Monday, November 7, 2011

Mystery Building of the Week-- November 7th

Medical Towers

251 S. 17th Street

One tall and thin fucking mystery. Pic by well-known Philaphile Brad Maule.
                      This is a nice looking building that is quite well known in the city, especially because at 364 feet, it has stuck out way taller than any other building in the immediate area until 1706 Rittenhouse was built across the street. The problem is, the history of this cool-ass building is somewhat of a mystery.
                     One of the weirder things about it is that its original name was "Medical Towers", plural. At first, I figured that more than one was planned to be built, so the name of the complex would be called "Towers", but then I found one of the original descriptions of it from when it was first proposed. It literally says "the building (singular) will be called Medical Towers (plural)". WHY THE FUCK would you call one building two buildings?!?!? Did they mean Medical Tower's, like a possessive? Is it a contraction for Medical Tower is? Did the person naming the building want to call it "Medical Tower's Gonna Kick Your Ass" but died before they could finish saying it? That's just fucking weird.
                   Here's another mystery for ya: the architect!!! There is seriously no architect associated with this project. All the little internet records and profile pages for this thing will tell you its height, build date, all kinds of other shit, but when you try to find who the architect was, NOTHING. Apparently the contractors found the plans for it drawn on a napkin at a bar or something.

Medical Towers under construction based on the plans of the famous architect Mystery Von Shitstery.
                   Medical Towers was built in 1931, during a huge building boom for this city, and has been in continuous use ever since for a medical clinic and a shitload of individual medicine-related offices. Some consider it one of the more ugly Art Deco buildings in America, but the ugliest Art Deco building in the world is better looking than 90% of the buildings built after that time.
                 That's pretty much it. I'd like to tell you about some kind of cool history that has happened here, but really, some buildings are just buildings. Some guy killed himself by jumping out of a high window in 1941, but that's that.
                So what's the deal? How could a building that was one of the tallest in the city for decades have no known architect? Why was it known as "Medical Towers" for so long? This shit is making my crazzzyyY!!! Uh oh, too late. Anyone out there have a clue where the fuck this building came from?


                            Hello again, this is John McLaughlin and you aah now reading this in my voice. The building was designed by the fiiihm of McIlvain and Roberts. GroJLaaaht is a moron and didn't look up the building by all of its altaahtanate names. BYE BYE!!!

                                                                     *Special Thanks to Bruce Laverty and Mike Seneca from the Philadelphia Architects and Buildings Project!


  1. GroJLart:
    Mystery solved? Mike Seneca here at the Athenaeum found this reference to drawings at the City Archives
    These say the building was designed by the firm of McIlvain & Roberts

  2. Ah I see....I originally only looked it up by its address and found only this: , which didn't have any architect listed. Thanks for all your help!!