Thursday, December 29, 2011

Empty Lot of the Week-- December 29th

Walnut Street Theatre Lot

809-823 Walnut Street

                  This right here is a shameful scar on the city. Right next to the Walnut Street Theatre and it still can't get filled in over all these decades. Though its not that huge, this lot can make you feel like shit... especially when you realize that this space has held a assload of other buildings over the centuries but can't get its fucking shit together today.
                 Like most of the blocks in this part of town, this one started as those humongous late 18th/early 19th Century mega-row-mansions. The facade of a small row of houses from the same era survive on the 700 block of Walnut.

Here's a pic from 1857.
                     In 1861, the lot's eastern end became home to a theater building called Wheatley's Continental Theatre. It burned the fuck down only 2 years later, so there's no pictures of it. They built a new theater on the same spot right away that had many names but was mostly called the Central Theatre. This one looked very similar to the Walnut. It burned down in 1867, was rebuilt, burned down again in 1888, was rebuilt, and then burned down AGAIN in 1892. That shit's fucked up, yo.

Here it is in 1882, between burnings.
                  After the third fire, they said "fuck it" and built a much cooler looking theatre that prettied-up the block like a motherfucker for 42 years. It was a kick-ass design called Gilmore's Auditorium and then Casino Theatre. Once it was demolished in 1935, the Walnut Street Theatre Lot was born, albeit half the size.

Kicking ass in the 1890's. There needs to be more buildings with embattled towers on them. Pic from the PAB.
                        In the 1920's a large Art Deco parking garage called the Bodek Garage was built in the space between 825 Walnut (still standing) and the Casino Theatre. It survived all the way up into the 90's. Parking garages were a lot better looking in the 20's.

Yes, I am using this picture AGAIN! This time, you can see the old Bodek Garage rocking the block in 1977. Its in the middle right of the image.
                    Once the Bodek Garage was taken down, the full power of the Walnut Street Theatre Lot came to be, shaming Washington Square West ever since. In 2008, there was a glimmer of hope. The Walnut Street Theatre's leadership became interested in expanding the ancient building... not just an expansion, but a skyscraper!

                  They proposed a street-level addition that would include a new theater-in-the-round and  classrooms/conference rooms/ball rooms, topped off with a 517-foot skyscraper that would become the world's tallest retirement home!!! That's shit's craaaazzy! The architect was Heery International and the construction date even got set at May 2010. That date came and went like a motherfucker with no change to the lot. Is this a Dead-Ass Proposal or something that could actually still happen? Probably dead. There was literally zero news about this after the initial proposal at a Washington West Civic Association meeting.
                  What a shame... here we have a decades-strong empty lot that has seen the blocks around it be destroyed a rebuilt numerous times... at this point, anything getting built here would be a benefit. Even if the Walnut built the street-level portion of the skyscraper project I'd be satisfied. Fucknuggets!

Alternate Universe Philadelphia circa 2010.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Lost Building of the Week-- December 28th

The Empire Theatre

Southeast corner of Broad and Locust Streets

Holy fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck. Willis G. Hale ain't nuthin' to fuck with!
                    SEVEN FUCKING YEARS. That's how long this building stood. Seven. The fact that there's more than one picture of it just tells you how awesome this building was for the extremely brief period of time it stood. This was probably one of Willis G. Hale's best buildings, and anyone who reads this shit knows that THAT MEANS SOMETHING.
                   The Empire Theatre is an obscure-ass building to know anything about. Even the Philadelphia Architects and Buildings Project has nothing on it. In the late 1800's, there was a brief period of time when the area surrounding Broad and Locust Streets was one of the richest, cleanest, and most valuable parts of this city. The 1300 and 1400 blocks of Locust were off the fucking chain. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania (still there), Episcopal Academy (moved), Library Company of Philadelphia (moved and moved back), College of Physicians (moved), the Rugby Academy (still standing but different), and the Academy of Music were all in the same row.
                 In the early 1890's, it seemed logical that Broad Street could use some more theaters to take advantage of the situation. Info is spotty about how it all began but some sources imply that William M. Singerly, press tycoon and Willis G. Hale fan, had something to do with it. That makes sense. He owned the previous incarnation of the Empire Theatre that burned down in 1886 and Singerly and Hale worked together often. Hale had even designed his office. Like this:

Singerly's office implied that he was also not something with which to fuck.
                   The Empire Theatre was built in 1891, right across the street from the Academy of Music. The place was source says 546,000 square feet, which seems impossible. Of course, this is a Hale building, so anything is possible. 

