A New Life For The Harbisons Dairy Building

In 1865 between the neighborhoods of Fishtown and East Kensington, the milk-bottle water tower known as Harbisons Dairy opened its doors. Irish immigrant and founder, Robert Harrison, used the factory to deliver fresh milk to those living in cities with no refrigeration or dairy cows. Thomas Harbison went on to expand the family business into a regional empire with five plants, delivering milk, butter and ice cream to locals before closing in the 1960s.

120 years later, the iconic dairy fixture is now a symbol of revitalization. The factory was close to being torn down numerous times. Thankfully, in 2018 The Historical Commission voted to protect the industrial building and famous milk bottle that sits on top. Developers Sterling Wilson and Southwood Properties repurposed the dairy factory into a six-story mixed-use apartment building with original brick and historically accurate windows.

A World Class Team for Redesign

To promote the newly renovated building Sterling Wilson Douglas Jordan, founder of Southwood Properties collaborated with SgRA Architects for the building, Rohe Creative for interior design and Cohere for branding and marketing. Understanding the significant history of the factory, Cohere designed an artful rebranding with a nostalgic touch that conserves the town’s legacy while preparing for new history to be made.

For the past three years, Cohere has showcased adaptive reuse projects from construction to completion in the Philadelphia area as part of their Home Sweet ‘Hood initiative. Harbison’s Dairy is now the third Home Sweet ‘Hood project Cohere was a part of. Our branding and marketing efforts for this project were recognized by Indigo Awards and awarded Cohere the 2020 Gold in Branding Award.

This project means a lot for the area. The massive windows won’t be boarded up anymore and the milk bottle will be repainted to look just like it did in 1950, the way your grandparents knew it. There will be 100 employees working here during the day, and the public can use parts of the space as well. The reactivation of this building will help turn Kensington back into an industrial powerhouse without destroying its history. We’re bringing this place back to life, and we’re really excited about it.

Sterling Wilson, Developer

Harbison’s Dairy is currently leasing studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments. For more information, check out the Harbison’s Dairy website.