Inside this modest, three-story brick building, Joe Frazier – a gold medal winner at the 1964 Olympics and later Heavyweight Champion of the World – trained for his victorious bout against Muhammad Ali. Today, the converted warehouse where Smokin' Joe perfected his punch is home to a discount furniture store and two floors of vacant space. Despite growing interest in commemorating Frazier's life (he died in 2011), the gym is unprotected; it enjoys no formal historic designation at the local or national level.
Winning historic designation at the local level for the building Frazier owned and operated will demonstrate the power of communities to protect the places that tell their diverse stories. Similarly, inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places will promote the value of diversity within this roster of our country's most important historic resources.
- Raise $10,000 to cover the administrative costs of nominating Joe Frazier Gym to both the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places and the National Register of Historic Places.
- Develop a viable preservation plan for the property.
- Identify a friendly buyer or developer to purchase the building.
Ways To Help
Written by Brent Leggs, Project Manager
Smokin’ Joe Frazier is somewhere smiling today. His beloved gym http://savingplaces.org/treasures/joe-fraziers-gym is listed in the nation’s national inventory of significant historic places. The naming of the building to the National Register of Historic Places builds recognition for Frazier’s legacy and it commemorates a remarkable life once lived. We’re proud of our contribution to this effort and the excellent work of our National Treasure team.
Kudos to the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia, Temple University, Heritage Consulting Group, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, and National Park Service for protecting American history.
My fingers are crossed for more good news to come. The Philadelphia Historical Commission will consider the gym for local designation on June 14th. If successful, our vision to protect Joe Frazier’s Gym, to celebrate Frazier’s life, and to make available federal historic tax credits will be achieved.
Written by Brent Leggs, Project Manager
On October 16, the National Trust and Temple University's Department of Architecture co-hosted "A Smokin' Good Night," a film screening of Joe Frazier: When the Smoke Clears, a critically-acclaimed documentary about Frazier's life released this year. Following the screening, we held a panel discussion with an eclectic mix of speakers. The evening was a great success and was an inspirational rallying cry for saving Joe Frazier's Gym. The audience of about 100 people included Temple students and faculty, local preservationists, members of the Frazier family, community advocates, and media.
The evening opened with an introduction by Quenell Jones of New York City, director of photography for the film. He shared their four-year process for making the film and stories about Frazier.
The film brought clarity to Frazier's remarkable, yet difficult life. Parts of the film had the audience laughing at the screen as the documentary traced Frazier's early childhood in South Carolina through his retirement in Philadelphia. The film perfectly captured the importance of the gym not only as a training ground for Frazier, but also as a haven for young people facing the temptations of street life in an underserved community in Philly. The film changed my assumptions about Frazier. Unlike Muhammad Ali, Frazier was a quiet activist, working daily to preserve the fragile spirit of youth nearly lost to the tough streets of his beloved city. After you watch this film, you'll better understand why Frazier's story is exceptional and worthy of preservation.
Each member of the diverse panel brought a unique perspective to the conversation. Diane Turner, director of the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection at Temple University, made introductions of the panelists. Ann Dinh, a Temple University student and architecture major, has helped lead the fight to save the gym and to conduct the first level of research for the local nomination. Jeanie Kahnke is the vice president of communications at the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Kentucky, and a strong advocate for protecting the legacy of African American boxers. Vernoca Michael is a boxing promoter, co-owner of the Legendary Blue Horizon, and leading preservationist in Philadelphia. Nathaniel Popkin is editorial and research director at Hidden City Philadelphia, where he helps to raise awareness about forgotten historic places and then challenges the public into action.
I had the good fortune to moderate the discussion about the value of preserving the gym, how local preservationists can help, and what Frazier's legacy and this site mean to Philadelphia and the nation. I also wanted to make the connection between the film and gym, showcasing the different ways in which we save history in the 21st century. The emotion from the panel and audience expressed a growing commitment for saving local history, and most importantly the gym. At the end of the program, two students unfamiliar to this work were inspired to ask how they could get involved. Frazier's nephew thanked everyone supporting this cause. It was certainly a good night in Philadelphia! I want to thank my colleague Andy Grabel at the National Trust for making this a wonderful event.
