Grundy Tower Celebrates Four Decades
by Cate Murway
Service is the essence of community.
“If a man does not take pride in his own town, he isn't likely to give a rap for his country.” U.S. Senator Joseph R. Grundy, industrialist; Quaker; conservative; politician; lobbyist; philanthropist- "The Pennsylvanian".
Pharmacist/teacher Alan Joseph Vogenberg, RPh, FASCP, Clinical Consultant who currently serves as the Margaret R. Grundy Museum docent and a tour guide for the Bristol Cultural & Historical Society was inspired by the significance, courage and fortitude of the leadership of the Planning Commission responsible for the Grundy Tower. He served as secretary to the group of volunteers who advised the borough council during the inception of the first senior center in Bucks County.
He voiced his admiration. “This Planning Commission was the most progressive ever.”
Alan was named Bristol Borough's Volunteer of the Year as part of the Landmark Towns 2012 Community Achievement Awards on March 29th.
No joke. The Grundy Tower was promised for April 1, 1972.
Bucks County was to get its first “skyscraper”, the 14-story, 176-unit apartment building for the elderly in Bristol Borough. The bright, airy building was erected by the E.J. Frankel Construction Company on formerly depressed ground, the Penn Central Railroad freight station and Canal lock #3 that netted no income for the Borough. Several locations had been considered, including the Bath Street School and the industrial area on Pond Street.
The Grundy Foundation came to the rescue to purchase the land.
The Grundy Foundation also paid for installing the shoots and wiring for air conditioning, draperies and carpeting, the canopy, curbing and sidewalk, security system, fencing, and an emergency evacuation system, giving in excess of $180,000.
The driving force behind the Foundation’s involvement was the late W. James MacIntosh, who served as board chair. He was extremely involved in activities for the elderly and in recognition for his moral, financial and leadership support, the MacIntosh Regency in Tullytown was named in his honor prior to his death.
The Grundy Foundation was created to conform to a provision in the late Senator Grundy’s will that its money be used for the benefit of the Borough.
That provision is being ably fulfilled.
American architect and design theorist Louis Edward Sauer, a U of PA graduate, received the PA Society of Architects silver medal for architectural design for his Grundy Tower, selected over the nine submitted. His innovations in high-density housing breathed new life into the previously maligned ‘row-housing’ forms.
Three-story buildings dominated the Borough, but the architect lessened the height contrast by staggering the building with a succession of indentations that kept it from looking like such a massive structure.
He obviously understood the interrelationships between architecture and the occupancy needs of the anticipated users of his sites and buildings.
According to Alan Vogenberg, “Most drawings submitted were low rise and some looked like prisons.”
The facility, located in pre-revolutionary historic Bristol on the Delaware, 205 Pond Street, is one of four presently operated by the Authority.
At that time, it was the tallest building in Bucks County and Borough residents were to be given priority in the selection of tenants but others were not excluded.
The late Rev. Karl A. Gabler was the executive director of the Bucks County Housing Authority that administered the building, using federal funds to subsidize the rents for the senior citizen tenants. HUD picked up the tab for the $3.5 million project.
Sunshine and speeches marked the Dedication Exercises held on May 27, 1972, a landmark day for the senior citizens of the area.
The Star Spangled Banner was sung by Mrs. Edna Nelms, one of the residents of the Grundy Tower that was filled to capacity just 6 weeks after opening June 21, 1972.
Margaret Ryan, a former BHS and Eastern State School teacher was the first one to move in and she loved her “penthouse” apartment.
The Mayor was Michael Manto, the late father of Bristol’s own “Mantle”, former Major League infielder, Jeffrey Paul Manto who was named “Person of the Year” by the Bristol Borough 21st Century Community Learning Center last fall.
Frank V. Messenger, chairman of the planning commission, started the Bristol Improvement Association. He owned the Tyler Plumbing Company.
Henry Perotti, Sr., founder of H.A. Perotti, Inc., a plumbing and heating business on Beaver Street, co- championed the efforts that impacted the community enrichment.
His company is now known as the RHR Mechanical Contractors, Inc.
Another innovative thinker of this mastermind group was the orphaned and adopted, Frank H. Licause, who co-partnered Cameo Kitchens with Joseph N. D’Emidio. It was Frank’s idea for the Spurline Trail and he unselfishly labored for nearly10 years to get the old Philadelphia-Trenton railroad tracks removed and the walking trail developed.
He humbly stated, “It did take quite awhile but someone would have thought of it.”
Leonard E. Snyder worked tirelessly as the executive director of the Grundy Foundation and James Dillon was the Borough manager.
The late Gabriel “Gabe” Vurgulti, a union official for the Chemicals Worker Union at Rohm and Haas, volunteered countless hours to the Grundy Towers project.
