Thursday, December 29, 2011

Empty Lot of the Week-- December 29th

Walnut Street Theatre Lot

809-823 Walnut Street

                  This right here is a shameful scar on the city. Right next to the Walnut Street Theatre and it still can't get filled in over all these decades. Though its not that huge, this lot can make you feel like shit... especially when you realize that this space has held a assload of other buildings over the centuries but can't get its fucking shit together today.
                 Like most of the blocks in this part of town, this one started as those humongous late 18th/early 19th Century mega-row-mansions. The facade of a small row of houses from the same era survive on the 700 block of Walnut.

Here's a pic from 1857.
                     In 1861, the lot's eastern end became home to a theater building called Wheatley's Continental Theatre. It burned the fuck down only 2 years later, so there's no pictures of it. They built a new theater on the same spot right away that had many names but was mostly called the Central Theatre. This one looked very similar to the Walnut. It burned down in 1867, was rebuilt, burned down again in 1888, was rebuilt, and then burned down AGAIN in 1892. That shit's fucked up, yo.

Here it is in 1882, between burnings.
                  After the third fire, they said "fuck it" and built a much cooler looking theatre that prettied-up the block like a motherfucker for 42 years. It was a kick-ass design called Gilmore's Auditorium and then Casino Theatre. Once it was demolished in 1935, the Walnut Street Theatre Lot was born, albeit half the size.

Kicking ass in the 1890's. There needs to be more buildings with embattled towers on them. Pic from the PAB.
                        In the 1920's a large Art Deco parking garage called the Bodek Garage was built in the space between 825 Walnut (still standing) and the Casino Theatre. It survived all the way up into the 90's. Parking garages were a lot better looking in the 20's.

Yes, I am using this picture AGAIN! This time, you can see the old Bodek Garage rocking the block in 1977. Its in the middle right of the image.
                    Once the Bodek Garage was taken down, the full power of the Walnut Street Theatre Lot came to be, shaming Washington Square West ever since. In 2008, there was a glimmer of hope. The Walnut Street Theatre's leadership became interested in expanding the ancient building... not just an expansion, but a skyscraper!

                  They proposed a street-level addition that would include a new theater-in-the-round and  classrooms/conference rooms/ball rooms, topped off with a 517-foot skyscraper that would become the world's tallest retirement home!!! That's shit's craaaazzy! The architect was Heery International and the construction date even got set at May 2010. That date came and went like a motherfucker with no change to the lot. Is this a Dead-Ass Proposal or something that could actually still happen? Probably dead. There was literally zero news about this after the initial proposal at a Washington West Civic Association meeting.
                  What a shame... here we have a decades-strong empty lot that has seen the blocks around it be destroyed a rebuilt numerous times... at this point, anything getting built here would be a benefit. Even if the Walnut built the street-level portion of the skyscraper project I'd be satisfied. Fucknuggets!

Alternate Universe Philadelphia circa 2010.


  1. So is it just me or is that a total rip-off of the Met in New York? While some originality would be nice, whatever, it would be nice to get something of that scale built. There specifically would be great.

  2. Word is that HUP is planning an outpatient building at this lot...