West Philadelphia High School gets a new building

West Philadelphia High School is an age-old institution in West Philadelphia, as its name suggests.  It is, also, going through many transitions.  Recently, the School District of Philadelphia has decided to change the management and curriculum by converting West Philadelphia High into a Renaissance school, because the school performs well below the School District average on the state PSSA tests and has had problems with violence and too many fire alarms.  This has been controversial and has caused some students and parents to protest these changes.  Amidst all the controversy, recently, about changes at West Philadelphia High, few people realize that one change that is welcome by everyone is a big new school building being built nearby the old one.

The current West Philadelphia High School building opened in 1912 at 47th & Walnut Streets.  It is a grand Gothic structure, like so many Philadelphia high school buildings of that time.  Over the years, new sections were added to the building, including a more modern gym.  However, like many older school buildings, it has become outdated for modern studies.  So, school officials and parents decided several years ago that it was time to build a new building somewhere nearby.  The selection of the new site took years and many sites were considered.  Eventually, a large, four and a half-acre empty lot at 49th & Chestnut Streets was selected for a modern building.  That site was once the former home of West Philadelphia Catholic High School, another grand building from the early twentieth century that was demolished a few years ago. 

The new high school will be 170,000 square feet on three levels in a modern design by Kelly/Maiello Architects.  The classrooms are mostly along 49th Street and the two gyms are along Market Street and the El.  The building will have modern classrooms and science labs and is expected to obtain LEED silver certification.  The new science labs are of particular interest to the school’s world-renowned Hybrid X automotive program, that has rivaled ivy-league colleges in competitions to create fuel-efficient cars.  The building is being designed to focus on three West Philadelphia High School academies: urban leadership, creative and performing arts, and business technology.  The school’s library, gyms, and auditorium will be available for community use, with separate entrances for nighttime.  The new West Philadelphia High School will open in September for the new 2011/2012 school year

While a new West Philadelphia High School building won’t solve all the school’s problems, it is an important, and necessary, first step.  It helps to further the efforts of the school’s high achievers, such as the Hybrid X team and the students in the various academies.  And, it frees up the existing Gothic structure for renovation by a developer into some sort of residential building on Walnut Street, which could net the School District millions of dollars when they sell it for that future use.

The new West Philadelphia High School will, also, have an impact on the surrounding neighborhoods, as people move to those neighborhoods so that their children can attend the improved school and to take advantage of increasing property values.  If you’re considering moving to those neighborhoods, you can contact me at gabriel@thecondoshops.com or check out my facebook realtor page, Gabriel G. Philly Realtor.  I live nearby in University City, and I am very familiar with the neighborhoods around the new high school building.  And, I have pictures and a link to an article from the school district website about the new building here.

Model of new West Philadelphia High School showing the El

Model showing entrance @ 49th & Chestnut Streets

Model showing courtyards in front of gym and classrooms

Entrance to the new building @ 49th & Chestnut Streets

Classrooms are mostly along 49th Street

Entrance showing auditorium that will have separate entrance

The El next to the new school building

Gym along Market Street, including brickwork designed to resemble African-American quilts from Alabama

A familiar site over the past decade: the School District sign announcing the new building

View from 50th Street showing where the courtyards will be

The old West Philadelphia High School building on Walnut Street

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About gabrielcgottlieb

I am a real estate agent at Long & Foster Real Estate Center City and someone who likes to write about development and urban planning in the City of Philadelphia. Contact me at Gabriel.gottlieb@LNF.com if you are interested in buying or selling a home or investment property in Philadelphia.
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27 Responses to West Philadelphia High School gets a new building

  1. GroJLart says:

    Jeez talk about a future Butt-Fugly Building of the Week! Oh well, it will be nice to have the beautiful old building available for adaptive re-use and not housing one of the worst schools in America. Wish they could have come up with a better design for the new building… it will actually look better when the 56th street gang tags it all up.

    • Ric says:

      I was just praying it would not be defaced. The mentality of the peolpe who do this. No respect for property or community.

      • Shalita says:

        It sounds like you’re not from west Philly I live here and market street is not what you say it is so since when has there been gangs on market st? Even my mother laughed at what you said.

    • Adrienne Owens says:

      Your negativity is symtomatic of what’s wrong with the West Philsdelphia community. If you can’t offer constuctive comments…………………..
      A Proud WPHS Alumna

      • Julius Curry says:

        Thanks Adrienne, I agree with you ! Happy to see a new WPHS. I never liked the old
        building. I plan to visit the “New West” very soon !

  2. Mary Willliams says:

    My son is a neighborhood student and he wants to go to the new west. How do we go about applying to the school.

  3. Larry Bledsoe says:

    My name is Larry Bledsoe and I’m one of the SPO’S at WPHS. I’m also a football, bowling coach. It’s been a pleasure working at west. I’ve been coaching there sense 2004 and still coaching today. I just became a per-diem in 2010. I love the fact that I’m giving back. I’m a graduate of the school district. I graduated from Edward Bok in 1992. Football is a life learned sport. It’s been a pleasure teaching these kids life. These kids are really a blessing to me they keep me on my toes. I’m always
    learning from them too. I will give it up when I stop learning from them but until than GO SPEEDBOYS AND SPEEDGIRLS.

