Rescuers were called to the 1500 block of North Bailey Street around 11 a.m.
Police say contractors were working on the building when the rear of the property collapsed. Authorities say the building was in the process of being demolished.
Randy Felice was working on the site when the incident occurred. He was able to escape the rubble.
"It happened so fast. One minute we are standing there and the next minute we are going down," said Randy Felice, who climbed out of the rubble.
His boss, 59-year-old Harvey Figgs, remained trapped.
"I knew it wasn't good," said Felice. "I saw blood coming out of his nose and head and I realized how many bricks were covering him."
A short time after he was freed, Figgs was pronounced dead at the scene.
Neighbors say Figgs lived in the area.
"The floor collapsed and the wall gave in," said a co-worker who saw the victim before the second floor gave way.
Jomo Day was one of the many people in the park across the street. He tried to help.
"So I ran over there to try and help but it was too late," Day said.
Family of the victim had to be consoled at the scene. They say he had just celebrated his birthday on Sunday.
By the wave of sadness that swept through his neighborhood, you can tell he was well-liked.
"He was my best friend, he was at my wedding. We went to school together and we grew up together," said Shawn Speedwell.
"Real good guy, down to earth guy," said Art Murray.
The city Department of Licenses and Inspections was at the scene, along with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, to investigate the cause of the collapse.
The Associated Press reports that city property records listed the home as "structurally compromised," and the demolition permit said the masonry building was to be completely demolished "by hand-method only" to "resolve dangerous case."
Most demolitions in Philadelphia are carried out by hand, said Licenses and Inspections Department spokeswoman Karen Guss. She said cranes and backhoes are prohibited, although hand tools may be used.
The department visited the site of the demolition several times and "had no reason to believe that building was being demolished by prohibited means," Guss told the AP. Philadelphia, she said, has "probably the most stringent demolition safety laws in the nation."
There were no injuries to firefighters or police officers.
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