This map of the ventilation system should be enough info to re-build it!
                  Large extravagant shows went on in this 1500-seater for almost the entire 1890s. Then, the development came. Once it was understood that the new city hall was going to be built nearby, the commercial core of the city started moving west, taking over the briefly rich-ass neighborhood. This corner of Broad and Locust became too damn valuable for a theater and the kick-ass Hotel Walton was built in this spot in by 1898, only seven years after the Empire was built.
                  What a building! If thing managed to survive into the 21st Century, people wouldn't even know that the Academy of Music exists. Good job, Willis. Good job.

The Empire sometime before 1896.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Butt-Fugly Building of the Week-- December 27th

Constitution Place (aka The Mall Building)

325 Chestnut Street

This is from a publicity photo of it and it still looks like taint.
                    Now here's a building that NIMBYs didn't work hard enough to stop. This ugly, out-of-place piece of shit was the first major building constructed in the city after World War II. You'd think they'd want to do a good job, but no, we get this pile of dirt.What a waste.
                       This building came about around the same time that the beautiful buildings of the 19th Century commericial district of Philadelphia were being destroyed one by one to make room for the Independence Historical Grass Lot Collection.  Here's the corner the building now stands on as it looked in 1954, one year before construction:

                    Frank Binswanger, developer extraordinaire, was ready to spend $6 million on a brand new office building that would bring the neighborhood surrounding the coming Grass Lot Collection into the 20th Century. The NIMBY's of the time heroically attempted to get it stopped. After all, at this point a shitload of beautiful buildings were getting knocked down and a few more that weren't even part of the park would have to get demolished for this new 13-storey piece of shit.
                   The developer presented rendering after rendering.. at first it was to be a red-brick facaded structure, but later it was decided that this new building of a new age should be glass and aluminum. New Orleans architect Charles Colbert was brought in to design this trash, which was going to be known as the Mall Building, even though it wasn't on Independence Mall nor did it contain a shopping mall. Coincidentally, Colbert had designed many shopping malls in his career. Here's a few of the renders:

I believe this is the earliest version of the glass and aluminum version of the building. It was rejected.
Closer, but not quite there yet.
This is the final design. I think I like the rejected shit better.
                   Construction of this piece of shit finally forced its way through by the end of 1955.. the NIMBYs, who should have won this battle, lost. The building was finished in 1956.

Under confucktion. Parking Lot across the street is areas that were being cleared in preparation for the Grass Lot Collection.
                        Ever since, this pile of crap has stuck out like a sore thumb due to its ugly and unfortunate look. Because its on Independence Park, assloads of out-of-towners are subject to its embarrassing presence. Because Buddakan is one of the retail tenants, even famous people who visit Philadelphia are forced to find out how shitty our architecture can really get. What a pisser.
                        By the early 1990's, this building, though only 40 years old, was starting to fall apart. The offices got down to an 80% vacancy and it seemed like the shitpile's days were numbered. In the late 90's, however, Kaiserman Management Group, the same motherfuckers behind the creation of another prominent butt-fugly building, took over the place and renovated the fuck out of it, causing 100% office/retail occupation and the inevitable survival of a building that could have been demolished by now. Thanks, dick.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Old-Ass Building of the Week-- December 26th

Thomas B. Lovatt & Sons

220 South 8th Street

Survivor: Eighth Street
                   This building is pretty kick-ass and you've got to appreciate how it managed to survive the total destruction and rebuilding of the block where it lives numerous times... but there is a dubiousness to this beast's survival... its just the front fifth of the original building. 
                   Back in the early 20th Century, Thomas B. Lovatt and Sons was the king shit of auctioneers of Philadelphia. These guys auctioned off everything... land, property, estates, businesses, you name it. Give them enough time, and they'd auction your own disembodied asscheek back to you. In 1906, the business needed a new building that could hold their offices AND all the shit they were trying to auction off.
                   They didn't need to look very far for an architect because Lovatt family member George Ignatius Lovatt Senior just happened to be the most prominent church and cathedral architect in the entire region. This guy was used to designing big-ass buildings of worship, MANY of which still stand today. A little dinky building like this was easy as shit for him. He accidentally farted this design after eating a bad burrito. 
                   The result was that kick-ass facade in the picture above and then a building behind it that would snake all the way back to Darien Street. 

