Thursday, June 30, 2011

Empty Lot of the Week-- June 30th

Fergie Forever Lot

Halfway between 12th and 13th reaching from Walnut to Sansom

Ah crap, it's bigger than ever!
                     This lot has been pissing me off for years. A perfectly good Center City location and nothing can get itself started here. The only thing going for this lot is that Fergie's is in it. It also serves as a little pass-through from Walnut to Sansom in case your lazy ass doesn't want to walk all the way to the crosswalk.
                   You might remember when I got excited about this lot possibly being covered with the Fergie Tower, but right now it looks extremely unlikely. The building on the eastern side of the lot was being demolished so it was assumed that the Fergie Tower might begin construction, but instead they just paved the fuck over it and made it part of this stinking piece of shit. Hopefully, the asphalt is just a placeholder until the Tower takes it down once and for all.
                   From what I can tell, the Fergie's building at 1214 Sansom Street is at LEAST 153 years old. It appears in the Hexamer & Locher map from 1858:

Shit, there it is!
                  According to the legend of the map, the Fergie's structure is a two-story brick store, low-level factory, or private stable. The map shows an unnamed alley that ran behind the buildings facing George (Sansom) and Walnut that has a couple of tiny two-storey brick houses. The Walnut Street side had humongous  3-1/2 Storey mansion-rowhomes. The three mansions on top of them in this map still live on, cut up into apartments with added-on storefronts.
                 Later maps show the properties facing Walnut extending all the way back to Sansom. The western-most property (at the top of the lot in the map above) was already an empty lot by 1942. The corner of 12th and Walnut became a larger lot, but that ended up getting covered by that big ugly parking garage that's there now. Here's a pic of the row of buildings that once occupied the Fergie Forever Lot from waaaay down the street:

1950. All that shit is gone now.
                      What a despicable lot. The developer for the Fergie Tower is U3, or are they called U cubed? U to the third power? Anyway, they're the only hope I have for this lot. There seems to be a new rendering for the Walnut Street frontage of the Fergie Tower, so maybe I'm completely wrong in thinking that it's not happening. I'm going to have to place it into the "extremely fucking unlikely but possible" category. The development seems to be held back by the economy, a height variance for the last 26 feet (even though the Chancellor a block away is the same height), and the design's lack of parking (never mind the seven storey parking garage next door).

From the U3 website. Why did they split the picture up into nine sections? That's just silly.
                 Colored panels everywhere? Get real. Oh well, I guess I can't complain. I'd rather have the ugliest instantly-dated plasticky-looking building in creation than the lot that's there now. Fuckbuckets.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Lost Building of the Week-- June 29th

Alfred Craven Harrison Building

2 South 15th Street

Now that is one sexy motherfucker.
                   God fucking dammit, this is what a building should look like. It's a regular office building box for the first nine storeys and then becomes a super-awesome mega-detailed neo-gothic castle for the top. This was built in a time when designers respected every part of the building. Look at those chimneys! You don't see many 12-storey buildings with steeply pitched roofs and giant chimneys anymore.
                     All the trimmings and balconies and shit are meticulously sculpted to the nth degree. Check out a super-highres version of the pic above here.  Details like these make a building age beautifully. The crud that accumulates on concrete and plastic-looking architecture of today make them look horrible within 30 years. In buildings from this era, the crud actually accentuates their sculpted details.
                    Alfred C. Harrison was a rich motherfucker born from a long line of rich motherfuckers. He helped run his dad's Franklin Sugar Refinery and had made mad stacks on top of his already huge family fortune. In 1893, both him and his father Charles built office buildings in Center City. His father's was done first, a little seven-storey box at 10th and Market. His dad wanted it there because the location was close to the new City Hall that had begun construction and the new Reading Terminal. He called it the Harrison Building.
Here it is, after the bottom got mangled as fuck in the mid 20th.
                    It was high-tech as shit. It was built with wrought-iron girders and had modern heating and ventilation systems for 1893. It was designed by Elite Megawizards of Mayhem Cope & Stewardson, who didn't even like commercial buildings but were friends of the extremely rich Harrisons.
                   Alfred Harrison gave a big "up your taint" to his father and built his office building twice the height, much closer to City Hall, across the street from Broad Street Station, and much more high-tech... using the same architects. It had hot and cold water in the public bathrooms and a long-distance fucking telephone!! Construction took much longer and it was completed by 1895. Alfred decided it should be called the Harrison Building. This is how you get two Harrison buildings at the same time.
                   Big Papa Charles, however, posthumously got his comeuppance. His little dinky 10th and Market building survived for 10 more years than his son's. Alfred was a smart motherfucker but there's one unstoppable force that he could never have predicted: the Mid 20th Century Concrete Revolution. The perfectly maintained Alfred Craven Harrison Building was knocked the fuck down  in 1969. Why was it knocked down? Developer Jack Wolgin was an art lover and wanted a sculpture for the buildings he wanted to construct in the surrounding lots. He had this sketch by his buddy Claus and wanted to build it:

