Saturday, July 23, 2011

This Week on Philly Sports History

Hey y'all... here's what's going on this week down at the good ol' Philly Sports History blog. Get on over there and show Johnny Goodtimes some love!
The story of the Philadelphia A's pitcher who sometimes left games to chase after firetrucks, and who wrestled alligators in the offseason. 

There's only been one left handed catcher in MLB history to catch over 300 games in his career. He was a Philadelphia Phillie, and by far the greatest left handed catcher ever.

The former Phillie who went chasing after a fly ball, and got stuck in a doghouse.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Empty Lot of the Week-- July 21st

Mercantile Liblotary

1021 Chestnut Street

What the fuck is this?
                        Can I even call this an Empty Lot? There's a building on it. I don't fucking care. This is an empty lot, plain and simple. Look at the fucking trees! It hasn't been occupied in 22 years and the shell of a building sitting on it is a piece of shit. A piece of shit on THE NATIONAL FUCKING REGISTER OF HISTORIC PLACES! What the motherfuck!?!?!?
                         Here we have an empty lot right in the middle of Center City on the 1000 block of Chestnut, which is in dire need of revitalization. The Victory I and II is nice, but the rest of the block consists of the side of Jefferson Hospital, some beautiful but beat up old buildings, and a big empty storefront parking garage. Development of this shitbag lot might be the shot in the arm this block needs.
                         This address has been a lot of things. It started as the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art's first building.
The first building, 1809. The lot would be the grass on the right side.

                  It burned down and the Academy's second building replaced it:

The second building. The lot ran through the right side of it.
                      Due to financial needs, they put a bunch of storefronts facing chestnut street and sold off the corners of their land on the chestnut street side. A commercial building was built on the lot.

The current lot would be that building on the right.
                        In 1870, when PAFA made their asinine decision to move to North Broad Street, they sold off this land and it became home to Fox's New American Theatre. If they didn't move, they would have built their awesome building on this spot, and we wouldn't be in this mess. Thanks a lot, dicks. The commercial building on the lot remained until a fire claimed it and the theatre in 1877.

The lot is still on the right.
                   I told you this lot has been a lot of things. Stay with me here. The site of Fox's New American Theatre and the commercial buildings next to it became the home of the Chestnut Street Opera House.

Again, on the right.
                   This is where it gets weird. In the early 1950's the Mercantile Library decided to get rid of their awesome building that faced 10th Street and build a new compact library at 1021 Chestnut Street, an empty lot that remained after the Chestnut Street Opera House was demolished in the late 30's. They didn't need the whole lot so they bought it up and sold it off in a package deal with their awesome old building. That massive combined property became the horrendous parking garage that stands there to this day.
                   They wanted their brand new Mercantile Library to be high tech as shit and modern as fuck. In the 1950's, that meant A FUCKING GLASS BOX!!!!
Yay. So modern!!!
                      Like the Guild House, this little building has become the source of massive amounts of ass-kiss and faux-intellectual praise. It won a shitload of architecture awards in 1954, which must have been a pretty shitty year for architecture. A newspaper article from 1990 even calls the Mercantile Library  "nondescript to the untrained eye" and makes a point of telling you your an asshole if you don't like it. As I always say, the first rule of art and design is that the more you have to explain it, the more it sucks.
                     The building closed in 1989 and sat helpless for 15 years as trees and shit grew through it and the glass front got covered in wood. In 2004, it was finally put on the market and U3 Ventures bought it up. They tried to develop it but since it was such a kiss-assable building, a bunch of fuckwads started crying about changing the "historical" glass facade of this dinky little shithole.
                    U3 gave the fuck up and the lot is now up for sale for 1.35 Million dollars. The real estate listing even makes sure to tell you that you'll be dealing with some stupid-ass bullshit if you attempt to do something positive with this crappy space. Look, I am all about saving historical buildings and if you've ever read this blog you know I like historical shit. This is different. This building is already lost. There's plenty of other stuff from that era that is still in use and a lot better looking.

I know, Bill. I know. It's pointless to save this piece of shit.
                       Any rich developers reading this? You need to buy up this lot and "accidentally" knock it down like what happened to the Philadelphia Life Insurance Company building a few years ago. While your at it, take out that big fucking parking garage next door that's been scarring the city for 50 goddamn years. That'll learn 'em.
This is what the Chestnut Street side looks like now. How wonderful.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Lost Building of the Week-- July 20th