There it is, slightly to the right in this pic from 1930. You can see how far back it goes.
                    Less than 30 years after the Lovatt building was built, the block started into upheaval. The corner of 8th and Locust got completely demolished and rebuilt, but the building managed to be just slightly out of the way. 

Subway's gotta turn somewhere. The Lovatt Building is all the way to the right. This corner if now the site of Major.
                       By the early 1970's, 75% of the block was either slated for demolition or had some crappy single-storey retail building on it. 

Lovatt Building surviving (empty) into 1971.
                       By 1977, the ENTIRE block bounded by 8th, 9th, Locust, and Walnut was GONE save this building and its buddy next door. The long rear section of the building was taken down around this time from what I can tell.

Yes, this picture again from 1977. The side of the front section of the Lovatt Building is on the right.
                   In 1979, this building was semi-historically certified, as it  "Contibutes to the Historic District" of Society Hill. In the same year, the ugly-ass Postal Workers' House was built right next door. 

The caption that originally went with this picture commented on the contrast between the brand-new building and the abandoned shit that was next door, as if it was a bad thing that these two buildings survived.
                       In 2000, the parking garage attached to the Wills Eye Hospital was built just north of this beast. The building got historically certified (finally) in that year. Even after all that change, the block is not done. Site Prep has begun on a new HUP building that will be built over that parking garage, therefore causing this little auction house to survive yet another upheaval. 

Notice they include the Lovatt Building in this render but not the crappy Postal Worker's House, which should be visible.
                   The Lovatt Auction House building probably didn't manage to survive this long by coincidence... the architect's son, George I. Lovatt Junior, was the city architect for the entire middle of the 20th Century. He probably had something to do with the mysterious ability of his family's building to outlast the generations. Well, good. The building is in use today as a doctor's office and apartments and will probably live on for at least a whole nother 105 years. Good fucking job. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Dead-Ass Proposal of the Week-- December 22nd

Liberty Landing

1301 Columbus Boulevard

Pier 70 times a million.
                      This thing is kind of cool-looking but would have been severely out-of-place in the location it was proposed. Had it been built, it would've ended up like Waterfront Square, with only one or two of the buildings built and the rest looking like shit. This beast of a complex was billed as the "largest multi-family residential development in the history of the city." The most interesting thing about this huge piece of crazy is that its a Double-Dead-Ass Proposal... it failed in the 80's and then again in the 00's.
                     Back in the skyscraper boom of the late 1980's, shit was going wild in Philadelphia... after years of media craziness over the construction of Liberty Place, tall buildings started popping up out of the skyline every few months. In 1988, Local 19 of the Sheet Metal Worker's Union got in on the nuttiness and combined their powers with an Allentown-based developer and some of their pals in the organized crime business to form Liberty Landing Associates. They proposed a huge mixed-use complex consisting of 140,000 square feet of offices, a 300-room hotel, 35,000 square feet of retail space, 550 luxury apartments, a 280-slip marina and parking for 1,600 cars. Cost: $300 Million. The architect would be the firm of J.K. Roller... I'm sure there's a rendering at the bottom of a landfill somewhere.
                    By the time they got their shit together enough for this thing to be started, the boom was over. Even though they had retail and office tenants lined up, the proposed 1991 completion date came and went like a motherfucker and no one thought they would see this thing again...
                    Until 2002. In that year, the Sheet Metal Workers came roaring back, this time with a MUCH bigger proposal consisting of two 30-storey buildings, a 35-storey building, four 10 storey buildings, five gigantic parking garages, a 340-room hotel, 96,000 square feet of retail, and a 5 storey office building. The cost of this one went up to 1 billion dollars. The new architect would be Burt Hill Kosar Rittelmann Associates.

