John LaVoy and Susan Finkelstein were first drawn to their 110-year-old house on the corner of Saint Bernard and Springfield streets by the stained glass windows.
And, apparently, these handmade treasures also caught the eyes of thieves.
Twelve of the windows were stolen from the couple's Queen Anne style residence -- located between 49th and 50th streets on Saint Bernard -- in May.
Hoping to curb this recent wave of thievery, a coalition of University City organizations came together last Thursday to announce an $8300 reward for the recovery of the windows.
The reward will also cover other Victorian ornaments that have been stolen from various University City homes.
Cash rewards from the fund will be awarded to anyone providing information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the thieves responsible for crimes of this type, according to John Apeldorn, president of the local Citizens Crime Comission.
The idea for the reward was prompted by a piece in The Philadelphia Inquirer by columnist Tom Ferrick Jr., who described the thefts experienced by LaVoy and Finkelstein in his column. Upon reading the column, the UCD approached other community groups to set up the reward fund.
Executive Director Paul Steinke said the goal of the reward program is to encourage witnesses to bring information to the police -- and help them catch the thieves. This, he added, will hopefully act as a deterrent to future crimes.
The University City Historical Society, Cedar Park Neighbors, Spruce Hill Community Association and Powelton Village Civic Association pooled money with the UCD and the CCC to create the reward fund.
In addition to these civic groups, the Philadelphia Inquirer and Central City Toyota are also providing financial support.
Theft of architectural ornament has become increasingly popular because of the high profits generated by selling Victorian pieces on the black market, police representatives said at the event.
Iron gates, doorknobs, porch railings, brick and stone are common items discovered missing from the historic homes of West Philadelphia said Steinke -- himself a University City homeowner.
"We know a huge market exists," 18th District Police Captain Linda MacLachlin said at the press conference.
"We also know there are people, unfortunately, who are willing to profit," she continued. "They do so at the expense of the original owners, and that's part of the tragedy."
State Representative James Roebuck -- who also attended the press conference -- said he believed that the theft of architectural ornaments is more than just an ordinary criminal wrongdoing.
"It's something that is very deeply offensive to those who live in a community like this, who care about it, who are involved in trying to rebuild it and who are involved in trying to make it better," he said.
LaVoy -- a Penn employee -- purchased the West Philadelphia home through Penn's employee mortgage program.
"I was delighted to have the chance to make one breathe again," he said of restoring the historic house he calls an "architectural wonder." If the windows are not recovered, he said he hopes to reconstruct the house as it originally stood.Comments powered by Disqus
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