1428 Chestnut Street
|Holy fuck!! Pic from the PAB.|
In the late 1800's, NYC's 23rd Street Branch of the YMCA was an experiment in how badass the YMCA locations could be if tons of money were thrown into them. The 23rd Street Branch was a mansard-roofed mega-castle with libraries, auditoriums, and, revolutionary for the period, a gymnasium. As it was constructed and opened in 1868-69, Harper's Weekly, the "Journal of Civilization", featured articles and drawings of every part of the building.
|It looks like one side of City Hall.|
In the early 1870's, many other cities started to plan their own badass YMCA super-buildings, and Philadelphia was one of them. A competition was held for a design with recommendations from the dudes who designed the NYC version. The winner was Super Arch-megatect Addison Hutton. The YMCA's leadership thought that all the other designs, which had a tower in the corner, looked too much like a church. They chose Addision Hutton's design because it looked more secular (and more badass).
The gigantic building would make the NYC one look like a grabasstic pile of horsetrash, even though its meant to be a sequel to that design. It would cost $500,000 and take 3 years to build.
|An engraving of it from 1875. Image from the PAB.|
The new YMCA was a massive success. Its location proved valuable once the Central Business District moved over to the neighborhood, following the construction of City Hall. Unfortunately, the success of that CBD is what killed this building. The YMCA moved a few blocks north in the early 20th Century and the 15th/Chestnut megamonster was converted into a mostly-office building under designs by Hutton and was renamed the Wilson Building.
One piece of the interior salvaged from the original design was the theater. It was knocked down to less than half the original size (1300 seats to 600), but stayed in use as the Colonial Theatre.
|The theatre entrance in 1913.|