One of the 21st-Century Liberty Landing renderings. Not sure if this is from before or after the one above. 
                  Some progress was made after that... the developer secured a movie theater tenant and the hotel was planned to be a Radisson. After that, the project went caput. The buzz over Foxwoods moving in at the lot next door caused a NIMBY overload at the time so there's no way this thing would have been approved. In addition to that, the Allentown-based developer that was involved got a lot of bad press for other fuck-ups it was associated with in Philly and other cities.
                  We're probably better off. This thing would have been too far south on the waterfront. Something like this belongs on the waterfront up at NoLibs or Fishtown (home to like 500 similar dead-ass proposals to this one). Columbus Boulevard in South Philly is ridiculously gridlocked at all times. Some shit needs to be done down there to alleviate the traffic before any more major projects can go on.
                   Wait a minute... Liberty Landing? What the fuck kind of name is that? Did the Statue of Liberty land on Pier 53? What the fuck does Liberty Landing have to do with anything? It's not even an original name, there's like 800 other places named Liberty Landing. They should have called it Sheet Metal Workers Will Fuck Your Shit Up Plaza or Inflatable Rat Memorial Sloop. Oh well, its not happening, so FUCK IT. Here's some more pictures of this stupid-ass idea:

View from if you were falling out of a helicopter or something.
From inside the crescent.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Lost Bridge of the Week-- December 21st

Walnut Street Bridge I

Spanning the Schuylkill River at Walnut Street between 24th and 33rd Streets

Twas a cool bridge.
                               Here's an old bridge that doesn't look much different from its replacement. This old girl was yet another bridge over the Schuylkill that proved to be a huge pain in the ass to design and build, but the hard work ended up paying off handsomely.
                             In 1888, the demands of Philly's quickly growing population got the best of it. The bridges that existed over the Schuylkill, though built only a few decades before, were already overcrowded. On Christmas Eve of that year, City Council voted a on a new bridge, this time at Walnut Street. The engineering challenge this presented was the least of their worries. 
                            The Schuylkill River is decidedly deep in this particular spot and the bedrock was 48 feet under the muddy bottom. A shitload of train lines already existed on each side of the river and would need to be spanned. This would require the bridge's length to be 3,448 feet, only 369 feet of which went over the river.  On the Center City side, Walnut Street would have to be widened to accommodate the 60-foot-wide bridge deck. Despite all those challenges, construction was slated to begin on July 1, 1889. 
                            Of course, this is Philadelphia and construction did not begin that day. There was a shortage of stone from the quarries and the bridges initial construction steps were delayed. Such delays plagued the project. Some work started on July 16th so that is considered the official construction start time. 

They were still throwing down coffer dams a year and a half after construction started.
"I swear, we'll finish this thing some time!"
                          The design for the primary section of bridge would be wrought iron that extended 2,408 feet over piers 123 feet apart. All this would be covered with a long plate of concrete with beautiful decorative ironwork railings that no bridge built today is capable of having. 
Look at that shit.
                    The bridge opened on July 16th, 1893, precisely four years from the first day of construction. Amazingly, it came in under its $900,000 budget at $751,921.68  For a bridge that was hastily designed and had so many construction delays, it KICKED ASS. It stayed in continuous use with very little maintenance for 7 whole decades. It wasn't until 1974 that the bridge was closed for repairs. 
                      By the 1980's, the bridge was breaking all kinds of Highway Safety Regulations that didn't previously exist. The beautiful railings were a major concern because those things weren't going to hold back a tractor trailer. Shit, by this point, anyone could probably just kick straight through them. 

The iron railings in 1973.
                 In 1988, the destruction of this first Walnut Street Bridge began... except this is a case where you can really say the new bridge is also the old bridge. PennDOT spent $28 million replacing the bridge one lane at a time. This is probably the reason the current bridge is so similar to the old... it uses the same piers. I guess this bridge is not as lost as we thought.
                 The Philly Inquirer article about the reconstruction/demolition/replacement of the bridge from 1988 states that the iron railings from the old bridge would be donated to the Fairmount Park Association and be used for decoration of the Schuylkill River Banks Park. Well 23 years later that park is looking pretty nice but where are the railings? Where did they end up?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Butt-Fugly Public Art of the Week-- December 20th

Elemental Intervals by William Freeland

North side of South Street halfway between 10th and 11th Streets.

