Monday, June 4, 2012

Mystery Building of the Week-- June 4th

Morris Apartments

311 South 13th Street

                      This cool old building has been sitting here at 13th and Cypress for more than a century. Its pretty neat-looking and has managed to keep its cornice and other small details, unlike a lot of other buildings from the same era. Nonetheless, the architect and construction date of this building are a mystery.
                    The earliest photograph of the Morris Apartments is from a time when it was called the Pascoe Apartment House. The facade was just straight up brick back then (instead of that shitty stucco) and the ground floor was a bit different. Despite being called Pascoe APARTMENT HOUSE, the building was a hotel.

1899. Image from the PAB.
                     I say the construction date is a mystery because no record seems to indicate when it happened. The only time I can say with certainty is after 1895 and before 1898. This 36,680 square foot monster found a way to be built and occupied without anyone writing down what year it happened! That's fracocta baloney.
                   The only thing known about the construction is who actually did the constructing, the M.P. Wells company. From what I can tell, this is the only building in the city they completed. No architect has ever taken credit for it. An 1898 ad for the hotel boasts how it has 2 and 3 room suites with their own bathrooms (!!!) and how the heating and lighting was run by an independent plant within the structure. I wonder if its still in there.
                   Today, the building is called Morris Apartments. I can only assume it was named after Robert Morris, like at least 3 other buildings in Center City. The earliest year I can find the building being called "Morris" is 1918. In that year, the building comes up as the same name it has today, "Morris Apartments". In 1920, the building starts being referred to as the "Morris Hotel", a name it would keep for decades and decades thereafter.
                  The building itself is in pretty sorry shape, probably because it is managed by the slumlords at the Philadelphia Management Company. Those bastards run a shitload of apartments in many old buildings around the city. Tenants report constantly broken elevators, insect and rodent problems, and leaks throughout. A shame really... a full renovation would yield a building with the grandeur of the stately Victorian castle you see in that old picture above. 
                  So who designed this motherfucker? What year(s) was it built? When will it finally get restored? and What the fuck!?!?!

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