Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Lost Building of the Week-- June 22nd

The Bullitt Building

131 South Fourth Street

Should've called it the Badass Building.
                       Goddammit, why did we have to lose such a cool-looking building? Stone arches at the bottom, cool-ass details everywhere. Look at all the pointy shit at the top. Not enough triangles on buildings nowadays. Everything's a square or a rectangle. Gotta love how it wraps around the corner but has an entrance and facade that faces the corner.
                       I love how all the buildings in these old pictures have awnings everywhere. After the invention of air conditioning, the awnings went away. All you crunchy hippies out there looking for "green solutions" and a reason to say "sustainable" 10,000 times need to look again at the energy-saving 19th-century awning technology.
                       It all starts like this. John C. Bullitt defined the words Badass Motherfucker. He grew up in Kentucky, son of one of its founders. He came to Philadelphia in 1849 after college (in a time when barely anyone went to college) to make some fucking bread. He started a law firm that still exists to this day that represented huge clients such as the Bank of Kentucky, the University of Pennsylvania, and J.P. fucking Morgan. He grew to love Philadelphia so much that he became a bonafide Philaphile.

Statue of Bullitt outside City Hall.
                      This man ate, slept, and shit Philadelphia. He tried to get involved in city government but it was a corrupt fucking mishmash of councils and committees with no structure at all. Bullitt eventually got elected State Representative of the 8th Ward (Logan Square, Rittenhouse, G-Ho) with the intent of crushing the corrupt-ass city government (good fuckin luck).
                        He introduced what came to be known as the Bullitt Bill, which was a definitive list of the departments and committees city governments in the state should have. When the bill finally passed in 1887, the Philadelphia city government was turned upside down and started to function much more efficiently. Praise was brought on Bullitt, and he became known as the Father of Greater Philadelphia. Really, holy shit, what a fucking title. Father of Philadelphia!
                       At about the same time the Bullitt Bill was being argued about in state congress, Bullitt was involved with a small little side project... founding a NATIONAL BANK. The Fourth Street National Bank, as it became called, needed a building, preferably on Fourth Street. For the architect, Bullitt would be expected to pick Frank Furness, since ol' Franky was literally his son-in-law's uncle. Instead he cheaped out and went to the guys who designed his house: G.W. and W.D. Hewitt.
                       Luckily, the Hewitts studied under Furness and their firm became his knock-off. Like Blowjobs and Pizza, even a bad Furness is pretty good. In this case, the knock-off Furness is KICK ASS AWESOME!! This Castle of Dragonmilk Cocktails was so cool-looking that Bullitt didn't name it the Fourth Street National Bank Building, he named it the Bullitt Building after himself. The building was pretty big (it was 1886) and the bank's offices didn't fill the whole thing. Bullitt had a crazy idea. He started renting office space to other companies, making the Bullitt Building the FIRST high-rise office building in Philadelphia.
                       Over the years, the building stayed in use but as the 20th Century came and progressed, the area that housed the Bullitt Building became a shithole. This Great Wall of Kick Ass got deemed a fire hazard and got torn the fuck down. It became a goddamn surface parking lot until the Independence Historical Grass Lot Collection came along and covered it all with grass. Fire hazard my ass. They couldn't put a fire escape on Harmony Street facing side? I call bullshit. Here's what's left of it:

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