The property located on the northeast corner of 2nd and Bainbridge Streets in Philadelphia contains a stamp or engraving in the cornice that says “1926 S. GRITZ.” It has long been a topic of curiosity of nearby neighbors. Who installed this signage and what does it mean?
From 2007 to 2018, the building located at 627–629 S. 2nd Street was home to The Irish Times, a destination known for the “perfect pint of Guinness” and an ideal place to watch a sports game. In the early 2000s, another bar called The Black Door briefly occupied the space, as did the South Philadelphia off-shoot of Las Cazuelas. According to MyPhillyAlive.com, the building also once housed one of Philadelphia’s first night clubs. While many different businesses have occupied this storefront over the years, the cornice has remained a constant fixture since the early 20th century.
When Samuel Gritz and his wife Fannie emigrated from Poland in 1906, Second Street was a thriving commercial corridor. Sometime before 1913, Gritz opened a grocery store on the northwest corner of 2nd and Monroe. A few years later, he began importing wholesale goods and moved north on 2nd, closer to South Street.
While Gritz was expanding his business offerings, the federal government began regulating the price, production, distribution, and storage of certain goods. The 1917 Food and Fuel Control Act, or Lever Act, was enacted to prevent monopolies and ensure conservation in times of war. Anyone violating the Act could be brought up on criminal charges. In 1920, Samuel Gritz and two other local merchants were accused of sugar profiteering and a warrant was issued for his arrest.
It is not clear if these accusations were founded but Gritz appears to have recovered from the ordeal. In 1926, he expanded his business significantly by purchasing six adjacent lots and warehouses near Stenton Park that were formerly occupied by the Gornish Bros. A few months later, he also purchased the building located 627–629 S. 2nd Street, occupying the property as his residence and business. The cornice bearing his name was likely installed shortly thereafter.
Samuel and Fannie Gritz continued to occupy the property over the next thirty years. Fannie passed away in 1959 and, sadly, Samuel died a year later. They do not appear to have had any children and their only heir was a nephew who lived a few blocks away on South Street.