Thursday, February 16, 2012

Butt-Fugly Public Art of the Week-- February 16th

Big Ben at Franklintown by Alexander Generalis and Tom Miles

17th Street overpass over Interstate 676

The worst depiction of anyone... ever. Pic from philart.net
                        I'm sure I'm not the first person that ever told you that this sculpture is a flaming bag of orangutanshit. This one right here is hated far and wide. The worst part is, this is pretty much the most-viewed piece of Philadelphia's public art. If my math is right, 430.7 million cars have passed under this pile of shit on Interstate 676 since it was installed on June 1, 1992. That's a ridiculous number of people that have seen this monument to asstrash. Ridonkulous, in fact.
                        Oh, Franklin Town. That failed experiment of urban renewal from the 70's, complete with fucking moving sidewalks. I once wrote about one of its many empty lots.

Yeah, this all got built. Sike!!
                       Needless to say, it didn't quite work out as planned. In 1992, 21 years after it was proposed, Franklin Town looked even worse than it does now. In order to get the ball rolling on SOMETHING for this dystopian utopia, The Franklin Town Corporation wanted a big-ass piece of public art that could act as a gateway to the neighborhood. The piece would be placed at the edge of the hood, at 17th and Vine, where it straddles I-676. This is funny because the first thing you see in Franklin Town after this gateway are two super-massive empty lots.
                      Since it was being placed on an overpass, massively large amounts of killer bureaucracy was involved. The Federal Highway Administration, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, and Philadelphia Streets Department all had to have a hand in this disgrace. Real Estate moguls/artists Tom Miles and Alex Generalis were forced to design a sculpture based on the only thing Franklin Town could ever be known for-- Ben Franklin.
                      Philadelphia loves itself some depictions of early Philaphile Ben Franklin. Literally over 100 depictions of him are viewable on any given day. Throwing another one on top of the pile shouldn't have been that big a deal-- but in this case, it was. The design called for 15,000 pounds of stainless steel sheets that have been cut and painted and arranged to be a silhouette of Franklin with lightning bolts and kites everywhere. Since the bust of Franklin is 30 feet in the air, it would be viewable from 676.
                     In May of 1992, the steel shitstorm was installed bit by bit, work finishing on June the 1st. The "sculpture" was dedicated on June 12, 1992. Almost immediately, the hatred began. Motorists noticed the thing from below, no doubt puking all over their windshields. By August, the Inquirer's architecture critic tore it a new asshole. This disfigurement of Franklin made people start questioning the intelligence of putting depictions of him all over the place.
                    Today, it stands faded and rusty-nailed, still making people question what the fuck they were thinking. Franklin Town is still a piece of shit, but getting a little better...  the new Mormon Temple will be right near the sculpture. With the construction of the temple, maybe its time that a new Franklin Town gateway was created. Get Albert Paley on the phone. He could design an Archway of Kick-ass that matches the one nearby on 18th Street. That'll show 'em.

Its also a depiction of Colonial-era Cousin Itt.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Lost Bridge of the Week-- February 15th

Second Street Bridge "into the country about the Society Hill"

