Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Parking Garage of the Week-- July 4th

Philadelphia Parking Authority Olde City Autopark

125 South 2nd Street

Its long!
                       Where were the NIMBYs and historic preservation nerds when this dirty motherfucker was built? Despite holding a movie theater and some restaurants, this ugly pile of fuck should've never been constructed. This 695-car parkzilla has spent the last 33 years fucking over one of the oldest blocks in the city. Fuck!
                      The site that this garage sits on was first plotted by Thomas Holme on November 29th, 1682... one month and two days after the founding of the city. The first occupant was the grand estate of some guy named Christopher Taylor, whose property filled the area between Front, 2nd, Walnut and Chestnut Streets. Later folks would split the block with small alleys...Laylor's Alley (now Ionic Street), Gray's Alley (later Gatzmer Street), and Norris's Alley (later Gothic Street, now Sansom Street). Citizens would build out the entire area with small commercial buildings and small houses. After a big fire in 1840, most of the property was replaced with commercial buildings.
                     The majority of the old commercial buildings facing 2nd Street would survive all the way into the 1970's.

The site of the parking garage in 1970 as seen from 2nd Street. The cool building to the right is the old Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, now the site of the unfortunate Welcome Park.
                     In 1976, the National Park Service demanded that more parking get built in the streets surrounding the Independence Historical Grass Lot Collection.,. specifically in this area, which the Park Service called Area F (Area Fuck?). The openly corrupt Philadelphia Parking Authority answered the call and demolished the shit out of everything between Ionic, Sansom, Front, and 2nd Streets. To be fair, there were only 7 buildings left within that area at that point. The new garage would eliminate Gatzmer Street and have large retail fronts facing Sansom. The frontage on both 2nd and Front would be purely ugly-ass parking garage. 
                     One archeological dig was done by Temple University in 1976/77, locating old privy pits and building foundations. One of the more interesting items from the dig was that only nine privy pits were found on the whole block from a time period when way more than nine families were living there... meaning these literal shitholes were being shared by many people at a time.
                     A second dig was done by the UPenn Museum in 1979 while the parking garage was being built. They were only able to dig in areas that were dug out for the garage's support structure. One of those areas was the site of a privy pit. Thousands of ceramic shards, beer bottle pieces, seeds from 18th Century feces, and remains from the 1840 fire were found. They were also able to uncover an old cartway and a wooden phone line conduit from 1900. The dig was rushed because the garage was being constructed while they worked, so plenty of other shit could have been found if they had the time.
                 Once built, the parking garage became (and still is) one of the most successful ones in its area... which means it will NEVER go away. People are probably gonna be parking bio-engineered hovercarriages in this thing in the 29th Century. This garage has a huge amount of exposure due to the popular Ritz Theatre at its base. I call that one the Ritz Pagoda because of how the signs line up on the top of the shitty garage.
                The Master Plan for the Central Delaware modifies almost everything around this garage but not the garage itself. The crappy Front street frontage of the garage will be visible from the river... if this plan ever comes to fruition, which is a slim possibility.

The waterfront in an alternate future that'll probably never happen.
                      Again, where were all the NIMBYs and preservationists when this was being built? I know this area wasn't quite the nice spot it is now when this shit went up, but who thought a big-ass brick-cladding parking garage was appropriate on one of the city's oldest blocks? Oh well... fuck this garage.


  1. It is awful that's true, but the garage is a pretty interesting example of 1970s concrete brutalism. Especially if you enter from street and walk through the filthy area behind the backdoors of the businesses that open onto Welcome Park. It's jaw-droppingly awful in a 1970s way that hopefully we learned from.

    Considering that this is a prime example of 1970s brutalism, the stores and theater are a great and surprisingly innovative inclusion.

    It may be ugly but with the park and the stores along it, this garage definitely functions very well as part of the city.

    It's also a great place to watch the Penns Landing fireworks.

    But I like Welcome Park too, so what do I know?

  2. My 4 photos of signs & exterior of the movie theater here