A Community Hub That’s Changing With the Times
The ArchiveThe Garsed Center has been a landmark building in its Philadelphia neighborhood of Frankford since 1866, when it was built as a home for a wealthy textile manufacturer.
It has since changed ownership and function several times, but one thing has remained consistent: its central role in charity, activism, and community engagement. Today, it stands as a space for local nonprofits to work, convene and collaborate. Learn more about this landmark’s history as it’s woven itself into the fabric of local service.
BrownstoneThe only brownstone in Frankford, the mansion stood apart with its ornate Victorian-era style, modeled after the Union League of Philadelphia. John Garsed, a wealthy mill owner, built this stately brownstone for himself. Despite its grandeur, the mansion was nicknamed “Garsed’s folly,” as construction was delayed by material shortages and an economy shocked by the American Civil War. Garsed, forced by the same economic difficulties facing the nation in the wake of the war, sold his home to his brother Richard Garsed. The building changed hands several times across wealthy textile manufacturer families, including the Davenports, Baults and Bromleys.
YMCAThe Young Women’s Christian Association purchased the Garsed-Bromley mansion for use as a neighborhood center during World War II and beyond. Between the 1940s and the 1960s, the center took off as a community hub, offering leadership programs for women and serving community needs. Here, the YWCA trained nearly 5,000 young women as United Service Organization (USO) hostesses during WWII, and the space also provided recreational facilities for the growing working-class neighborhood. By the early 1960s, the “Frankford Y,” as it became known, was a center of community life, offering its spaces to organizations like the Girl Scouts and the Settlement Music School. As demographic changes and racial tensions rose in the sixties, the mansion also became a center for integration efforts, publishing a community paper called the Northeast Liberator and cementing its significance as a true voice of the community.
AbandonedBudget shortfalls and national economic uncertainty forced the center to close, ending its 68 years of community service. One of the neighborhood’s most iconic buildings faced an uncertain future, as neighbors feared the abandoned building would attract vandalism and crime, and even called for its demolition.
Today, the Garsed Center is proudly open to the community, with office spaces for area nonprofits to set up their operations. The center offer’s several different rooms and office styles to accommodate your work and collaboration needs. We’re here to help community organizations do the good work Philadelphia needs. And we’re proud to once again be part of a vibrant community.
We look forward to being in touch.