"A 45-foot clothespin! That'll make perfect sense in front of my ugly concrete office buildings!" -Wolgin
                            Never mind that the Harrison Building was the first tall building west of Broad Street, never mind that it was in PERFECT CONDITION and recently renovated, never mind that it was fully occupied, never mind that it was one of the last remaining buildings of it type, it was knocked the fuck down in favor of a goddamn clothespin. The Harrison Building was way more artistic than anything Claus Oldenburg could design if he lived to be a million. Here's some pics from right before this Supercastle of Severe Cock Punches was demolished:

The main entrance. It still had old-timey window signs for the businesses that used to occupy the upper floors.  Oh yeah, real demolition material.
The Harrison Building retained 99% of its facade details right up until demo day. Check out the Arcade Building Expansion in the background.
                   Enjoy your fucking clothespin, everybody. FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Butt-Fugly Building of the Week-- June 28th

801 Arch Street (aka Philadelphia Garment Center)

801 Arch Street

A chimpanzee with a pencil in its ass could have designed a better building.
                   Sometimes there's a building so ugly it you just want to spit on it. In this case, I want to take a big shit on this building because that will make it look better. Look at this Dungeon of Dirty Despair. It has that crappy 70's facade material that looks like stone corduroy pants, super-thin windows, and is surrounded by empty lots so the ugliness could be seen for blocks. What a piece of bagarbage.              
                   In 1973, the non-profit Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation was in the midst of trying to save the city's economy by attempting to promote and enhance local industry. Manufacturing jobs were leaving town and the country. Philadelphians were losing their jobs and had no where else to work. The PIDC hooked up with the Model Cities Program, a federal program designed to organize the myriad of urban renewal programs, and decided that Philadelphia should become the Garment Workers Nexus of the Universe.
                The first phase was to build a modern garment factory across the street from the Guild House and staff it with local workers. The next phase was to build six garment centers throughout the city that would train future garment workers, find them jobs, and provide medical care and day care. The final phase would be development of a new Garment District centered around Broad and Lehigh. Mayor Rizzo loved the idea because it would help him with some of his racial tension problems and help the city's economy. He publicly endorsed the plan and threw some city money at it.
               The factory opened in 1975 as the Somerset Mills factory and employed 500 workers, mostly making men's sweaters. The first Garment Center a.k.a. crappy building in the picture above was next. It was built in 1975-1976 for 4.5 million dollars. Four point five million dollars? That's how much this Anthill of Assholes cost? I wouldn't have approved this building if it could be built for 4.5 million grains of sand.

The heavy rains during the topping-off ceremony should have been a clue.
               As you might have guessed, Philadelphia did NOT become the Garment Workers Nexus of the Universe. I don't throw around the words Epic Fail very often, and I hate when people say it in real life, but this building represents some of the biggest Epic Fail in the city's history, and that's saying something. Rizzo didn't get the political points he was hoping for and the rest of the Garment Workers plan went to shit.
               The other Garment Centers were never built, though plans for opening one in the Mulford Building (now Lofts 640) were thrown around. The factory closed in 1992 and is now the Red Cross. The only effort toward creating a Garment District were small sidewalk and subway station improvements at Broad and Lehigh where there were already clothing factories(long closed). Some of the street signs are still visible today.