Masonic Hall

225 Chestnut Street

Holy fuck look at this thing!
                 This building is so lost that the buildings that replaced it are ancient ruins. Look at that fucking thing. Embattled top, gothic windows, statues and points and shit all over the place... this was some good stuff. Too bad it only stood for 8 fucking years!
                 It all started in 1802. For the last 2 years, the Freemasons in Philadelphia had their regular meetings in Independence Goddamn Hall!! They loved it but then encountered a problem they could never predict: famous artist and Philaphile Charles Wilson Peale. The state legislature allowed Peale to put a museum into the building, and he went balls to the walls with it.
                   He started demolishing shit and put a big sign over the door that said "MUSEUM". He was such a dick that he moved into the building and then complained that the Masons, who were now relegated to a couple of rooms on the second floor, were keeping him up at night. He was fucking living there, giving the Masons shit the entire time. The Masons were like "fuck this" and gave Peale shit right back. Peale was such a respected motherfucker at the time that he eventually had the Masons kicked the fuck out of their own Hall.
                  The Masons were fucked. They needed a new space from which to conduct their badassery. They were forced to move into a big goddamn rowhome on Filbert Street.

Independence Hall with Peale bothering them was better than this!
                The Filbert Street place sucked. Half the meeting minutes from the short time they were there are about how much it sucks to be there and how they'll be getting the fuck out. The Masons owned a plot of land on Chestnut Street that they used for outdoor events. They figured this would be the spot to put a brand new Masonic Hall that would be the FUBU of Masons everywhere.
                  They wanted everything to be done by Masons, so they called on a Freshman architect named William Strickland and were like "Listen Young Bull, I know you've never designed a whole building before, but you're the only Mason architect that'll work for so goddamn cheap! DOOOOOO IIIIIT!!!!" Though Strickland is more known for his Greek Revival stuff, his first building was the Georgian Gothic Masonic Hall.
                   He pulled out all the stops. He gave them a marble-covered embattled super-cathedral with a 180-foot wooden steeple. Throwing a 180-foot steeple on a building design in 1808 was as ambitious as putting the Burj Khalifa on top of a Dairy Queen. The tallest building in the country at the time was Christ Church, only 18 feet taller. The Masons approved the design November 11, 1808.
                   Construction began  in April 1809 using a construction company owned and operated by Masons. This Megacock Cathedral took two years to build due to monetary problems. It was a big fucking project and they did not want to spare any expense to reach their goal of making it the finest Masonic Hall in the goddamn world. It officially opened on June 24th, 1811... two hundred years ago this Sunday. It was a BIG FUCKING DEAL when it opened.
                   The opening ceremony consisted of a huge processional consisting of over 200 Masons. They marched from the Arch Street Quaker Meeting House (still standing) at 4th and Arch to the St. John the Evangelist Church at 6th and Race (destroyed to build the Ben Franklin Bridge), had a full on mass, then marched down to the new hall for a huge banquet. Masons from far and wide came to Philadelphia to attend, which back then was not fucking easy.
                    Well I sure hope they fucking enjoyed it because a chimney explosion 8 years later brought an end to this awesome building. The steeple burned down and fell onto the roof of the lower portion of the structure. Tons of records, artifacts, famous dead Mason's aprons, and other assorted irreplaceable shit all burned. Only the exterior brick and marble walls survived.

It was such a big deal there's a painting of it hanging in Chicago
                   What were the Masons gonna do now? After all that discussing and building, their building was gone!! What can they do? Where could they go? Oh yeah, they went back to this:

                  They had to go crawling back from the second tallest building in Pennsylvania to their dinky little mansion on Filbert Street. The membership went to shit and they got down to 10 or 12 dudes. That small group managed to rebuild the membership on their own and re-open a rebuilt Masonic Hall only 20 months after the original burnt down, this time with gas lamp lighting! Don't think they didn't do another huge processional parade, because THEY DID.

Meh, I liked the old one better.
                  A huge nationwide Anti-Masonic sentiment arose in the next decade, and the brotherhood declined so much that they were forced to sell their awesome hall and move into a pre-existing old building in 1835. They got a shitload of offers from big time motherfuckers like the Franklin Institute and the Philadelphia Museum so they put it up for public auction... and then it was GONE.
                 What a cool fucking building... It's doubtful that it would still be standing if it had never burned down... the Masons would still have sold it off in 1835 because Freemasonry had become severely despised in that time period. The temple they built 3 halls later finally got the job done right.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Butt-Fugly Building of the Week-- July 19th

Jefferson Hospital for Neuroscience (a.k.a. Wills Eye Hospital)

900 Walnut Street

                Oh look, another building made of Duplo blocks. What the hell is this crap? A building cladded with some kind of light grey metal? Get real. I hate buildings that can't decide if they're a box or a step pyramid. On top of all that, it has a parking garage sticking out it's ass, making a crappy back-frontage on Locust Street.
               In 1972, the Wills Eye Hospital became Jefferson University's Department of Ophthalmology. Jefferson students were now going there to learn all their eye-related shit. Wills Eye's location at 16th and Spring Garden was in continuous use for 40 years and could no longer hold the expanding hospital, which now had a shitload of Jefferson students showing up.
                In the late 70's they decided to build a new facility at the western edge of a huge empty lot that once spanned from an area west of 9th all the way to 8th street, Locust to Walnut. It was part of an urban renewal plan in 1976 called the Knock Everything the Fuck Down Plan.

