Monday, June 27, 2011

Old-ass Building of the Week-- June 27th

WCAU Broadcast Building I(aka WHYY Building, aka Art Institute of Philadelphia)

1622 Chestnut Street

You just shit yourself a little, didn't you?

                  Holy fucking Trogshit. This is how you do a facade, shitbag modern architects. This is a 137-foot tall building with barely any windows in its top half yet it's much better-looking than 99% of the buildings that came after it. Just take a good long look at this fucking thing. It's a damn dream... an 80 year old building that looks futuristic. It's EIGHTY FUCKING YEARS OLD. This is the proof that even with stucco, stainless steel, and copper you can make a SuperMegaKickasstastic facade.
                   In 1922, a small experimental radio station called WCAU was started in the back room of a radio shop/house owned by a guy named Wiliam Dunhum. He sold it off to some law partner/brothers named the Levys a few years later who built the station up into one of the founding affiliates of a new radio network called the United Independent Broadcasters. Columbia Records wanted in so it was renamed Columbia Phonographic Broadcasting System.
                   The Levy's didn't know what the fuck they were doing and business was ass. They decided to hire a president that could run the place with some balls. They found a 26-year-old cigar tycoon named William S. Paley who, once hired, made the network so much goddamn money that he bought it out himself and renamed it Columbia Broadcasting Service a.k.a. CBS. The Levy's still owned shares in the network and ended up riding Paley's success. They made such a pile of Benjamins that in 1928 they commissioned the Immortal Grandmasters of Butt-kick Gabriel Roth and Harry Sternfeld to design them the first ever building dedicated to operating a radio station.
                 I Imagine the Levy's threatened to kill their families or something because they ended up turning out the coolest fucking Art Deco building Philadelphia would ever have. The stucco has glass bits in it to make it sparkle... the decorations are made of stainless steel, copper, and bronze. The tower in the middle is made of glass and was once much taller with WCAU call letters at the top that would light up when on the air. Check it out and sit down while you look at this pic because you might get a boner:

Hey, wait a minute! The bottom half is a drawing! Image from the Temple Digital Library
                  WCAU ended up building a little brother for this building in Newtown Square so they could relay the signal from this Behemoth of Bitchass Awesomeness to the entire eastern half of North America. Motherfuckers in Nova Scotia and shit were able to pick up the broadcasts sent from this beast.

WCAU's little bro with 50,000 watt Antenna
                   Years passed and television became the primary medium. At the time this building was built, television was understood but thought to be way too high tech to ever be practical. By the time 1952 rolled around, WCAU became entirely TV dependent and moved out to an ugly fucking building on City Line Avenue a.k.a. God's Asshole.

Building, you are SOOO fucking lucky that you're not within the Philadelphia city limits.
                      WHYY moved into 1622 Chestnut in 1957 after a small renovation. They only stayed there 11 years and then the place rotted. It became such a shithole that it was barely usable. In 1980 the Art Institute of Philadelphia moved in and converted the interior to classrooms and shit. They waited until 1990 to work on the facade because they did not want dust from the construction of Liberty Place to fuck it all up.
                       The Art Institute understood the kick-assedness of the building and did their best to figure out the original configuration of all the details. Before the internet, that was not going to be easy at all. They scoured old newspaper records and even had to resort to pictures where parts of this building was in the background of a picture of something else. $150,000 later, the facade was finally restored to its former glory.
                       It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983 so that it could continue to stand as a memorial to the time when architects knew what the fuck they were doing.  Well done.

Giving the world the finger since 1928.


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