                     This shit has always bothered me. A whole shitload of limestone rocks needlessly trapped in a wire mesh prison... forever. What did those stones do? I don't remember them being in a trial by jury. I'd rather see the side of that crappy parking garage than the pieces of shit that were tacked on to beautify it. That's pathetic.
                     1986 was not a good year for public art in this city. Some of Philadelphia's most atrocious outdoor art pieces were installed in that year. I could literally take a list of 1986 public artworks and do 13 Butt-Fugly Public Art articles. Of all those crappy art pieces, this one is definitely the worst.
                     In 1985, that the block-long supermarket parking garage behemoth on the 1000 block of South Street needed to satisfy its Percent-for-Art requirement.  John Acciavatti of The South Street Development Company commissioned William Freeland to design a piece of art that would distract your eye away from the fact that there's a gigantic-ass parking garage on South Street.
                    Freeland responded by entrapping four-and-a-half tons of limestone rocks way up in the air, surrounded by a thirty-five by twenty-seven foot area of copper and aluminum shit. The rock-jail was installed in 1986, and has gone unnoticed since then. Add to that the fact that one of the city's greatest pieces of public art is directly across the street and you end up with a 4.5 ton piece of ignored-ass sculpture.
                   If there's ANY meaning to this shit, I don't fucking know it. Maybe these rocks were sitting in a pile in William Freeland's backyard, taunting him. Perhaps he intended to use them for some kind of construction project but the souls of dead criminals inhabited the rocks and harassed him day and night. When the commission for this piece of shit came along, Freeland entrapped the rocks in that wire mesh to make sure they would never bother anyone again.Then he called it Elemental Intervals just to throw people off the scent.
                  Elemental Intervals? Like intervals between elements? If that's what he wanted, he should have illustrated the interval between Beryllium and Boron. How does two rock jail cells illustrate Elemental Intervals? See that metal arrow under the one of the right? It's like it's telling you to look away from it! Good advice. I suggest we all take it.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Mystery Building of the Week-- December 19th

????!?!?!?!?!!??!?!?! Building

15 South 11th Street

The building is saying "HELP ME YOU BASTARDS!!"
                   Now this is a mysterious-ass building. Beacon of the 11th Street hoopty-store row, this beautiful-ass building has been sitting there for 100 years, getting no goddamn respect. This building was making me feel like a big amateur at this shit, but even legitimate architectural historians can't find its origin.
                  Sources can't agree on WHO the fuck built this thing, WHY, or WHEN. The Philadelphia Architects and Buildings Project puts the construction date at 1910 and credits the building is Ralph Bencker, designer of the Horn and Hardart Commissary. The Preservation Alliance, in an article from August 2010, lists the build date as 1912 and two possibilities of architects-- Sauer & Hahn or William Steele & Sons.
                 In my diggings, I've been able to eliminate Sauer & Hahn. All they did for this building was a proposed alteration. Ralph Bencker definitely designed the Horn and Hardart location that was a tenant in one of the storefronts when the building first opened, but that doesn't necessarily mean he designed the whole thing. William Steele & Sons was posited to be the architect based on the fact that Joseph Steele, the guy in charge, owned this building when it was first built. That doesn't really mean they designed it, though.
                Whoever DID design this thing... GOOD FUCKING JOB! This building's facade is beautiful, that crappy picture above doesn't do it justice. Architectural ceramics in bold colors cover this gem. It would look even better if the original Ralph Bencker-designed storefronts were there, the Horn and Hardart one had stained glass windows along with other intricate details.

From the interior, obviously. Pic from the PAB.
                     The history of its many storefronts is mostly known. Horn and Hardart stayed there for at least 5 decades and was responsible for the removal of the stained glass in the 60's. The other fronts have changed too frequently to list. Currently, besides the schlock merchants in most of the fronts, the Sound of Market store, supposedly the largest independent music store in the city, has been rocking the 2nd and 3rd floors for 22 years.
                    Why is it called Sound of Market and not Sound of 11th Street? I guess its because were located on Market Street for 6 years. I hate it when stores that are named after their streets move to a different street and keep the same name. Sound of Market is on 11th Street, Spruce Street Video is on 12th Street, Paper on Pine is on 13th Street. That shit's confusing. Remember 14th Street Audio? That was on Chestnut Street!
                   Anyway, back to the building. The upper floors have been abandoned for decades. There's a ghost sign on the south side of it for a company called the Charles E. Tull Electrical Construction Company, but that doesn't necessarily mean they were located in there. Fun fact: Charles E. Tull invented the word "electrifier".

