Outside the northwest side contained a loading dock, a second floor door and hoist for deliveries, and a driveway to the back area, which was entirely paved. Each of the architects we interviewed recommended opening the windows, removing the sheds, and configuring the building with a central hallway.
Greene Street Artist reclaimed the building and property for residential / studio use, removing much of the asphalt- one step toward humanizing the city and greening the earth...
Example of item produced in the Wirt factory