Those who have wandered past the corner of 18th & Locust Streets have undoubtedly seen the fancy historic building on the southeast corner, across the street from Rittenhouse Square Park. The building is home to the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music, a private, but free, music school for children who qualify to attend based on their talent and skill. The school was founded in 1924 and is housed in the former home of the Curtis family, the owners of the large Curtis Publishing Company, that published magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post, The Ladies Home Journal, and Ranger Rick Magazine. But the original building for the Curtis Institute is getting too cramped for the student body of roughly 165 students. So, the school has been building a new building a block away on the 1600 block of Locust Street.
The new building is called Lenfest Hall (there’s that name again) and is being built partially with a grant from Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest, who themselves have made their money from a media company, Comcast. The new building is being designed by post-modernist pioneer architecture firm, Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates and is being built by Intech Construction at a cost of $65 million. It is replacing the former Locust Club building, built in the 1950s for a private club, but will include the renovated facades of two Victorian and Italianate brownstone townhouses on either side. The building will have a ten-storey highrise dormitory for the students on Latimer Street and a midrise building, in front of the dorm, on Locust, which will have rehearsal and public performance spaces. The facade of the modern building includes brownstone and will have large windows to allow views into and out of some rehearsal spaces. Lenfest Hall will, also, have dining for the students, faculty and staff to allow for socializing (like discussing the latest episode of Glee, unless they think that’s too bourgeois 😉 ). There will be 32 sound proof rehearsal and teaching rooms and a special rehearsal space for the Curtis Symphony Orchestra. It will, also, have state-of-the-art audio and video recording rooms and equipment, as well as, fiber optic connections to the original Curtis building on Rittenhouse Square and the Kimmel Center, where the Curtis Symphony Orchestra and other Curtis student groups frequently perform.
When it’s all finished, it will be a wonderful addition to the city’s cultural and academic communities. I have pictures and renderings here and links to the Curtis website and Venturi, Scott Brown website, as well. Lenfest Hall is a block away from The Aria Condominiums, a highrise condominium complex in the historic Lewis Tower, at 15th & Locust. You can found out more about The Aria Condominiums at The Condo Shop website, here.