Digital documentation methodology for greater philadelphia


PDP's pioneering work of the digital survey of historic resources in Philadelphia represents a partnership with the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia that extends nearly a decade. In 2005, recognizing the opportunities offered by new digital technologies, the Preservation Alliance retained PDP to complete a pilot project to determine whether digital documentation of historic resources could be a viable option in Philadelphia. In 2006, PDP completed a fully digital survey of 161 historic resources for the Philadelphia Parkside Historic District Nomination. Following the successful completion of the Parkside documentation, the Preservation Alliance has retained PDP for additional surveys of Greater Philadelphia over the past 8 years, including the Frankford, Yorktown, and Tacony neighborhoods.


The Parkside Historic District is a neighborhood in West Philadelphia built priimarily during the 1876 Centennial Exhibition. The completed Philadelphia Historic District Nomination for Parkside was submitted to the Philadelphia Historical Commission in July 2006. The final nomination package included paper and digital copies of the Philadelphia Historic Places Nomination Form; the Individual Survey Forms; and a series of maps identifying the proposed district boundary, assessments of significance, construction dates, building styles, and current uses. In December 2009 the Philadelphia Historical Commission designated Parkside as a local Historic District, representing the first digital historic district documentation project designated by the City of Philadelphia.


Frankford was originally inhabited by the Swedes in the 1600s, and is home to one of the oldest country roads still in continuous use in the nation (Frankford Avenue). It was also a popular location for the summer homes of Philadelphia's elite dating from the early 1700s. Following the successful completion of the Parkside documentation, the Preservation Alliance retained PDP to further develop this digital documentation methodology with an additional pilot project in Frankford, enhancing this powerful tool so that it could be used for the entire City of Philadelphia. The initial Frankford project was completed in 2007, with a follow-up project reviewing Frankford's early residential development completed in 2008.


Yorktown was built between 1959 and 1969 in North Philadelphia as a 600-house, low-rise development of 2 and 2½-story row groups built around cul-de-sac streets introduced into the city's grid plan by the project. It was the city's first post World War II urban redevelopment project to be completed by a private developer, Norman Denny. He worked with local religious and community leaders to allow African-Americans access to the dream of owning a new, suburban-style home in the period, before the passage of the Civil Rights Act, when equal housing rights did not yet exist.

In 2011, PDP was selected to complete a historic sites survey of Yorktown in a project funded by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, (PHMC, the State Historic Preservation Office) and evaluation of eligibility for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. The survey project led to a PHMC determination of eligibility for Yorktown for listing as a National Historic District. The Preservation Alliance then funded a National Register Nomination that was prepared by PDP's Dr. Emily Cooperman, which was approved by the State Review Board in 2012.


Tacony, a working-class neighborhood in northern Philadelphia, was developed as company housing by Henry Disston, owner of Keystone Saw Works. Acquisition began in 1873 and construction of homes and neighborhood amenities continued until wife Mary Disston's death in 1942. In total, the Disston family contribution comprises of over 600 properties ranging from twin homes to row houses for a variety of employee housing opportunities.

In 2012, PDP was retained by the Historic Society of Tacony to survey over 1,400 properties of the Tacony community. In partnership with the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia, Tacony Civic Association, the Tacony CDC and the Tacony Business Association, PDP documented properties and collected data to evaluate eligibility for listing as a National Register Historic District.

PDP gathered information through field survey, high-resolution digital SLR photography, and archival research, documenting the original construction through investigation of historic deeds and building permits, historic newspaper accounts, and informant interviews. PDP also prepared Property Reports for each of the 1,400 properties, including physical and materials descriptions, photographs, historical summaries, and a determination of significance for each building/property. This information has been input into the database format used by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania which includes GIS mapping and embedded digital photographs. This survey was completed in December 2013.


Parkside Historic District - Completed (2006)
Frankford, Scattered Sites - Completed (2007)
Frankford, Early Residential Development - Completed (2008)
Yorktown Survey - Completed (2011)
Tacony Survey - Completed (2013)