1122 Chestnut Street
|Yes, such a house of beauty.|
The American Sunday School Union was formed under the name Sunday and Adult School Union in 1817. It was primarily formed to standardize catechism, manage missionaries, and print publications for religious education. It was a pretty disorganized group until 1845, when they elected managers and officers. The same year, they declared Philadelphia their national headquarters, since good ol' Philly was considered, then as now, to be the best fucking city in the world!
The first headquarters space was in a 10 x 10 room near 4th and Cherry Streets. In 1820, they expanded to 29 North 4th Street. They outgrew that spot by 1825 and moved to 13 North 4th, staying there for 2 years until their massive popularity made them able to purchase 146 Chestnut Street. The ASSU was able to stay there for 20 years but eventually found the quarters too cramped, being that they were printing five times the amount of books by 1845. They knocked their building down and rebuilt a new one by the end of that year.
It didn't help. In 1853, the Union was ready to build again. They purchased a lot in an area considered "the country" at the time, 316 Chestnut Street. That is to say, 316 Chestnut according to the old address number system. The "country" location is now known as 1122 Chestnut Street. That's right... the building we're talking about today is so fucking old that when it was built, the 1100 block of Chestnut was outside of town. They got John McArthur, Jr, the supermegatect that designed City Hall, to design them a Sunday School Castle of Granite Cocksmacks that would be big enough to keep them from having to move FOREVER.
McArthur slapped them with his kryponite dick and gave them a monolith fortress the likes of which no Sunday Schooler had ever seen. Behind a facade of Quincy Granite lay four floors of offices followed by five floors of warehouse that reached all the way back to George (Sansom) Street.
|Here it is in 1901, already 47 years old.|
Once the 20th Century came along, the ASSU was outgrowing the building they thought they could never outgrow. They sold it for $325,000 and built a new home at 1816 chestnut street. That's when Benjamin F. Dewees, who had a successful dry goods store next door, started his reign of terror in the old ASSU building. He moved in and later combined 1122 and 1124, ripping the facade off the ASSU and built a new facade that would cover the two buildings. That's right, this ugly motherfucker is a crazy hybrid of two buildings. The ASSU on the left and another historical building on the right, the Robbins and Biddle jewelry company.
|The two buildings in an 1880 panoramic business directory. Dewees had already moved in to the old Robbins and Biddle.|
Shortly after the buildings were combined, the Dewees store gave up on dry goods and focused on women's wear. They enforced strict guidelines on how their salewomen would look and how they were dressed. In the 1910's, they leased some of their empty office space upstairs to various companies, at one point holding the office of mega-architect Andrew J. Sauer. Dewees would stay open all the way up into the 1960's, with other locations in the burbs.
|There it is, look ugly as fuck on the right in 1957.|
Demolition notices went up and the insane Unknot Tower was approved to replace the old ASSU/Robbins Biddle building. Then, in 2008, CREI went to shit and the company that loaned them $16.5 million for the Unknot project, Petra Capital Management, took possession of the butt-ass awful-looking property. Its been sitting there collecting rat shit ever since.
When the fuck will some hero come along and save Chestnut East? Someone needs to take this ugly motherfucker, put it out of its fucking misery, and build something awesome here!!! I know the frames of historical buildings are sitting behind that crappy frontage... but its not like the old facades are gonna be restored. You'll probably never see me say this about such an old building again, but I say DESTROY!! DESTROY!! DESTROY!!!