Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Lost Building of the Week-- June 29th

Alfred Craven Harrison Building

2 South 15th Street

Now that is one sexy motherfucker.
                   God fucking dammit, this is what a building should look like. It's a regular office building box for the first nine storeys and then becomes a super-awesome mega-detailed neo-gothic castle for the top. This was built in a time when designers respected every part of the building. Look at those chimneys! You don't see many 12-storey buildings with steeply pitched roofs and giant chimneys anymore.
                     All the trimmings and balconies and shit are meticulously sculpted to the nth degree. Check out a super-highres version of the pic above here.  Details like these make a building age beautifully. The crud that accumulates on concrete and plastic-looking architecture of today make them look horrible within 30 years. In buildings from this era, the crud actually accentuates their sculpted details.
                    Alfred C. Harrison was a rich motherfucker born from a long line of rich motherfuckers. He helped run his dad's Franklin Sugar Refinery and had made mad stacks on top of his already huge family fortune. In 1893, both him and his father Charles built office buildings in Center City. His father's was done first, a little seven-storey box at 10th and Market. His dad wanted it there because the location was close to the new City Hall that had begun construction and the new Reading Terminal. He called it the Harrison Building.
Here it is, after the bottom got mangled as fuck in the mid 20th.
                    It was high-tech as shit. It was built with wrought-iron girders and had modern heating and ventilation systems for 1893. It was designed by Elite Megawizards of Mayhem Cope & Stewardson, who didn't even like commercial buildings but were friends of the extremely rich Harrisons.
                   Alfred Harrison gave a big "up your taint" to his father and built his office building twice the height, much closer to City Hall, across the street from Broad Street Station, and much more high-tech... using the same architects. It had hot and cold water in the public bathrooms and a long-distance fucking telephone!! Construction took much longer and it was completed by 1895. Alfred decided it should be called the Harrison Building. This is how you get two Harrison buildings at the same time.
                   Big Papa Charles, however, posthumously got his comeuppance. His little dinky 10th and Market building survived for 10 more years than his son's. Alfred was a smart motherfucker but there's one unstoppable force that he could never have predicted: the Mid 20th Century Concrete Revolution. The perfectly maintained Alfred Craven Harrison Building was knocked the fuck down  in 1969. Why was it knocked down? Developer Jack Wolgin was an art lover and wanted a sculpture for the buildings he wanted to construct in the surrounding lots. He had this sketch by his buddy Claus and wanted to build it:

"A 45-foot clothespin! That'll make perfect sense in front of my ugly concrete office buildings!" -Wolgin
                            Never mind that the Harrison Building was the first tall building west of Broad Street, never mind that it was in PERFECT CONDITION and recently renovated, never mind that it was fully occupied, never mind that it was one of the last remaining buildings of it type, it was knocked the fuck down in favor of a goddamn clothespin. The Harrison Building was way more artistic than anything Claus Oldenburg could design if he lived to be a million. Here's some pics from right before this Supercastle of Severe Cock Punches was demolished:

The main entrance. It still had old-timey window signs for the businesses that used to occupy the upper floors.  Oh yeah, real demolition material.
The Harrison Building retained 99% of its facade details right up until demo day. Check out the Arcade Building Expansion in the background.
                   Enjoy your fucking clothespin, everybody. FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu


  1. Love this blog. I have the same interest in great buildings that have disappeared. This block always confuses me because the street layout has changed dramatically since they knocked down the Broad Street Station, the
    Arcade building, and the Harrison Building. I have a hard time placing them all in relation to each other and to City Hall. Do you have a good idea of how this area was laid out on a map? Love to see it if you do.

  2. This should help ya:

    check out the Interactive Maps Viewer.