Monday, November 21, 2011

Mystery Butt-Fugly Lost Building of the Week-- November 21st

Horn and Hardart Commissary

1001 Locust Street

                       The site of this building is now a grass field with a parking garage underneath... and I'm fine with it. This is one butt-fugly building from ages past that was so fucking hideous that no one ever bothered to write anything down about it or take a good picture of it. The only pictures I can get of this thing are aerial views and street level close-ups. It was called the Horn and Hardart Commissary.
                      Anyone who knows even the slightest bit of Philadelphia history knows about Horn and Hardart. In case you don't, here's a quick rundown. Horn and Hardart was an automat cafeteria restaurant with an assload of locations in Philly (we're talking like every 2 blocks) and New York.

Still don't get it? Everything you need to know is explained in this postcard.

                   In order to operate this massive chain of restaurants, a centralized plant was needed to prepare ingredients and distribute them to the myriad of locations in the Philadelphia area. This plant ended up being built at the northwest corner of 10th and Locust. The architect and official year of construction is unknown because, for some reason, no detailed records of this building seem to exist.
                  I happened upon it by looking at old maps and reading old news stories about union troubles that went on there in the 1950's. I could never find a picture of the building itself until I happened upon it on the ultra-kickasstic Hagley Digital Archives. That's a great fucking archive, by the way. I used it to figure out that the building must have been built in 1927. 1926 aerial photos don't have the building but this photo from 1927 shows it looking pretty new.
                     This ugly motherfucker only stood for just under 40 years. I can't pin down the exact demolition date but a 1964 report from the Redevelopment Authority speaks on its impending demolition. Researching this building is crazy because one mystery about it just leads to another. For example, here's a picture of it at street level in 1931, 3 weeks before the picture at the top of the article.

Locust Street from 10th, looking west. The building in question is on the right.
                       What the motherfuck? Why is Locust Street paved with wood? Philly DID flirt with wood-paved streets at one point in time, but that was 2 decades before this picture! Oh, and don't get me started about this:

No comment necessary.
                     This building drives me nuts, but at the same time, I'm glad its gone. I know its an industrial building, but for 1927, it looks like shit!!! Maybe I'm not being fair... maybe I can't judge a building from an aerial photo. Maybe it has kick-ass facade details that I can't see... BECAUSE NO ONE BOTHERED TO TAKE A FUCKING PICTURE OF IT!!! The latest picture I can find of this thing is from 1963 and half of it is off to the side.

It's all the way to the left. Many lost buildings in this picture.
                    Anyone out there know anything about this building? Any Oldheads out there that remember this thing and can tell me what it really looked like? Anyone have a fucking picture of it? AAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrggghhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!


                        This is John McLaughlin and now you ahh reading this in my voice. This shitty building was designed by Ralph Bencker. The planks on Locust Street were to covah the construction of the subway tunnel now used by the PATCO. BYE BYE!!

                                                                                   *Special thanks to Bruce Laverty!


  1. GroJ:
    During the 20's and 30's proto-modernist architect, Ralph Bencker did a ton of work for Horn & Hardart, and there's a reference to him working on this building in 1939 in the Builders Guide I suppose that he did the original work as well. RE the planks on Locust street--they were there to cover up the construction of the Locust Street/8th Street Subway to Camden. By the way, Horn & Hardart retail stores had the best tapioca pudding and coconut macaroons! Just sayin...

  2. Not to mention their wonderful wonderful pink macaroni & cheese. It was the stewed tomatoes that gave it the pink color. There was a hybrid cafeteria / Automat just next to the main entrance of the Reading Terminal Market. Some food from Horn & Hardart, some chestnuts from the guy who roasted them out on Market Street, and you were ready to explore the city.

  3. Bruce-- Thanks for the info. I was going crazy trying to find the building on the PAB site.

  4. This Horn & Hardart place seems ahead of its time and those vintage Automat/vending machines must worth a lot now if you can find one....would be cool if someone decides to revive one of its locations--Berley Brothers of the Franklin Fountain i'm talking to you