Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Butt Fugly Building of the Week-- August 16th

Three Parkway (aka Pennwalt Building)

1601 Cherry Street

                 You know how I always complain about concrete buildings and glass facade buildings and say, "What happened to bricks? What's wrong with a brick facade?" This is the building that you can use to shut me the fuck up. It looks like the giant maroon tombstone of Spincthor, the Norse god of ass-picking.
                  Its not as ugly as it is boring. No one would notice this thing if their were tall buildings surrounding it.. it would just fade into the background. Unfortunately, this building faces the Ben Franklin Parkway and EVERYONE gets to notice how crappily tedious the brick facade is.
                 In the late 1960's, The Friends' Select School, a private school in Center City, had an antiquated facility that was falling apart. They couldn't afford to renovate, move to the burbs, or build a new building. G. Lawrence Blauvelt, the Headmaster of the school, recalled how store owners in the city commonly lived over their stores, saving money on rent. He proposed leasing one of their three acres for a commercial office building that would in turn pay for the cost of their new school building.
               After some long-ass negotiations, they made a deal with the Pennwalt Chemical Corporation. Pennwalt would rent the land on a 99 year lease and build a 20-storey office building. The new school building could be built at the same time, using the buttload of dough Pennwalt threw down on the agreement. Construction began in 1968.

Under confucktion. If only they knew...
                     Once completed in 1969, people made a big fucking deal over the agreement and touted the "Joint Occupancy" method as the WAY to get shit built. Other cities copied the model throughout the 70's. Good for them, but why did they have to do it with such a boring-ass ugly fucking building? Just look at that fucknugget. The combination of a squarish North/South profile and extremely vertical windows is the incongruousness that brings the Pennwalt Building into the uncanny valley.

Pennwalt when it was new and just as ugly.
                    Pennwalt Chemical rocked the first 6 floors of this shitpile and sold the buiding to Goldman Sachs in 1984, renting the office space from them thereafter. Goldman Sachs hung onto it for only 5 years before selling it off. In 1989 Pennwalt got bought out by a French company and later moved to King of Prussia. The building saw tenant after tenant until 2001, when Reliance Insurance Company, then the building's largest tenant, went out of business.
                   The now antiquated (and still ugly) building languished half-occupied for 4 years until then-Governor Rendell threw a bunch of money at a relatively new company called ExcelleRx, which was rapidly outgrowing it's crappy offices in the equally butt-fugly Penn Mutual Tower. ExcelleRx moved into the building and emblazoned their name on the top in green. Good effort, but the building is still ugly and boring as fuck.
                  Many people think that the Friends' Select School building is part of this building... they are wrong. Friends' Select owns the land, but the Pennwalt Building, now called Three Parkway (which is not even its address!), is privately owned and stands eighteen inches apart from the school. Those Friends should have Selected more carefully. One minute of observing this building is equal to 20 hours of observing a blank bathroom tile. Fuggit.

The cake they made of it for the Topping Out Ceremony is better looking than the real one. Pathetic


  1. Ehhh... I don't think this building is that bad...

  2. Immediately north of this building was the site of the last log cabin in downtown Philadelphia. The cabin was originally built as a dwelling for a Quaker family perhaps as early as 1755-56 in what was to eventually become the southwest corner of 16th and Race Streets. In 1817, the Society of Friends purchased the city block from 16th to 17th Streets and Race to Cherry Streets for use as a Quaker burial ground, and the 2-story cabin was part of the transaction. Friends Select School was later founded (1886) on the site of the cemetery—the graves having been removed—and the log cabin remained. It lasted as part of the campus for over eighty years, but when Friends Select undertook this expansion in the late-1960s, the large cabin was moved to the Stenton Park on January 26, 1969. (Stenton is the house museum at 4610 North 18th Street administered by The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It was the colonial mansion of James Logan, William Penn's secretary and agent.) The log cabin is now used as a residence. For more about the cabin and its relocation, see Carol H. Brown, A Friends Select School History (Philadelphia, PA: Friends Select School, 1989).