Monday, October 24, 2011

Mystery Building of the Week-- October 24th

Hawthorne Hall

3849 Lancaster Avenue, 3849 Hamilton Street

Awww Shiiit--- Image by Google

                        Now here's a mystery. This is that crazy curved building that everyone always says needs to be rehabbed in order for its neighborhood to come roaring back. Its one crazy motherfucking structure. Its actually a mishmash of different properties put together into one rounded juggernaut. Its got statuary friezes all over the place, one of them being a huge sign that says "Hawthorne Hall!!", only adding to its mystery.
                      This building is dangerous. Everyone who walks, runs, bikes, or drives by this thing slows down and says "Holyfuckcurvybuildingwithfriezesandshit!!!", and crashes into a pedestrian. The history of the building is somewhat known, but the architect, who put it there, and WHY is a forever mystery that know one wants to talk about.
                       Seriously... if you research this building you'll get a thorough description, its full timeline, and an assload of pictures of it, but no one seems to know who the fuck the architect was. Was it some kind of architecture god? Was the angel in the frieze in the middle responsible? Did she shit the building out her back and get stuck within it?

"I am Angel! I defecate late Queen Anne-style buildings! Pic by Max Buten
                        No one can even seem to get the year it was built straight. One sources says 1900, another 1895, another 1875. The maps from 1895 don't have the building, but who knows how up-to-date they were. Therefore, not only is the architect unknown, the year built is still a damn mystery!! Even the Philadelphia Architects and Buildings Project doesn't have any details. What the fuck!?!?!
                        The one thing on the PAB file that gives some hope is that it was locally historically registered on July 5th, 1984... therefore there has to be a file on it at the Historical Commission. Here's a picture of it from 1908:

Looks like the upper floors are boarded up in this pic. Image by some dead guy.

                      Hawthorne Hall has had many uses. The upper floors have been used as a meeting space for decades... everything from neighborhood association meetings to railroad conventions. The retail spaces at the bottom started with a succession of drug stores but have also held others kinds of businesses. Nothing to crazy about the history... the real craziness comes from the look of the building and WHO THE FUCK DESIGNED THIS SHIT?!?!?
                       You wanna know something even weirder about this building? There's another one!!!!

What the fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck!!?!?!?!?!? Image from Google.
                              Hawthorne Hall has an evil twin just northwest of it... this one is/was in use as Truelight Missionary Baptist Church. This neighborhood seems to have a lot of old buildings and rowhomes being used as churches. In fact, the newest owner of Hawthorne Hall is one of those churches! Anyway, this version of the design doesn't have its name emblazoned across the top, but has a statuary frieze in its place. It also seems to have had its bay windows removed.
                              Recently, this stretch of Lancaster Avenue where Hawthorne Hall is located has received some attention due to pieces of public art being installed all over the place. Hawthorne Hall currently has wheatpastes in the windows and come kind of weird rainbow colored shit hanging from the top. This is all part of Drexel University's LOOK! project.

Colored bottlecaps hanging from Hawthorne Hall. Oh I get it, its recyclable. Whoop-de-shit. Pic from
                                Who the fuck designed this thing? Was it Hale? Furness? MacArthur? The Twelfth Imam? Does ANYONE out there know? If you do, let us know in the comment section below or e-mail me at


                     This is John McLaughlin and you ahhh now reading this in my voice! Haw-thooohne Hall was built by the Wright and Prentzle Company, some real estate speculatahs who built many high-end commah-cial and residential projects in Philadelphia and New Juh-sey. The building was probably modeled after the work of Wilson Eyah by some knock-off ahh-chitect on theyah staff. BYE BYE!!!

                                                                                                    *Special thanks to Rebecca Chan for the info!!


  1. There's a very similar set of buildings, minus the curve, filling the block of North Broad between Erie and Germantown Avenue.

  2. Thanks for profiling this one. I used to live down the street from this building and was always curious about it's history.

  3. This could also be the west philadlephia theatre company, link to source here!