Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Lost Building of the Week-- May 18th

Provident Life and Trust Company I and II

401 and 409 Chestnut Streets

You've been Furnessed.
                   Jesus Goddamn Rotoscoping Christ. Look at this Corner of Century-long Crotch Kicks. They sure as shit don't make 'em like this anymore. It seems to get larger as you look from ground to sky, it has conical towers up the wazoo, alternating brick colors, and little details everywhere. Hell fucking yeah.
                   It all began in 1876. Provident Life and Trust Company wanted a building on Banker's Row. The problem was that there were already a bunch of kick-ass awesome bank buildings on the Row and they wanted theirs to stand out. They had a national design contest in order to figure out who could design the most unusual and memorable building they could throw down there. Now who would win a NATIONAL architecture contest in 1876? Frank Motherfucking Furness, that's who.

Only known photograph of Frank Furness.
                 Furness didn't even try that hard. He was like "I was thinking of experimenting with a big fucking arch held up by a mishmash of cool-ass columns and different colored bricks and blocks and shit. Let me try that for this stupid insurance company's design contest. Maybe I'll add in some funny patterns and shapes...", and what he ended up with was this:

Furness designed this in like 5 minutes while sitting on the can. It took 3 years to build.
               Of course people loved it. Architecture critics gave it a big Thumbs Up. Provident Life and Trust loved what they got so much that they went back to Furness in 1888 and begged him to build a much taller addition that would reach all the way to the corner. Furness nonchalantly burped then said, "Alright, alright, keep your pants on. I'm sure I can come up with something I can use for you pussies. Now get me some chicken wings." Here's an early drawing of what he created:

                 It took less time to build and was much larger and more extravagant. Furness even threw in a pyramid-shaped roof to go over his original building and said, "That's a dunce cap for you guys for the future act of putting your next building way the fuck out at 46th and Market where it will sit rotting into the 21st Century. Fuck y'all." The new addition, which is AWESOME, is not as respected as the original structure for some reason. Even Wikipedia's article on the building calls the addition "a busy Bavarian fantasy attached to a model of creative rationalism". That's bullshit. I think the addition makes the original looks like a dead horses' ballsack.
                 Fifty-five years after its completion, the addition was destroyed. It became an Empty Lot of the Week for years next to the original, which itself was demolished fourteen years later when all the shit the facade was caked with by that point made it ugly as fuck. The building's footprint didn't end up seeing a new occupant until 1988, 39 fucking years later, when the garbage-looking Omni Hotel at Independence Park was built.
                  What a waste. This Tower to Nunchuck-shaped Diamonds could itself have been turned into a hotel to serve tourists of the Independence Historical Grass Lot Collection. It could house a Charter School if it was around today. It could have been the welcome center for the Grass Lot Collection... it looks a hell of a lot better than the two they've tried before. Shit, to keep this thing alive, I would have allowed it to become a 10 storey check-cashing place. The Dr. Scholl's Foot Fungus Museum. You could have made it a garbage storage center for 50 years and I would be satisfied... but NO. It just had to be demolished. Thanks for nuthin'.


  1. I've read many descriptions of this building and yours is the first one to do it justice.

  2. Thanks bro. The addition goes highly unappreciated for some reason. It would be great if it survived to the present.

  3. Yeah I am really looking forward to your posts - I don't know where you get your ability to take the word "rotoscoping" and turn it into an curse/swear/oath, but I am glad you're sharing it with the world.

    I work for PBS/NPR. I have an idea that you might find interesting. Can you contact me at the email associated with my profile ?

  4. That picture of Furness is a riot.

  5. You are brilliant... please do the Provident Mutual complex on 46th and Market... it's being turned in a juvielle detention center and police headquarters for the projects.... which it overlooks. or at least- that was what they said 5 years ago- and nothing has happened.