Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Past Perfect: Almost lost, two historic properties are back in use, receive preservation honors

Elementary Coffee Co.

Andrea Grove, owner of Elementary Coffee Co., said her favorite part of her shop’s newly refurbished home is the angled door.

Set 500 feet from the state Capitol, it makes a statement, she said, offering an opening to the dark-suited professionals of state government, the art-lovers of Midtown, the dog-walkers and joggers of the riverfront, and everyone else who passes by.

Her leased space dominates the combined building at 254 to 256 North St. that is one of two winners of the 2020 Preservation Award from the Historic Harrisburg Association.

The strategic location clearly unites not only an eclectic collection of people, but eras.  Freshly roasted coffee is served in a Civil War-era rowhome, now transformed into a sleek, chic new venue.

“This is part of the re-urbanization of America,” said Matt Krupp, a North Street neighbor whose company acquired and redeveloped the property, which includes two upstairs apartments. “Residents like the walkability of the downtown, which is a wave we were happy to ride.”

This year’s other Preservation Award recipient is the “Fox on Washington,” at the corner of S. 2nd and Washington streets. Built in 1906, this gem of brick and sandstone lies between UPMC Pinnacle, which once owned the property, and the now-shuttered Paxton Fire Station.

Originally home to the Fox Hotel and, starting in the 1930s, Santanna’s Seafood House, the three-floor structure was meticulously restored and redeveloped by Harristown Enterprises. It now houses two stylish two-bedroom apartments, and six one-bedroom units.

The handiwork of Trinity Construction Group of Steelton and Camp Hill-based architect By Design Consultants, all residences have granite countertops, wood vinyl plank living room floors, metal console washstands, tiled showers with glass enclosures, stainless steel appliances and full-sized washers and dryers.

The exterior has both original and harvested sandstone, said Brad Jones, Harristown’s president and CEO. Renovators replaced masonry, restored a sagging turret and installed architectural-series windows.

Jones said that his favorite part of the 114-year-old boutique building is the façade, offering an attractive entry both to Shipoke and downtown Harrisburg.

“They don’t build buildings like this anymore,” he said. “We’re really proud of it.”

Fox on Washington

Complete Block

Like the Fox on Washington, Elementary Coffee’s new location was once home to a restaurant, the popular Coventry eatery. Built in the late 1860s, the structure was one of the oldest remaining homes in the Capitol area neighborhood.

Krupp, working with Alli Lin, LLC, acquired the property in late 2017 from the Harrisburg Redevelopment Authority and began renovation in early 2018. Work ended in the fall of 2019.

Krupp said the south- and east-facing façade is original brick. They removed the rear of the building and installed permeable pavers to allow environmentally conscious natural drainage, providing seven parking spaces and egress.

They also removed the third-floor dormer attic, which was unusable space, and transformed it into dramatic, 19-foot-high cathedral ceiling space. The second floor holds two 800-square-foot, one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartments.

New sidewalks and trees were added in the front, along with custom-made curved windows on the front and side.

Krupp said the once-dilapidated building is a key piece of the puzzle in the “complete block” concept. Already, North Street boasts a coffee shop, upscale restaurants, a diner, eye doctor, hair salon, mechanic and gym.

“There’s been so much investment in this block in the past two years,” Krupp said.

The Impact

According to HHA’s David Morrison, the HHA Preservation Committee selected the award winners, with final approval from the board of directors. The committee examined the quality and extent of restoration, the impact on the surrounding neighborhood, and the degree to which demolition or loss was prevented or history was preserved.

The old Coventry building “adds greatly to the vibrancy of a property so close to the Capitol Complex,” Morrison said.  “They literally saved a building that would have not survived without this restoration.”

Morrison lauded the old Coventry’s “historic exterior and dramatic interior.” He ticks off the many other buildings along that leafy stretch of North Street from memory, including the state headquarters of Preservation Pennsylvania, and at Green and North streets, a building with a “very rare” cast-iron façade, typical of the 1870s and 1880s.

“That’s what makes that neighborhood very special,” he said.

Coventry was a holdback in a row of rejuvenation, he said, but is now another gem.

He added that the Fox on Washington “is the gateway to center city Harrisburg.”

“That’s one of the first things you see,” he said. “If that were to be demolished, it could have led to the entire block being demolished. The whole character of the experience of arriving in Harrisburg would have changed dramatically.”

And that’s just the exterior.

“They did a magnificent job of taking a building that was under-utilized for a number of years and finding a way to make every square foot functional and usable,” Morrison said.

Renters will enjoy living at the edge of Shipoke, he predicted, just a block away from the stately John Harris Mansion.

“It’s a very desirable neighborhood,” Morrison said. “And the historic setting is kept intact.”

Washington Street is populated with beautiful historic rowhomes, with brick sidewalks and mature trees.

“It would have been a shame to be replaced with a modern building or parking garage,” he said. “It’s the impact that we are looking for.”

Historic Harrisburg Association’s annual Preservation Celebration and Toast will be held on Sept. 20. For more information, visit, contact HHA at or 717-233-4646.

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