    • Joan Garrett says:

      Thank you Larry for caring. We need more teachers and coaches like you. Teachers who love teaching and coaches who love coaching, but most of all people who love people no matter what the background, ethnicity, racial origin or religion. I am a fifty year alumni of West Philadelphia HS. and I salute educators like you. J. Garrett

  4. line says:

    i want to put my child in this school were do i find that at ?

  5. amber says:

    How Many Credits Do We Need To Graduate From This School ?

  6. Ernest Blow says:

    i think the new west is awsome

  7. MsLewis says:

    I am a homeowner in the neighborhood and am interested in what the environment will be like both academically and socially at the new school. Where can I find out about the new curriculum for the school and what are the plans for the old building?

    • You can follow the link to West Philadelphia High School’s homepage in the top paragraph of my article. From there you might, also, be able to get to the School District website, which might have additional info.

      As far as plans for the old building, I don’t think that has been determined yet.

  8. beatrice okelly says:

    MY GRANDDAUGHTER IS AN HONOR STUDENT AT WEST PHILA. HIGH SCHOOL, IN HER SENIOR YEAR. SHE LOVES THE SCHOOL AND SHE IS ALSO A CHEERLEADER. GO WEST!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. Carol Merrill says:

    I am happy for the students and community that a new school has been built. As an English teacher at West in the mid 70’s, mid 80’s and from 1991-2007, I have seen the good and the bad but so much more good and positive than the media and community at large saw. I hope that the community (parents, alumni, and concerned citizens) will become an active ingredient to the success of the new school. The students will need constant reminders and
    images of what the school and they as individuals can be. They will need to see the steps toward success in its myriad forms to spark dreams and goals. The students reflect what we as adults do and don’t do. Many of us are proud of what what students did at West that didn’t get all the negative coverage.

  10. Reinaldo Mayzck says:

    I really like this it safe no fight like last year but I really like it ( I will like to go this school

  11. nikita says:

    hey every body Iam coming to this school next year!!!!!!!!!!

  12. caddymike says:

    I am a graduate of West class of 72 ,, the building was old then , Love the new building ,I still have great memories of 47th Walnut building.. The good ole fire towers . .my.my my!!

  13. Destiny says:

    how to i transfer to west philly high i go to sayer but its not my naborhood school wht can i do

  14. Rev. Haig S. Medzarentz'Feb. 42 says:

    What a marvelos gift to the community! Iam a,graduate, class of Feb.1942. My tears are for the old school on Walnut. St. It will be a sad day ro see what happens to it. Many fond memories.
    My two brothers also graduated from Western. Yeah, Western. I guess that word has been not been used for a long time. Go Speedboys. Beat West Catholic on Turkey Day. What memories!
    Too many to list.
    Best wishes to all of you. Still am proud of my High Schoo!
    Rev. Haig S. Medzarentz. I am 89 years old.
    God bless you all at Western.

  15. I am a graduate of West 1969, lots of good memories and good friends. And the new school is awesome!!! I no longer lives in Phila, but my congrats to the community.. God Bless

  16. Good Evening WPHS Alumni,
    I too bleed orange & blue ! This entire West Philadelphia neighborhood and beyond needs to remember that West Philadelphia High school is celebrating it’s 100th year. There is a Gala set for October 14 , 2012 . Tickets are $100.00 . We the members of the Centennial Raffel committee are asking you to please attend BUT if you can’t ,you can still show your school PRIDE by purchasing a $5.00 Raffel ticket… 1,000 WPHS Centennial Gala Raffels were printed ,with the GOAL of raising $5,000.00 for WPHS student scholarships. TO DATE 250 raffels have been sold.With less than 3 weeks to go we MUST and only need to sell 250 more. CAN WE DO IT ? YES WE CAN!! Raffles will be sold on Sat.September 22,2012 at the WPHS vs Overbrook High School’s Football Game. Game time is 10:00 am. Elvis Presley said it Best with his TCB -Taking Care Of Business .. Please remember it’s the PRECIOUS MEMORIES that LAST ..Memories that were made at a school where EDUCATION was your KEY to SUCCESS and a better and brighter FUTURE,where CHARACTER and FRIENDSHIPS mattered.Thank you in advance for your support.Looking Forward to seeing and meeting at the game,and NEVER FORGET WEST IS STLL BEST. Sharida Gillison 76′ & Jeanette Scott Gillison 49′

  17. Geri Killalea says:

    Found a yearbook from West Philadelphia High School in my garage. Turns out it was my mothers who graduated from this school in 1943. The yearbook was called “The Record”. It had an inlaid picture of the school on the front. Many classic pictures from a great time period. I looked the school up on line and found the new building and was glad to see the old one still standing. My mother’s name was Catherine Moore.

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