UPDATE 2015: Despite a great “reveal” last Fall, Labetti Associates was fired from the project months after failing to meet deadlines required by the mortgage-lender. Boo.
UPDATE 11-24-14: the Philadelphia Inquirer recently featured Mike Labetti’s work on East Falls House in their Home & Garden cover story: “Slow Reveal on an East Falls Manse.”
If I were Mike Labetti of MG Labetti Associates, when asked what I did for a living, instead of explaining historic preservation, I’d simply say, “I’m an architect!,” because that’s what he is: he’s got a 5-year Architectural Design degree from our own Philadelphia University here in East Falls (back when it was “Textiles“).
In my world, being an architect is kind of a big deal — to quote George Costanza: “NOTHING is higher than architect!”
Kinda see his point. You’re making houses, offices, meeting places — literally changing the landscape we all live in. If I were Mike, I’d probably never shut up about the buildings I made.
But we met Mike several times over these weeks researching Hohenadel House, and it wasn’t until we caught up with him over burgers at Murphy’s that we got an inkling of how very multi-talented he is.
His company, MG Labetti Associates, began in his teens as a self-taught “fix it” enterprise with a neighborhood buddy. Soon their skills grew to include plumbing, electrical & construction. On his 18th birthday, Mike signed papers for “Construction By Us, Inc,” effectively becoming the youngest licensed corporation owner in the state of NJ.
Architecture was the next logical step. He’d always admired old buildings, and the lively, historic area of East Falls in particular seemed a nice change from his sleepy hometown of Manalapan, NJ. His intuition proved correct, and ever since Mike’s made a life for himself here where he balances two kinds of projects: historical restorations in the city, and modern new communities in the ‘burbs. The best of both worlds.
He spends his days hopping from site to site, in a sort of time-travel of vastly different challenges. Design this! Fix that! Where’s the inspector? Who has the tile? Let’s send for the original blueprints…. A review of his schedule is enough to make your head spin, but Mike’s energized. Of course he’d be: he’s one of those “short sleepers” — people who only sleep, like, four hours a night and they’re never tired. I’ve read about ’em and even met a few but never had the chance to sit down & get to know one.
They’re so… intense! The phenomenon’s called “the sleepless elite” and has been observed in like 1% – 5% of adults who apparently need very little sleep to function. Jury’s still out whether it’s genetic or adaptive, but there’s no doubt these people tend to be surprisingly productive!
In fact, some of the world’s most powerful/successful people are (or were) short sleepers: Margaret Thatcher, Winston Churchill , Bill Clinton, Thomas Jefferson, Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Sir Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin, Napoleon Bonaparte, Yasser Arafat, Florence Nightingale, Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison, Jay Leno, Madonna, P Diddy, Mariah Carey, Tom Ford, Martha Stewart, Donald Trump…
And now Mike, ha. I’m not suggesting he’s a metabolic mutant, buuuuuut did you know that all while he was building his design & construction company, he was also competing in ballroom dancing? He was! (still looking for photos)
See what I mean? His energy knows no bounds. Even now, you’ll catch him showing off his moves when Harry Prime brings his Big Band songs to Epicure Cafe, which by the way MG Labetti Associates renovated a few years ago for owners Tom and Arlene Leschak.
Mike’s done a lot of other projects in East Falls as well, so far here’s an incomplete list:
Mike came aboard at Hohenadel House after Felicite saw him last October working on Major’s storefront from her Bulogics office across the street. She liked the work he did, restoring the fine details of building’s crumbling 19th century cornice. He looked him up on Facebook, and the rest is… history. Quite literally.
Whatever Mike can’t restore at Hohenadel House, he’s recreating:
– Hand-lathe new woodwork including stair rails, balustrades
– Refurbish cast iron radiators
– Strip paint & restore copper ornamentation
– Remove front entry
– Reinstate widow’s walk from house’s original design
– Return original “H” gate to driveway
Mike’s also doing some historic leg work of his own — he’s even done some detective work with us, tracking down lighting fixtures and investigating possible secret passageways. Looks like he’s the right man for a job as unique & romantic as Hohenadel House!
With so much work in East Falls these days, Mike’s opened a new office on Ridge Ave — conveniently close to East Falls Beverage. Coincidence? We honestly hope not…
Next time you see one of Mike’s van’s around the neighborhood, say hello or look him up below for more information about this local construction dynamo.