October 9, 2012
As a lifetime resident of Philadelphia and a serious flâneur of this fine city, I have come across many gems from bygone days dwarfed by modern architecture, hidden down tiny alleyways, ravaged by overgrowth and some simply abandoned in plain sight. The Rittenhouse Coffee Shop is one of the later. This colorful and neglected yesteryear cafe sits at 1904 Sansom Street in the shadow of the equally disregarded Warwick Hotel. After a bit of research I found that it was operating most recently as a soul food joint in the early 1990's. Before that it was a home to The Second Fret Coffee Shop in the 60's & 70's, a folk and blues venue that helped nurture the budding careers of the likes of Joni Mitchel and Arlo Guthrie and a rumored set by The Velvet Underground happened there. As a development and planning war continues to rage between the Philadelphia Parking Authority, The Historical Society and big money developers, I will continue to daydream about what the place was in all it's original Mercer tiled glory and my wild ideas for what it could be if I could get one hand on it with a blank check in the other.