Following the screening, Kultur International Films has offered the National Trust a profit sharing opportunity to help us save the gym. Each DVD purchased using the coupon code JFNT will receive a $2.00 discount from the purchase price of $19.99. At a 60/40 split, the National Trust will get $7.20 for each DVD purchased with the coupon code JFNT. Please support us by purchasing the film. They'd make a great holiday gift! Use this link to place your order: http://www.kultur.com/Joe-Frazier-p/d4793.htm
Also, keep an eye out for an upcoming online interview with Nathaniel Hopkins about efforts to protect the gym at Hidden City Philadelphia.
Written by Andy Grabel, Team Member
Posted on January 28, 2013
The National Trust for Historic Preservation and its preservation partners hosted a film screening of the documentary, "Joe Frazier: When the Smoke Clears" at Temple University last fall that received an overwhelming response from attendees. The film about Frazier's life that spotlights the importance of saving his gym in Philadelphia resonated with students, faculty, local preservationists and community activists alike. In an effort to reach a wider audience with the film and raise funds to support preservation of the gym, the National Trust entered into an agreement Kultur International Films LTD., Inc. recently, in which the National Trust receives a portion of the proceeds from sales of the documentary DVD.
The National Trust will receive 40 percent of the discounted sale price ($17.99), or $7.20, on any sale of the DVD. To watch a clip of the film or purchase a DVD, visit http://www.kultur.com/Joe-Frazier-p/d4793.htm. Enter the unique code "JFNT" to support us in protecting an iconic historic site and receive a discount on purchase of the DVD.
After watching the film, share your stories and thoughts on our Saving Places website: http://savingplaces.org/treasures/joe-fraziers-gym.
Written by Brent Leggs, Project Manager
Saving places works best through collaboration, often because it takes many invested partners to make preservation projects financially feasible.
This is why securing free technical services from reputable consulting firms can be an essential strategy for reducing program costs, helping to advance a preservation project and to keep it on schedule. Thankfully, through the leadership of the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia, a partner has been secured to write the National Register of Historic Places nomination for Joe Frazier's Gym free of charge.
Heritage Consulting Group is a national leader in historic tax credits and real estate redevelopment consulting, providing broad strategic direction to the owners and developers of historic buildings across the country. Founded in 1982, with offices in Philadelphia and Portland, Oregon, they’ve established a “Giving Program” to do just that – give back to preservation projects in the communities where they work.
The Philadelphia Heritage Consulting Group has prepared a National Register nomination for the gym, which will create the potential for a future owner to utilize historic tax credits to rehabilitate the building. The nomination has already been submitted to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (our state historic preservation office) for review in the spring of 2013.
If the nomination process is successful, the gym will become one of this nation’s first National Register listings associated to a person from the 1970s. This will be a precedent-setting moment for the field of historic preservation.
We are thankful to Heritage Consulting Group for advancing this important piece of the effort to save Joe Frazier's Gym. Please feel free to send them a thank you note for caring about diverse historic places: Heritage Consulting Group, Philadelphia Office, 15 West Highland Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19118.
Ben Leech on June 06, 2012
I was new to Philadelphia the first time I passed 2917 N. Broad Street, and I did a double-take seeing the "Joe Frazier’s Gym" ghost sign out of the corner of my eye. "THE Joe Frazier?" I'm embarrassed to admit it now, but at the time, my knowledge of Philly boxing began and ended with Rocky, and I had no idea that Philadelphia was home to a real world champion, too. This building still has a lot of stories to tell and a lot of things to teach us.
Dennis Playdon on June 06, 2012
Last summer while driving past Joe Frazier’s Gym on N. Broad Street, I was surprised to see a "For Sale" sign up on the building. About to begin a new architectural preservation course at Temple University, I thought to bring the site to the attention of my students. My intention was to have the students nominate the building as an endangered structure. Sadly, when my letter to Joe Frazier went unacknowledged, we discovered he was seriously ill in hospital. The building was eventually sold to a commercial enterprise. We had proposed immortalizing the gym through a thorough documentation and the creation of an interactive website. We are partnering now with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia to preserve what most consider a national treasure.