BEFORE: Security Elevator Co. (left) and AF Bornot Dye Works seen in 2013, prior to renovation. Photo courtesy of MMPartners.

From Friday, September 10th through Saturday, October 2nd, STOP DEMOLISHING PHILLY will occupy the ground floor space of the Security Elevator Co. building at 1640 Fairmount Avenue. The space is temporarily the FRESH HELL GALLERY, a term coined by Inga Saffron for my repurposing of the space previously home to the offices of Hello Fresh. The exhibition space comes courtesy of the generous donation of MMPartners, LLC.

MMPartners is a real estate firm driven by an ethos unifying history, culture, and community. For over 20 years, they’ve carefully considered the most appropriate approach to building in existing neighborhoods. Their work proves that developers can build responsibly, rehabilitate and adapt old buildings for new use, and still turn a profit. Their projects contribute to the streetscapes of Brewerytown, Fairmount, Francisville, Manayunk, and coming soon, West Philadelphia and Ardmore.

The curving four-story building on the corner of 17th & Fairmount, built in 1900, was once home to AF Bornot Dye Works, a company that specialized in French scouring and steam dyeing. In other words, an innovative dry cleaner of their time. In 1925, an explosion onsite killed four employees, including a vice president, but they quickly regrouped. A two-story brick addition adjacent to the east was built as warehouse space, and the following year Bornot built the handsome streamline moderne plant that still occupies the corner of Lehigh and Ridge Avenues across from Laurel Hill Cemetery.

Security Elevator building, home of the FRESH HELL GALLERY

In 1982, the Security Elevator Company moved into the two-story building, using the first floor as a repair shop and the upper floor for offices. In 2002, both buildings were named as a contributing resources to the Fairmount Avenue (National) Historic District. Neither Security Elevator nor Bornot is on the Philadelphia (Local) Register of Historic Places.

MMPartners purchased the buildings in 2013; they converted the Bornot spaces to apartments and Security Elevator into commercial space. Melissa Romero profiled the conversion for Curbed in 2016.

Currently, Anytime Fitness occupies the second floor of Security Elevator. From September 10th through October 2nd, STOP DEMOLISHING PHILLY will be exhibited on the first floor. Viewing hours are Thursdays & Fridays 6–9pm and Saturdays 10am–2pm.