Here's how it looked in 1965, shortly after H & H mangled up the storefront facade.
                        This building will one day be rehabbed and re-beautified in some future revitalization of Market East. The 11th Street hoopty store row is already feeling the nails in the coffin... the Family Court is moving to a brand-new butt-fugly building by LOVE Park, so the constant yelling-and-fighting-in-the-street operation it creates will move along with it. The Girard Estate shit building is now down to month-to-month leases in preparation for the new five-storey shopping mecca that will be built there. Hopefully this will drive rents up on the rest of 11th Street.
                     The !!!?!?!?!?!??!?! Building would do great as a future residential building... the high ceilings and big-ass windows on the side would create some nice Brundle Fly apartments (they call them "lofts" nowadays). This building (and street) has lots of potential... if only someone knew where the fuck it came from! Anyone out there know!?!?! Did your great-grandfather design it? Do you have an old blueprint in a drawer somewhere? I must know!!!!


                        Hello, this is John McLaughlin and you ahh now reading this is my voice!! Ben Leech, writah of the Presuhvation Alliance aahticle on this building says that the permit for it declares William Steele and Sons as the aahhchitect! BYE BYE!!!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Empty Lot of the Week-- December 15th

The CHoP Hole

Between the Colket Translational Research Building and the Fisher Translational Research Center

It's deeper now than it was in this pic from October 2011.
                          Does this even count as an empty lot? It's not even a lot, its a hole. A very deep hole that seems to be getting deeper by the day. Every time I see it, I'm floored by how much deeper it has become. What are they digging for? Is this Gold Rush Philadelphia? What the frick!?!?!
                           For the history of this lot, look no further than the Butt-Fugly building article here. I still don't know what the fuck Translational Research is. Wait a minute... this hole almost seems like a construction site. Could CHoP's South Campus Master Plan actually be a go?!?!? If it is, what form will it take? There have been a shitton of renders of what would be built on this spot over the years.

Obviously an old one. The Civic Center is still there.

This one has the Colket Tranlational Research Center in it but it looks all weird.
Here's the same configuration of buildings as above but with goofy colors.
The accompanying text said that this was an 8 storey building.
                         The other clue that makes me think that its a construction site is the recent news that CHoP has issued a 270 million dollar bond sale to "fund future expansion projects". Now that could mean anything, since in July they released the news that they would be building a whole new set of shit on the other side of the river from the Hole, but the articles about the bond sale also mention "a new five storey Ambulatory Care Center."
                          I guess that's what's going on... but the question still remains... why the fuck do they need to go so deep over a five storey building? Also, the deepest part of the hole is in an area that every rendering has as a grassy open space. I know that this area of land has had its share of landfill applied in the early to mid 19th Century... maybe that's what is being removed.
                           You have to be pretty impressed with an organization says "fuck you" to the Great Recession and sells off a bunch of shit to get their buildings built. Though the future South Campus Complex will probably pale in comparison to the old master plan for it, it is another step in the right direction for the city. Oh, and kids' lives will get saved too... but fuck that, this is an architecture blog.

The least deep section of the hole as of yesterday.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Lost Mystery Building of the Week-- December 14th

Philadelphia University of Medicine and Surgery (aka Pennsylvania Medical College)

