Local Couple Petitions Community to Help Them Restore Sun Building

Brittany Barbato, for the Shuttle

Photo by Brittany Barbato
Samantha and Antoine Joseph in front of the former Philadelphia Sunday Sun building.

The former Philadelphia Sunday Sun building sits in a row on the 6600 block of Germantown Avenue in East Mt. Airy, nestled between a violin repair shop and a recently demolished property. Two glass block windows frame an aging front door covered by a weathered navy blue awning with orange text that reads: “The Philadelphia Sunday Sun, the most trusted news voice in the African American community.” Despite its distinct style, you might miss the building amid the nearby commotion of monolithic new construction.

The Sunday Sun is a Black-owned weekly news and entertainment outlet founded in 1992 by Philadelphia activist J. Whyatt Mondesire. It continues to publish out of another location.

Antoine Joseph, an engineer and part-time real estate agent who grew up around the corner from the Sun building and now lives in East Mount Airy, says the building was harder to miss in the 1990s.

“I definitely remember walking by it in the mornings on my way to school,” he recalled. “A big white truck would pull up out front. Two or three older gentlemen would be unloading pallets and pallets of newspaper stacks from a big white truck with the Sun logo on it. They’d use dollies to cart the papers into the building, ready to ship out for the day. It looked like a relay race.”

Today the building is vacant and in disrepair. When the building next door was knocked down last June, Antoine and his wife, Samantha, decided to take action. They felt if they could acquire the property, they could preserve its history, open up a new community-gathering space for all and invite new residents to learn about their new neighborhood.

“We have watched as outside developers come into our neighborhood and purchase historic properties and empty lots to build their massive developments,” the Josephs state on their GoFundMe page. “Although we appreciate the investment in our community, we know that many of these projects are solely profit-driven and have no commitment to us, the community members who make up the heart of Mt. Airy. That’s why we decided to be active in deciding the future of our community.”

The Josephs secured funds to purchase the building through their own savings as well as contributions from family, friends and neighbors. “We’re really sacrificing every single penny we have toward this project,” Antoine said. 

Once they close on the property, next steps will include securing a building permit from the city and beginning repairs and restoration. Due to the building’s significant age and the water damage it has sustained, getting work underway will require another round of fundraising.

“We’re excited and nervous — excited at the prospect of the opportunity to do it, and the enthusiasm from the neighborhood,” Antoine said. “Nervous at how big of a task it is.”

The best way to support the effort is by donating to the “Save The Sun” fundraising campaign, which Antoine said will help “see the project to the finish line.” 

More information and updates about the project can be found on the campaign’s Instagram account (@savethesunbldg) and on the fundraising website (www.gofundme.com/f/save-the-sun-building).