Thursday, November 6, 2014

Mr. GroJLart Goes To Washington

Washington, District of Columbia

            I have been to D.C. exactly 3 times including this latest visit a couple of weeks ago. The first time was to go to the Superbowl of Hardcore 2001 (while trying to remember the name of this show I found myself in a video from it!) where I didn't really see the rest of the city, the second time was in the Summer of 2002 when it was like 100 degrees there and it sucked, and this, the third time, was my first REAL visit where I got to see the most of downtown from a GroJLartian perspective. Though I'm sure some people who've been to DC a lot are going to think my impression of it is going to be pretty stupid, I present it to you anyway:

Architecture  & Development 

         The architecture in DC is more or less pretty good... lots and lots of new buildings with pretty decent designs interspersed with tons of old stuff that looks awesome-- up to and including some old shit from Philly architects!

A building by John Fraser, Frank Furness's mentor who moved to DC. Same dude who did the Union League!

Kick-ass building by Philly's James Hamilton Windrim
             Development there seems to be going bonkers. Almost every block has either a renovation, an infill, or a crane on it. Like many have noted before, the height limit on buildings works to spread development out and created nice building canyons along the streets. With no really tall buildings around, they don't seem so short anyway.

              THAT BEING SAID (I hate that expression), DC also has a buttload of buildings from the worst periods of architectural history. In almost every direction, one can observe a garbage piece of brutalism or a very badly designed bit of modernism.

The Australian Embassy by Sir Walter Paul Osborn McCutcheon. Shrimp on the Barbie, G'Day Mate, etc etc
                    The height limit, while nice for some areas of the city, caused some gigantic super-block monster buildings to be built, especially in the area surrounding the National Mall. The 2 million+ square foot USDA complex should have just been a proper skyscraper

Look at that shit. It was designed by Philly's own Rankin & Kellogg, the same dudes who did the 30th Street Post Office/IRS Building.
Pedestrian Perspective

          In Philly, I use SEPTA when I need to get somewhere fast but most of the time I walk. Though DC has one kick-ass subway system, I'm sad to say that I didn't even use it when I was there.. I walked EVERYWHERE. I didn't even try the Capital Bikeshare bikes, which were all over the place. Most of the time, walking around was pretty nice. The weather was good so I got to enjoy most of what the downtown has to offer besides all the historical shit. I got to check out the commercial districts and even the U Street Corridor, which is cool because, though generally gentrified, has still hung on to some of its old school stuff.
        Something I didn't really like were those fucking circles. Its nice how they create patches of green space in the city but they're goddamn pedestrian nightmares--- there's like 20 crosswalks to traverse just to get around them!

Thomas Circle, the one I passed the most.
             At this time, I must touch on one sensitive subject: the bums. I know this is probably gonna cheese some people off, but there were homeless folks everywhere I went in DC. Every green space I passed had some hanging about and several were practically shanty towns. One of them rode a bike toward me, threw it down in front of my feet, and started doing karate moves in my direction. Having had many odd encounters with street friends in Philly, I just walked away from the dude. He went walking into the heavy traffic, leaving the bike on the sidewalk.
            I thought maybe I was just noticing the homeless because I was in a different city, but later I found out that DC has about 7,750 homeless versus Philly's roughly 650. More than 10 times the amount! Holy crap!! Something obviously needs to be done to help these folks.

Speaking of Sensitive Subjects...

         So I went to the Pennsylvania Avenue side of the White House because the only other time I had seen it in person was from the other side. Well, it was disappointing. Why? They weren't letting people cross Pennsylvania Avenue and all the streets for a few blocks around were blocked off for no given reason. On the White House roof, there were snipers. Snipers? What the fuck, man? I know there's been all these incidents of people running down the White House lawn, but I have to live in a country now where our executive mansion has fucking snipers on it?

Maybe they weren't snipers-- perhaps they were just decorative eagle statues that lost their wings.
          For the next few hours afterward I annoyed the shit out of my wife doing my best Alex Jones impression, going "ITS A HELLHOLE OF SURVEILLANCE AND POLICE STATE AND THE BILL OF RIGHTS BEING TORCHED! BEING DESTROYED!!" and "THE GLOBALISTS SET UP THE DEMISE OF OUR SOCIETY AND OUR CIVILIZATION!" I never thought I would live in a world where I would think this dude was right about something, even for a second. I pictured myself getting thrown into a volcano one day screaming "FUUUUCK!! HE WAS RIGHT!! ALEX JONES WAS RIIIIIiiiiiiiighhht!!!"
        Anyway, that's my impression of DC. I'm sure any DC natives or residents reading this have already puked all over themselves in disgust of my ignorance of their city, but oh well. Pretty nice place over all, but, as predicted, I prefer Philly. One last thing: PREIT needs to get off its ass and visit Union Station in DC to see what the Gallery is supposed to look like. That is all I'm going to say about that.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Fill This Front: Crappy Jefferson 10th Street Building

137 South 10th Street

         This one right here is a real pisser. I've been doing these Fill This Front rants for awhile now and totally overlooked this little shitbird I've walked by a thousand times until a reader brought it up to me on Shitter. Believe it or not, this little piece of shit is actually kind of an historic building... too bad it now just sits there, underutilized as fuck. While this Front is technically Filled and will be changing soon, it still needs to be called out for it suckquiousness.
        Its unknown exactly when this little building was built but the storefront came into prominence in 1850 when Otto Eisenlohr started his tobacco business right there, in one little room on the first floor. The company would, by 1920, be the third largest cigar manufacturer in the United States with an income of $250 million per year. So how do we honor the origin point of this great company? With a shitbird stone-over-brick facade and a bunch of display windows being used as an advertisement for Jefferson's media center.
        This location has seen countless stores come and go: Boon and Sample plumbing at the turn of the 19th and 20th Centuries, a bunch of stationary stores in the 1920s an 30s, a pottery shop in the 1950s (they were the bastards who had the Rock Craft Company out of Cobb's Creek apply that garbage facade in 1957), jewelry supplies in the 1960s, and then finally a printing and graphics shop in 1982. Jefferson bought the place on February 25th, 1988 for over $1 Million and has used it for various purposes over the years. Currently (or most recently), it houses/housed the Video & Audio Production Services wing of Jeffline Medical Media Services. Jefferson's Master Plan from 2006 had this entire block wiped out, but that's probably never going to happen at this point considering Jefferson still doesn't own 3 of the properties on the block.

2006 Master Plan for 10th and Walnut
             However, there is a small, small glimmer of hope for this little storefront. The Sign Committee of the Philadelphia Art Commission has an agenda item for their October 24th meeting  labeled "Jefferson Accelerator Zone, 137 South 10th Street". This, of course, could mean anything.  However, there is a new construction permit for the space stating this:


          There's another new permit about interior demolition. Upon recent inspection of the place, it seems construction has already begun (the WORK IN PROGRESS sign ain't lying). So at least SOMETHING is planned for action on this shitty little space. Good. This means that Jefferson is on its way to get off its ass and FILL THIS FRONT!

UPDATE:  Philaphile Colin Weir sent me some recent interior pics of this place over the Shitter. He tells me the space is to be an "Innovation Center"

Monday, November 3, 2014

Old-Ass Building of the Week: West Philadelphia Title & Trust

3557-3559, or 3459 Walnut Street, 131 or 133 South 36th Street

Photo by Michael Bixler
                 This was once one of the only office buildings in its neighborhood. However, it didn't take long to become enveloped by UPenn. Read all about it at the Hidden City Daily!