He was the oldest brother of Vincent A. Virgulti who is still actively pursuing the promotion of economic ties and the strengthening of cultural understanding through the Bristol Sister City team with Spinetoli, Italy. This program is co- sponsored by the Italian Mutual Aid and the Borough Council.
The late Florence C. [Ciancosi] Zefferi was the Borough secretary assigned to the planning commission. Borough Council, the Mayor and the citizens of Bristol Borough presented a plaque to Florence in recognition and gratitude for her 39 years of service to the Borough and President Ralph DiGuiseppe declared March 10, 2008 as “Florence Zefferi Day.”
It was this same group, with its commitment to pragmatic action, that developed the idea of a park from the marsh area. The Bristol Lions were able to secure permission to build along the Delaware River.
The revitalization and building efforts have kept with the historical integrity of the area.
For every disciplined effort, there are multiple rewards.
The Grundy Tower is hugely successful. It is a high rise with high hopes, a community, a home with attractive surroundings, not a monument to old age.
The design is excellent. In 1970, it was cutting edge but the bricks and mortar tell only half the story.
The elderly, who have been working all their lives and are now on fixed incomes, can escape rising rents and have comfort and security. They have each other and they can continue to live a very full independent life. Public transportation and train lines are near.
In the evening, many gather together outdoors in their lawn chairs on the patio area to chat.
The building is impeccably maintained and credit is due to the tenants
and the Tenant Council.
President, “I’ve been President, Councilor, but never Treasurer”,
formerly on Otter Street, since 1946.
Before retiring, she worked at Philco, the Philadelphia Storage Battery
Company, repairing televisions and she also worked as tech in
central supplies at Lower Bucks Hospital.
Catherine has lived in the Grundy Tower for the last 23 years.
The 90-year-old “takes care of Bingo and plans parties”.
Her most recent well-planned party was Wednesday evening,
May 2, 2012 for the Grundy Tower’s 40th Anniversary.
“She has done probably 80% of the work”, shared fellow resident,
Joseph Farquahar Hetherington, a 24 year Rotarian, possessing himself,
a deeply ingrained “Service above self” innate component.
Cocktails were served at 4 PM and the Prime Rib Dinner started at 5 PM. Nearly 75 people attended, including several dignitaries from Bristol.
Among the guests were Eugene J. Williams, Executive Director of the Grundy Foundation; Magisterial District Judge Frank W. Peranteau; Police Chief Arnold A. Porter; Father Gerard Lynch, Associate Pastor of Sr. Ann Church; Sister Marie Paul and the coordinator of religious education, Mary Grace Leonhauser; President of the Grundy Commons, Frederic H. Baumgarten; and Councilmember Robyn Trunell.
The Bucks County Housing Authority named the complex Grundy Tower, honoring the memory of the late Bristol textile manufacturer.
Like the iconic 100-year old clock tower of the old Grundy Textile Mill, Senator Grundy, in death, still casts a long shadow over Bristol.
Joe Grundy is a faint echo of another time.
U.S Senator Joseph R. Grundy died March 3, 1961, 50 years ago, but his name lives on in his philanthropic deeds and the literal millions he donated to incalculable charitable, scientific, and literary and public works projects throughout Bucks County.
Recommend a “Spotlight”. E-mail vjmrun@ yahoo.com
Catherine M. Simons
Posted: Wednesday, August 5, 2015 10:35 am
Catherine M. Simons passed away Sunday, Aug. 2, 2015, at her home. She was 93.
Born in West Hazleton, Pa., daughter of the late Michael and Helen Potoczny, she lived most of her life in Bristol Borough, residing at Grundy Towers for the past 26 years.
Mrs. Simons worked at Philco and later at the Lower Bucks Hospital.
She was very active at Grundy Towers, serving on many boards. She was also a longtime member of St. Mark Church.
Wife of the late Leonard Simons, and sister of the late John Potoczny and Rita Sereta, she is survived by one sister, Sister Helene of the Bernadine Franciscan Sisters, stationed in Reading, Pa.; two brothers, Frank Potoczny of Levittown, and Robert Potoczny and his wife. Sonya of Naples, Fla.; along with numerous nieces and nephews.
Relatives and friends are invited to attend her Funeral Mass 11 a.m. Friday, Aug. 7, at St. Mark Church, 1025 Radcliffe Street, Bristol Borough, where friends may call from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Interment will take place 11 a.m. Saturday, in Transfiguation Cemetery, West Hazleon, Pa.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Bernadine Franciscan Sisters, 460 St. Bernadine Street, Reading, PA 19607.Wade Funeral Home, Bristol Borough