Broad and Lehigh. 70's-ish Sign and Subway Station improvements stand as a monument to Shitbagiousness. Image from Google.
                 In the mid 00's the building got renovated and started it's current life as crappy state offices that aren't good enough to go into the State Office Building. The Driver's License Center recently moved from it's storefront on the 1100 block of Market's hoopty-store row to this fucked up location.
                 It's hard for me to express what a piece of shit this building is. I don't even want to call it a building, it should be called an earfucking, because that's what it does to you every time you see it. Ow! There it goes again. To Hell with this piece of shit.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Old-ass Building of the Week-- June 27th

WCAU Broadcast Building I(aka WHYY Building, aka Art Institute of Philadelphia)

1622 Chestnut Street

You just shit yourself a little, didn't you?

                  Holy fucking Trogshit. This is how you do a facade, shitbag modern architects. This is a 137-foot tall building with barely any windows in its top half yet it's much better-looking than 99% of the buildings that came after it. Just take a good long look at this fucking thing. It's a damn dream... an 80 year old building that looks futuristic. It's EIGHTY FUCKING YEARS OLD. This is the proof that even with stucco, stainless steel, and copper you can make a SuperMegaKickasstastic facade.
                   In 1922, a small experimental radio station called WCAU was started in the back room of a radio shop/house owned by a guy named Wiliam Dunhum. He sold it off to some law partner/brothers named the Levys a few years later who built the station up into one of the founding affiliates of a new radio network called the United Independent Broadcasters. Columbia Records wanted in so it was renamed Columbia Phonographic Broadcasting System.
                   The Levy's didn't know what the fuck they were doing and business was ass. They decided to hire a president that could run the place with some balls. They found a 26-year-old cigar tycoon named William S. Paley who, once hired, made the network so much goddamn money that he bought it out himself and renamed it Columbia Broadcasting Service a.k.a. CBS. The Levy's still owned shares in the network and ended up riding Paley's success. They made such a pile of Benjamins that in 1928 they commissioned the Immortal Grandmasters of Butt-kick Gabriel Roth and Harry Sternfeld to design them the first ever building dedicated to operating a radio station.
                 I Imagine the Levy's threatened to kill their families or something because they ended up turning out the coolest fucking Art Deco building Philadelphia would ever have. The stucco has glass bits in it to make it sparkle... the decorations are made of stainless steel, copper, and bronze. The tower in the middle is made of glass and was once much taller with WCAU call letters at the top that would light up when on the air. Check it out and sit down while you look at this pic because you might get a boner:

Hey, wait a minute! The bottom half is a drawing! Image from the Temple Digital Library
                  WCAU ended up building a little brother for this building in Newtown Square so they could relay the signal from this Behemoth of Bitchass Awesomeness to the entire eastern half of North America. Motherfuckers in Nova Scotia and shit were able to pick up the broadcasts sent from this beast.

WCAU's little bro with 50,000 watt Antenna
                   Years passed and television became the primary medium. At the time this building was built, television was understood but thought to be way too high tech to ever be practical. By the time 1952 rolled around, WCAU became entirely TV dependent and moved out to an ugly fucking building on City Line Avenue a.k.a. God's Asshole.

Building, you are SOOO fucking lucky that you're not within the Philadelphia city limits.
                      WHYY moved into 1622 Chestnut in 1957 after a small renovation. They only stayed there 11 years and then the place rotted. It became such a shithole that it was barely usable. In 1980 the Art Institute of Philadelphia moved in and converted the interior to classrooms and shit. They waited until 1990 to work on the facade because they did not want dust from the construction of Liberty Place to fuck it all up.
                       The Art Institute understood the kick-assedness of the building and did their best to figure out the original configuration of all the details. Before the internet, that was not going to be easy at all. They scoured old newspaper records and even had to resort to pictures where parts of this building was in the background of a picture of something else. $150,000 later, the facade was finally restored to its former glory.
                       It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983 so that it could continue to stand as a memorial to the time when architects knew what the fuck they were doing.  Well done.

Giving the world the finger since 1928.