Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Lost Building of the Week-- May 11th

Central High School III

550 North Broad Street

Holy goddamn shit-kicking Christ.
                   Where do I fucking begin with this one? In the 1880's, Central High School's second building was getting overcrowded as shit. Things had changed at their spot at North Broad and Green.  The rich tycoonish motherfuckers that had moved in and built a shitload of mansions up North Broad were sending their spoiled trustafarian hipster teens to Central High. They needed a new building that was not only much bigger but much more extravagant to stroke their egos. Throw in a little good old-fashioned city government corruption into the mix and you get THIS AWESOME FUCKING BUILDING.
                    They called on the Grand Commandant of Architectural Ass-Kicks, Willis G. Hale, who had just finished what we now call the Divine Lorraine, to build a high school that will be unmatched anywhere in the country. Hale was like "Do you fucks have six years to spare? Cuz that's how long it's gonna fuckin' take, you dirty bastards!" Construction began in 1894 and lasted six years as the controversy over the super-awesomeness of the building became the center of Philly politics.
Historical photo of Willis G. Hale surveying the site of the proposed building in 1893.
                    In 1900 the new high school opened and in 1902 was dedicated with a visit by none other than President Theodore Goddamn Roosevelt. He spoke in the schools' opulent auditorium, then went out to the northern balcony facing Brandywine Street and addressed the students Pope-style. He then rode his horse back to DC with a safari hat on while carrying his cabinet, two advisors, and a cheesesteak under his arm.
                    This school had it all. See that big dome at the top? That was a fucking observatory. See that other dome at the top? That was the OTHER observatory. It's hard enough to find a high school with one... but two? Students had to be male and have an IQ over 110 to attend this Academy of Flying Fists, which means if it was around today and had the same standards, there would be like 3 students.
                    By the mid-20th Century, this building was looking pretty haggard. It had gotten stained up and was literally falling apart along with everything else on North Broad. Central High built a new and exceedingly ugly school at Olney and Ogontz Avenues, which it still uses today. Willis G. Hale's Masterpiece of Masturbational Glory was torn down in 1961 and replaced with a fucking pair of boxes known as Benjamin Franklin High School. Interesting how one of the best schools in America got replaced with one of the worst. Ben Franklin isn't even really a high school, it's more of a Day Care Center for teenagers.
                    What a wonder this would be if it was still around today. People go nuts for the Divine Lorraine and it has graffiti all over it... in my opinion Central High was Willis G. Hale's superior work. If this building somehow didn't get demolished, it would be a hot property in the condo/apartment market. People would like it so much that they would fuck a crack in the facade out front just to get a chance to see the inside. Instead, they have to settle for a dryhump with the Mulford Building.
         has some great pics of it, so here they are.
Willis G. Hale aint nuthin to fuck with.

Even Central's ass looked good.

Street-level Bad-ass

Go stand at the southeast corner of Broad and Green and let me know how it all turned out.

So they thought two slightly different rectangles would make a better looking view than this.



1 comment:

  1. From another book I'm working on...

    Philadelphia's Central High School pioneered in the teaching of astronomy, having had an observatory in its first building as far back as the late 1830s or 1840s. (The school was preceded only by Yale, Williams and Wesleyan, Western Reserve and Harvard for having an observatory.) The original Central High Observatory had a six-inch telescope that furnished 430 moon culminations, about 120 occultations of stars, and numerous observations of comets, especially the great comet of 1843.
    In October of 1846, time signals were exchanged between the observatory of Philadelphia's Central High School and the Naval Observatory in Washington, DC. This was the first use of what became known as the American telegraphic method of determining differences of longitude.

    When the school moved from its original site to the southeast corner of Broad and Green Streets in 1854, great care was given to the construction of a new rooftop observatory. The school's activity in astronomical teaching and research consequently increased, such that Central's observatory became known as the "Philadelphia Observatory" and was a center for astrophysics exploration.

    Opened in 1900 or so, Central High's third location on the southwest corner of Broad and Green Streets also had two rooftop observatory domes. The larger dome had a 15-inch refracting telescope and the smaller dome had an 8-inch telescope. In 1905, the larger observatory was destroyed by fire and its telescope was destroyed and not replaced.