Spanning Little Dock Creek at approximately 314 South Second Street

The only picture of it is a close-up of a conjectural engraving of a conjectural drawing.
                       This little flash-in-the-pan of a bridge used to span Little Dock Creek. Little Dock Creek was a small tributary of Dock Creek that ran south down to a pond at what is now 9th and South Streets. Why talk about this little shitbird of a bridge? It was famous in its own time for what you could see when standing on it.
                      In the late 1700's, mega-bankerfinancier Stephen Girard had a problem. He had purchased a site on what is now the 300 block of South Second Street and wanted to build a row of houses... this was considered prime real estate because the best water pump in town was right nearby. Also, fruit trees and vegetable plants grew mysterious high and bountiful here. When the foundations were dug, a shitload of water and mud exploded out of the ground and stopped the whole operation.
                     This caused curiosity about what was going on under 178 S. 2nd St (now 314). Old people in the neighborhood started to recount tales about a natural spring that ran out of a hill just west of the old Second Street bridge. Back in the early 1700's, a small bridge, only half the width of the street, spanned Little Dock Creek and a little pond just to the West. From the bridge, one could get a nice view of the pond, which was known as Bathsheba's Spring and Bower or Bathsheba's Baths.
Conjectural-ass illustration of the view of the spring from the Second Street Bridge
                      One would think that the spring was named after the biblical Bathsheba, whose story is bath-related, but NO. The spring was named after a Swedish settler named Bathsheba Bower, an old spinster who loved the spring so much that she built a small house right next to it and maintained a small lounge for visitors there.
                     The spring became a local landmark. People started arranging the hill nearby into a little amphitheater that surrounded it and local religious leaders started preaching from the balcony of a building across the street. Some time in the mid-1700's, Little Dock Creek was tunneled over and the Second Street Bridge was gone (another Second Street Bridge just south of Walnut still stood for a while longer).
                     Eventually, future Brigadier General John Cadwalader took down the hill and built a double-wide rowhome there. The pond of the spring got filled in and Bathsheba's Baths became forgotten. It wasn't until decades later when Girard needed to drive pilings for the houses he built (that are still standing, BTW) that memories of the spring sprang forth again. The water pump nearby still drew from the spring until the late 19th Century.
                    Whomever lives at 314 S. 2nd Street needs to do some digging and find out if that spring is still under there somewhere. Philadelphia has a goddamn natural spring.

Bathsheba's Spring and Bower is somewhere under here. Image from Google.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Dead-Ass Proposal of the Week-- February 14th

Bridgeman's View Tower

900 North Delaware Avenue

Dead from every angle.
                    Here it is... another broken dream, and a good-looking one at that. This awesome tower was set to be the impetus for a second downtown along the Northern Liberties Delaware Riverfront. Instead, we got dicked. 
                   Read more on the Philadelphia City Paper's Naked City Motherfucking Blog!!!


Monday, February 13, 2012

Mystery Butt-Fugly Building of the Week-- February 13th

Holiday Inn Express Midtown Philadelphia

1305 Walnut Street

Parkingzilla.
                    What an embarrassing piece of shit. This building is so pitiful and ugly, no one wants to acknowledge it. The PAB has nothing on it, Emporis doesn't know who the architect is, and Google Earth won't put it into 3D. I almost feel sorry for this ugly motherfucker. Almost.

Google Earth said "Fuck it!"
                        This is one of those structures that can't decide if its a parking garage or a building. The way that the tower section is set back just makes it look like they forgot to build the front. The real reason its so far back is because there's a pool at the top of the parking garage.

This postcard from when it was first built shows off the pool, because seriously, there's nothing else to show off.
                        From its Samson Street side, this fuckbucket looks even worse. The tower is set so far back that it just looks like any other crappy parking garage from the street. Who the fuck thought this was a bright idea? Paul J. McNamara, that's who. This guy was Holiday Inn's most badass franchisee. Former manager of the Warwick, this guy envisioned that Holiday Inn locations could expand beyond shitbird highway exits and fuckbag resort locations, and be built in the downtowns of major cities.
                      McNamara built this 161-room motherfucker in 1963-1964, and it became the first Holiday Inn located in the heart of a major city. It was built on the site of some old 1830's row-mansions that were converted to retail uses, exactly like the ones that still stand across the street.

The site of the Holiday Inn in 1925. By the end of the 1930's half of this became surface parking.
                    The architect, of course, is a mystery... for good reason. Who the fuck would wanna own up to this mess? Even for the 1960's, this is a crappy building. The attempt to beautify the parking garage by placing a grille over it was a failure. They even named the restaurant inside when it first opened The Walnut Grille. Is that supposed to be some kind of sick joke about the parking garage? THAT'S a Walnut Grille.
                     When it opened, the hotel was full service... you could get room service and reserve banquet halls for events. In 1993, Holiday Inn created the Express brand, limiting services in order to get room rates down. The hotel was already doing pretty shitty at the time, competing with far better hotels that were built for the new Convention Center, so the boss, McNamara's son William, joined the change-in. Its been running under the Express brand to this day. Pitifully enough, this is one of the longest continuously-operating hotels in the city.
                      So who's the architect? Who's gonna acknowledge this mess of a building? Why does the parking garage have to be so humongous? Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!?!?!??!?!