Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Lost Building of the Week-- May 4th

American Life Insurance Company Building

330 Walnut St.

The face!!! The faaaace!!
            The loss of this building is a damn tragedy. First of all, it has conical towers, which is always my favorite thing to see on a building. Second, the corner of the building HAS A FUCKING FACE ON IT!! I learned about this building a few years ago when someone told me that there used to be a building with a big face on it that was destroyed in favor of GRASS. After some searching I found it-- the American Life Insurance Company.
            It almost looks like a magician stood at the corner of 4th and Walnut, swung his arms outward, and said, "Fuck the sky, Fuck the ground, Let me grow, with Brick I'm bound!!", and grew into this Monolith of Monster Mandibles. Then, the American Life Insurance Company saw the building from their old digs up S. 4th street and said "That's exactly what we've been looking for!!", and moved in.
            This awesome building was designed by Original Gangsta-in-Chief Thomas Preston Lonsdale in 1888. It was the most imposing presence on the street until 1911 when the larger Irwin Building (a future Lost Building of the Week) was built catercorner to it. Decades passed and someone had the dumbass idea to mow down blocks of beautiful and historic buildings in order to create the Independence National Historical Grass Lot Collection. At first, it would seem that the location this building is in (SE corner of 4th and Walnut) would not be part of the Collection... but I'll have you know that the GRASS LOT that is the remains of this building after 1961 is indeed a lawn that is supposed to be part of that shitty-ass national park.
             Imagine if architects today had the platinum balls necessary to put a giant face on the corner of a building. They could make it animatronic and have it berate you as walked by. Real Philadelphia shit. This is the kind of building you want to print out 5000 pictures of and drop from a plane on top of every architecture firm in America. Then you mail them a model that you make of it out of foamcore with a note that says "See? This is when architecture meant something. Stuff your LEED Certification up your ass. This is LEED Neutron Star Certified, bitchesssssssssss!" Then they'd punch the wall with rage, causing their whole office to collapse on them because they put a 3 ton green roof on a ceiling held up by drywall.
             Anyway, why did they knock down this sexy motherfucker? They could have done the exact same Independence National Shitstorical Grass Lotstravaganza without taking out this Ark of Awesomeness. No one ever even notices the grass lot that remains. Here's a streetview of that garbage lawn. What a pisser.

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  1. THANK YOU for expressing the frustration that historic preservationists everywhere harbor and don't have the guts to verbalize it as well as you did!

  2. Hahaha thanks. Glad I could help!

  3. The terrible irony of the grass lots is that they are in no way historically accurate. Philadelphia was a city back in 1776, not a suburban office park.

    They could fix that by building new low rise buildings with a historic character to fill in the grass lots.

  4. I guess the grass lot above is supposed to compliment the church behind it... oh well.