Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Lost Building(s) of the Week-- July 25th

Very Lost Buildings

                 Some buildings are so fucking lost that barely anything mentioning their existence can be found. Here's a little smattering of Lost Buildings that are Very Lost.

Gothic Mansion

1217 Chestnut Street

                Though numerous records and descriptions about this crazy bastard exist, many are in conflict. Some say John Dorsey, carpet manufacturer and auctioneer, who owned and lived in the mansion, designed it. Others say Robert Mills, the dude who first engraved a picture of the house (not that one above but a different one), was the architect. Though sources agree that the building stood on the site of Dorsey's old carpet factory, some actually state that the old factory and the mansion are the same building, just altered in 1811-1813 to become a house.
                The official demolition date for this gothic motherfucker is 1853 but some sources say that an addition was built in front to meet the street and that the rear of the building was stripped down. Either way, the building that was added on or replaced it was a theater (Concert Hall) that later became the Free Library of Philadelphia. Its possible that this was one of the most altered and re-used buildings in the city's history... or not.
Forsythe School

2212 Locust Street

             This was a short-lived private school that had a pretty large Addison Hutton-designed campus at 22nd and Locust Streets. From what I can tell, this place only lasted 10-15 years. John E. Forsythe, an educational theorist, was founder and principal. Forsythe had some kind of impact on education in his own time but seems to be forgotten now. One of his surviving ideas was the rote teaching of math. Forsythe believed that math should be taught as just numbers and figures, without any context to how they connect with the real world. He figured that younger children would be able to learn more advanced math if real-world application of that math completely ignored. No visual record of the school seems to exist.

The first First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia

917 Locust Street

This is not it.
                Robert Mills, who MAY have been the architect of the Gothic Mansion, was a badass but mostly forgotten architect of the early 19th Century. The first edifice of the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia was located at the northwest corner of 10th and Locust Streets was built in 1812-13 and only stood for 14 years. In order to distinguish themselves from other religions, the early Unitarians wanted a church shape that was different than any other-- an octagon. Robert Mills' octagon-shaped Monumental Church in Richmond, Virginia (still standing and pictured above) had just been completed in 1811 and it is theorized that the old First Unitarian in Philadelphia looked pretty much the same.
            The Unitarian community in Philadelphia grew so quickly that the little octagon was considered a piece of shit pretty quickly. It was demolished in 1827 and replaced by a William Strickland joint that stood for almost 60 years. The site is now part of Jefferson University.

The Wanamaker Cyclorama

123 North Broad Street

Check it out.
             I mentioned this place back when I talked about Herkness' Bazaar. This was very similar--- a circular building that held a large mural with special lighting in order to create a totally immersive environment. Built in 1888 and owned by Thomas Wanamaker, this one originally displayed a depiction of biblical Jerusalem and later the Battle of Gettysburg. That very same Gettysburg mural has been rebuilt and restored and can still be viewed in Gettysburg, PA.

Its looks much better in person.
                 The Cyclorama was demolished in 1904 and replaced with the long-lost Lyric Theatre. The site is now part of the PA Convention Center Expansion.

                There's plenty more like these.. lost buildings with barely any mention, description, or image existing. So many fucking buildings have come and gone in this city that it stands to reason that some are COMPLETELY forgotten. If you know any info about these buildings, know the REAL story behind the Gothic Mansion,  or know about a Lost Building that you think I don't know about, e-mail me at


1 comment:

  1. here you go(gothic mansion):
    - Item A2:
    - Pg. 456/457: