Lazaretto Lazaretto
Source: Delaware County Times
Date: May 7, 2002
Byline: Erik Schwartz

Lazaretto effort gets $200,000 boost

TINICUM — The effort to save the landmark Lazaretto Station will receive its first financial boost in the form of a $200,000 state grant. Township officials plan to spend the money on a study of the 10-acre waterfront site and, perhaps, a down payment on its purchase, said Tinicum Commissioner Thomas J. Giancristoforo Jr. The Lazaretto, a 203-year-old former quarantine station for Philadelphia-bound immigrants, faces an uncertain future unless the township can acquire the property from Island Marine Partners L.L.C. of Drexel Hill, which bought it for $2.1 million in 2000, Giancristoforo said. Buying the Lazaretto could cost some $3 million, said state Rep. Ron Raymond, R-162, of Sharon Hill. Further funding will be sought from charitable foundations, the township, the county, the state and the federal government, Raymond and Giancristoforo said.

Raymond said he secured the $200,000 Community Revitalization Program grant announced last month by the state Department of Community and Economic Development by lobbying leaders of the General Assembly with Giancristoforo in Harrisburg last spring.

"I was the guy who got it," Raymond said.

Raymond and Giancristoforo convinced the two appropriations chairmen, then-state Sen. Richard A. Tilghman, R-17, of Lower Merion, and then-state House Rep. John E. Barley, R-100, of Lancaster County, to allocate money for the Lazaretto in the state budget approved last June, Raymond said.

But Tinicum didn't apply for a state grant until last November, according to a copy of the application Tinicum officials provided. A community and economic development department lawyer denied a request last week to review documents related to the application because they "are not a public record" until state and township officials sign a grant contract.

The project also gained support from state House Speaker Matthew J. Ryan, R-168, of Edgmont, and state Sen. Edwin B. "Ted" Erickson, R-26, of Newtown, Raymond said. "Everyone up there was very receptive, very helpful," he said.

Community Revitalization Program grants, formerly called WAMs, or Walking Around Money, are issued based on the wishes of the governor, legislators and local officials.

"When the township makes a request, I will normally support it," said state Sen. Clarence D. Bell, R-9, of Upland, who represented Tinicum and backed the proposal before redistricting. "Then the powers-that-be arrange for the money."

The township commissioners this summer will issue a request for proposals to planning firms that might consult on the project, Giancristoforo said. Tinicum already retains special counsel for historic preservation.

The grant will pay for a plan and, if the price is right, have enough left over to allow the township to enter an agreement of sale for the Lazaretto. "This is a good start," Giancristoforo said. "Once we have a plan that's feasible, then we can start trying to put our funding together."

Tinicum moved to save the station, which has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1972, after Island Marine Partners unveiled plans in 2000 to develop the site with a hotel and restaurant or an airport parking lot. The plans included demolition of the Lazaretto and helped land it on Preservation Pennsylvania's Risk 2001 List of endangered historic properties.

Island Marine Partners representatives have spoken with township officials about selling the Lazaretto to Tinicum, Raymond and Giancristoforo said. A lawyer for the firm could not be reached for comment.

From its spot on the Delaware River, the 30-room brick structure served for nearly a century as the port of Philadelphia's quarantine station, intended by the city's health department to protect residents from contagious disease and infected cargo. Also on the site are a carriage house, an outdoor kitchen, and a guard house, all built near the turn of the 19th Century.

More than 200 years later, consensus has built to safeguard that history intact.

"This property was very attractive when they were talking about riverboat gambling and the price was up somewhere around $7 million" before Island Marine partners bought the site, Giancristoforo said. "Riverboat gambling is going to come back sooner or later. We want to get this preserved."