It was a big fucking lot. This ugly piece of shit building only managed to cover the area all the way to the left across 9th street, leaving the entire 8th/9th/Locust/Walnut area still vacant. The American Postal Workers House (now HUP Crazy House) was built in the spot photographed here.
                 Wills Eye went up to Ballinger Architects and said "Hey dumbasses! Design us a building that will not look good in ANY time period, not just our own. Make the facade light fucking grey metal!" What did they come up with? This piece of shit:
What crap.
                Shamefully, this is not some rendering I pulled off the internet...this one is from my own collection. I try to collect old photographs and drawings of Philadelphia and this is the only architectural rendering I've ever been able to find. What an embarrassment... the only non-digital rendering I have and it's of a butt-fugly building.
               As an insult to all of architecture, the site of the new building was to encroach on the house of Robert Mills, first American born and American trained architect, protege of Thomas fucking Jefferson. The solution? They moved it out of the way! It's now some rich motherfucker's private home at 8th and Locust.

The balls on these fucking people!
                       This Castle of Crud Factories was built and occupied by 1980. As per usual with ugly-as-fuck buildings, it won all kinds of architecture awards. Wills Eye only managed to keep the place for 20 years before building a brand new facility across the street and selling this stack of fuck to Jefferson. It became the Jefferson Hospital for Neuroscience in 2001.
               Since it had a huge parking garage facing Locust Street, Wills Eye added some horrifically bad public art to it by sculptor George Sugarman. The stuff did not age well and by the 00's looked much much worse:


Yay public art.
                      The light blue sculpture is well known to Philaphiles as the Pigeon Poop Memorial since it managed to get completely covered in pigeon shit. The others got covered in a combination of Pigeon Poop and Philadelphia Grit. As part of Jefferson University's 10-year Master Plan to consolidate, modernize, and beautify the campus, they attempted to do an overhaul of this building's crappy facade. They restored the crappy Sugarman sculptures and painted the entire exterior of the first level light blue. They also replaced the awning over the emergency area.

No matter how much you restore it, it still looks like shit.
                     Jefferson, good for you for trying but the fact is you can't polish a turd.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Old-ass Building of the Week-- July 18th

American Trust Loan and Guaranteed Investment Company

684 North Broad Street

This is it. Image from Google.
                  This pathetic-looking structure often goes unnoticed due to it's proximity to the Divine Lorraine. This building is from the ancient civilization that existed on North Broad Street when it was one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in America. Truly, it is a ruin. Even though it's been mangled beyond recognition and is more of a billboard mount than a building, it still evokes wonder about the time when it was a beautiful bank building in the city's premiere neighborhood.
                    The American Trust Loan and Guaranteed Investment Company began in 1886 with $250,000 and by 1890 had built and occupied this Ultra-Temple of Triple Cocks. It's North Broad location was intended to serve the richest new-money millionaires in America, most of which lived a few blocks away. The bank boasted 1500 safe deposit boxes and 24-hour guard duty. This was the kind of place you would put your family heirlooms so that your great-grandkids could withdraw them. The building was designed by Chancellors of Badass and Furness proteges Louis Carter Baker and Elijah James Dallett.

Look at this fucking thing! It's awesome! 1890 or 91.
There it is on the left in 1892. The construction site for what we now call the Divine Lorraine is on the right.
                    This building was considered the safest and most elegant in the city when it was in it's prime... but that prime didn't last. By the 1920's North Broad had lost all of it's super-rich motherfucking residents and the neighborhood started to become a automobile manufacturing and sales strip. The great castles built for the badass tycoons along the row sat in ruin. The American Trust Company Building became a bunch of storefronts and never looked back.

1927. Only 37 years after being built, the grand entrance was GONE. 
Already holding up a billboard by 1948.
                      This Lost Tomb of the King of Kickass might as well be considered a lost building. It now stands as the proof that SCRUB is full of shit. If they're sooooo concerned about large ads on historic buildings, why have they not demanded the removal of a billboard that has obscured half of a 121-year-old building for at least 63 years?
                      Improvements on North Broad only a few blocks south (600, 640, State Building Condos) are going to bring the old American Trust building to it's breaking point. Will future developers try to restore it or will they just say "fuck it" and make a pile of money off the big billboard and storefronts like the current owners/slumlords do? If North Broad is ever going to truly improve like we've all been told, this beast and buildings like it must either be restored or die.

August 1891, just in case you need a reference for your restoration, future rich-ass developer!