Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Fill This Front: 1208 Chestnut

1208 Chestnut Street

                Here I am, back on Chestnut Beast, to re-visit a building I've written about before. Not because it was once a Frank Watson-designed Cathedral of Ultimate Kick-Ass, but because its storefront has been empty for 2 and a half fucking years! How the hell are we supposed to bring back Chestnut East with this old bastard still sitting empty?
               The old Hamilton and Diesinger Building was an 8-story commercial building that had a humongous store space on its first floor that came with a cool mezzanine.

Special thanks to Philaphile Kevin McMahon for finding this photo for me.
         In about 1942 the building went up in flames and the top 5 floors had to be removed, leaving just one floor with its awesome rounded terra cotta bay window. Ever since, the building has existed as a single retail floor that goes all the way back to Sansom Street with miniscule 1250 square foot second and third floors.
       Many many stores have come and gone through this space-- restaurants, photo processors, bookstores, linen stores, several different shoe stores, you name it. Listing them all in order would be foolish. The latest store to inhabit this space was one of many Philly locations of the Brooklyn-based discount clothier Rainbow, who came along in 1998 or so and lasted until 2012.

Rainbow in January 2012, right before it closed.
        The ownership of the building seems a bit shady-- it was purchased in 1988 for $700,000 by a group of people based in some random office in NYC that is now some kind of management firm for writers or some such shit. Obviously, the info the city has about the owners of this building is out of date.
       Last February, L & I came after the place, citing the awesome terra cotta bay window as something unsafe. Pieces looked like they were about to fall off, I guess. The place got gated up and the bottom of the bay window was lathed and stuccoed over. The windows in the bay were also [kind of] restored Therefore, whomever manages or owns this building is still taking care of it to some extent. Ever since that repair, the place seems to be looking shittier and shittier by the day. Someone needs to come along and save this bastard.
       This space is a total of 7,750 square feet, 5,750 of which are on the first floor alone. That first floor is 25 feet wide on Chestnut Street and runs the entire 230 feet back to the 1200 block of Sansom Street, which is also somewhat retailed-up. If you were a real badass, you could open two different storefronts on either side of this thing, or be like my boys down at Cella Luxuria and have front and back entrances to the same store!
       This storefront is in a prime location on the re-emergent Chestnut East corridor. Some of our best bus lines run directly in front of this place and our highest use bus line, the 23, runs both east and west of it. One block away from an EL stop, not too far from the Broad Street Line, a few blocks from Regional Rail, this place has it all!!! I would try to hook you up with whomever manages or owns this place, but it seems no such information exists. There hasn't been a "for sale" or "for lease" sign in the two years its been empty, so I don't know what to tell you. The only listing I've found to rent the place has no contact info on it.
      This place may be the last piece of the Chestnut East puzzle to change. Add yourself to the list of heroes that are changing Chestnut East for the better. FILL THIS FRONT!!
Bad photo of the Sansom Street side.

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