At the corner of Cedar Avenue and South 49th Street is a house of strangers. At least it was for Seth Laxman, a 21 year-old native of Nyack, New York, when he moved there in July of 2020.
Stella Plenk, 24, an administrative assistant at an art center in Maryland and an archivist collector for an Arizonan company, wanted to build a community in Philadelphia during the pandemic when people’s social lives were reduced to who they live with.
Plenk started this community with herself, Helena Wiatrowski, 23, a Boston-Philly transplant and coronavirus case investigator for a public health department in Colorado, Eli Plenk, 30, a development and operations consultant in Philadelphia, and Laxman, a GIS and Data Analyst for a company based in Washington, D.C. The three remaining rooms have rotated occupancy and are currently filled by Griffin Unger, 25, an organizer for a union in Harrisburg, Micah Lockman-Fine, 24, a recovery specialist at an organization in Philadelphia, and Tausif Noor, 28, a doctoral student from California.
The roommate list was formed by mutual friends, Facebook posts asking for roommates in Philadelphia housing groups, and the flexibility of remote careers. During Zoom calls with potential roommates, they stated the rules for taking part: stick to the chore chart, grocery shop on your assigned week, cook dinner on your assigned weeknight, and don’t bring home the coronavirus.
The six-bedroom home in West Philadelphia houses seven, and the five skateboards, three bikes, carefully balanced coat rack, and entry-way corner devoted solely to shoes. Bedrooms are reserved for work during the day and relaxation at night, while the kitchen, living room, front porch, and backyard act as social spaces.
The once-strangers will part ways when their lease is up in the summer, but for now, they have created a pandemic-friendly social life inside their home.