252 S. 9th Street

Pretty frickin' cool! Image from the PAB.
                          This cool-looking building rocked the corner of 9th and Latimer Streets for 120+ years but no one seems to remember anything about it. This building was a gem that probably wouldn't have been demolished in the present day, but was considered shit that needed to go in the 1960's.
                        The early history of this thing is known.. its what happened later on that no one seems to care about. In the early 1840's, Doctor William Paine founded and administrated the Philadelphia University of Medicine and Surgery, known locally as just Philadelphia University. This was just one of the medical schools in a time when they were popping up and fizzling out every few years. The medical schools that we currently have in the city are vestiges from that era... the ones that survived.
                         By the mid 1840's, this particular medical school was doing pretty well and the leaders of it decided that they needed a brand new headquarters building that could not only function as a school but as a medical museum of sorts as well. They got the Megagrandmaster of Highway-Speed Crotch Kicks Thomas Ustick Walter to design them this castle of the medical arts. Though only two stories, this beast seems massive.
                        After it was built in 1849, it became a meeting place for the entire medical establishment of the city and beyond. By the 1860's, after the school became part of the Pennsylvania Medical College, doctors from far and wide would come to an annual conference that was held there. The museum portion of the building displayed anatomical, pathological, and surgical specimens, sort of how the College of Physician's Mutter Museum does today.
                       Pernnsylvania Medical College didn't last very long after that. The University of Pennsylvania was pissed that there was a another college called "Pennsylvania", so they worked hard to get the place shut down just because they had a similar name. Pennsylvania College was absorbed by the Eclectic Medical College of Pennsylvania, which was a school that was based on a form of quackery called Eclectic Medicine. That place was shut the fuck down in 1939 for being about bullshit.
                      During and even after the Philadelphia University of Medicine and Surgery's existence, the school was embroiled in a national controversy at the time: Bogus degrees. A company was making diplomas (they called them "Matriculating Tickets" back then) that said "Philadelphia University" on them and selling them to anyone who wanted one. After the school lost its charter and became part of Pennsylvania College, bogus degrees with the school's full name on it got spread across America.
                    After all that, I can't find shit about what happened to this building, other than these shitty photographs of it:

1961. There it is on the right, extremly altered and with an addition. SOMEONE cared about this thing.
Aerial photo from 1931.. the alterations and addition are present in this photo as well.
                           I have found some records of people listing this place as their home address in the late 19th Century. Was it turned into a private residence or maybe apartments? I'm sure there are some oldheads out there that remember this beast... WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED TO IT!?!?!?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Butt-Fugly Building of the Week-- December 13th

CVS/Pharmacy #1545 (aka Acme Markets, aka Thriftway, aka Food Rite aka Tyson and Griswold Residences)

1500 Spruce Street

Surprised? Image from Google.
                         I've always hated this building... its dirty, outdated, and scars a spot that should have a much taller building. This building, like the old Crane Company Showroom, confirms that butt-fugly buildings definitely existed before 1940. The construction date of this building is actually quite shady, because it is really the super-mangled form of two really old mansions. Real Rap.
                        This corner started as two massive homes that were built some time between 1830 and 1850. Though many different families flourished in the two gigantic houses, the most famous people who lived in them were super-businessmongers Frank Tracy Griswold and Dr. James Tyson. Some time between 1917 and 1930, the first stage mangling began. The Philadelphia-based Acme Markets took on the properties and formed them into this ugly supermarket, leaving the upper floors of the Tyson residence somewhat intact. The row of mansions on the rest of the block got knocked down to be the parking lot some time in the 40's.

How it looked in 1950.
                     The spot uglied-up the corner of 15th and Spruce for decades, finally reaching its ultimate form in 1977, when the building went through seven months of renovations and all evidence of the Tyson residence was removed.

This 1986 picture pretty much sums it up.
The interior after the grand reopening in 1977.
                       The 1977 interior stayed relatively unchanged all the way up into 2007 or so, though it looked like a decroded piece of crap by then. Acme gave up on this building by the early 90's and the spot became a Thriftway and later the crappy-ass Food Rite Market by the end of the 90's.

As Thriftway in 1995.
                     For some reason, this piece of shit is historically certified... though the file for it has no architect or build date listed. I'm guessing it's certified because this dirty piece of shit is one of the only remaining Acme Market buildings from the era when they had neighborhood stores. I'm not the only one who thinks this thing is shit... the Avenue of the Arts Master Plan from 1999 demolishes this motherfucker and replaces it with a pocket park.

I'd call it Shitzod Park, but that's just me.
                         Like many of the things in that Master Plan, it never fucking happened. A few years ago, CVS/Pharmacy rolled in and renovated the building into Store # 1545. They TRIED to make the place look nicer, re-windowing openings that the Food Rite Market closed up and painting over the fucked up bricks from the 1977 renovation. Good try, but this building is just beyond help. Even when you go into that CVS you notice how the floor is all crooked and uneven. Just put this fucker out of its misery already.

The only picture I could find from the Food Rite era. Check out how dirty the place was. This pic is from some blog article from the late 90's about where you could find Jolt Cola. Anyone have a pic from the exterior of Food Rite?