DAS Architects was awarded the GBCA Contractors’ Choice Award for it’s work on the restoration of The Steele Building at 15 South 11th Street in Philadelphia. The GBCA (General Building Contractors Association) honored the winners of the 20th Annual Construction Excellence Awards at an awards ceremony held at the Vie Ballroom in Philadelphia on November 14, 2017.
For the past 20 years, this program has been the region’s most sought-after construction awards program, recognizing the highest quality of workmanship and building innovation by Philadelphia area commercial contractors, as well as those companies who have demonstrated an honorable commitment to advancing the commercial construction industry.
This year, GBCA also recognized the Contractors’ Choice Award winner, one project chosen as the most notable of all of submitted projects for this year’s Construction Excellence Awards based on a survey of all Active and Associate members of GBCA.
The William Steele and Sons-designed building at 15 South Eleventh Street, built in 1912, is a rare local example of a transitional period in commercial architecture in the early twentieth century. Combining brick, reinforced concrete, and glazed terra cotta as a primary building material, the structure became and remains one of Market East’s signature works and was advertised at the time of its construction to be the first structure in the city to feature polychromatic terra cotta.
While Steele and Sons did not enjoy the national fame of contemporaries such as Louis Sullivan, Daniel Burnham, and Cass Gilbert, it was nonetheless one of the most significant firms in Philadelphia throughout the first half of the 20th century. Further, the building’s place as one of the first Horn and Hardart locations grants it a significant place in the social history of Philadelphia. Though smaller in stature than some of Steele and Sons’ other local landmarks, the building at 15 South Eleventh is no less important.
The storefronts originally featured stained glass transoms designed by D’Ascenzo Studios which were removed some time in the mid-twentieth century. Also no longer extant are two metal canopies over the restaurant entrance at the building’s northwest corner and upper-floor entrance at its southwest corner.
The Steele Building had fallen into disrepair in recent years and was largely empty except for some street level retail. The building was purchased by Brickstone Realty and tasked DAS Architects and Clemens Construction with the restoration. Missing terra cotta tiles were replaced to bring out the original colors. The old manufacturing floors have been leased to The Yard, which manages coworking spaces, and the first floor has been leased to Honeygrow, a Philadelphia-based restaurant concept.