Monday, May 30, 2011

Old-ass Building of the Week-- May 30th

Dorrance Hamiltion Hall at the University of the Arts (formerly at least 4 other names)

320 S. Broad Street

I am immortal, I have inside my blood of kings!

                     Broad Street is almost 13 miles long and has a shitload of buildings facing it. Of those buildings, many are old-ass buildings. This is the oldest-ass building on Broad Street. They call the Academy of Music the Great Old Lady of Broad Street but this, Hamilton Hall, is 26 years older. It's the Great Motherfucking Grandma of Broad Street's Mom. Not only that, it represents a Marvel Team-up between three of Philadelphia's greatest architects.
                     In 1821, a bunch of really rich motherfuckers found out about a fancy pottery maker named David Seixas who was educating deaf kids for free. They threw a bunch of money at him and convinced the state to charter and fund a school/asylum for the kids. They called it the Pennsylvania Institute for the Deaf and Dumb, which is a name that illustrates how old this fucking building is.
                    They went up to the CEO of Asskickerization Enterprises, John Haviland, and said. "Give us some shit that looks nice from a grass field at the edge of town... it is going to be built at Broad and Pine" Haviland was like, "I'm gonna revive the shit out of some Greek!" and by 1826 his little box with a columned portico was built:

Rural mud lane at Broad near Pine.
           It became so popular that people would take carriage rides all the way out to Broad Street just to look at it and the Centre Square waterworks. After the Institute began and by the 1830's started to grow, the rich motherfuckers went up to the Grandmaster of Greek Revival, William Strickland, and said "Add two long-ass wings to the back and sides of the building so we'll have more room. Don't worry about it matching the original building... we'll just paint the old part the same color."
           At this point Strickland was already rich and famous in Philadelphia and was about to leave town to litter the country with more Greek Revival buildings. Stickland waited until the last minute and drew a two rectangles coming off the back and sides. He was done.
The coolest building on horseshit strewn cobblestone Broad Street with its Strickland Wings.
                 30-some years later the Centennial was approaching and like everything else in Philly at the time, the Institute decided that it should make itself at least 200 times more badass. What do you need to make a building badass? That's right, you need a badass motherfucker. Therefore, they went straight to Frank Furness. The rich fucks were like "Extend the building to 15th street. Do your worst!!" and Frank Furness was like "Fuck you, I do what i want!!" and created a red brick Castle of Mega-Kickass off the ass of the Stickland/Haviland building. The school was so proud of it they featured it in the upper right corner of their propaganda:

Click this shit to see all the details. 
                   About 20 years later the Institute then said "fuck it" and moved their entire operation over to the new edge of town. In 1893, the then fledgling Pennsylvania Museum and School of the Industrial Arts moved in. It went through several incarnations and name changes until it became the University of the Arts in 1987. The building had layers of thick paint removed in the 1950's to expose Haviland's original facade and a glass enclosure was built over the court between the Stickland wings in 1983. Today it sits between two much newer (and uglier) buildings, the Kimmel Center and Symphony House.

15th Street-facing Furness wings with lots of shitty buildings in the background.



  1. Two things

    - I think you meant Centennial not Bicentennial.

    - I was in that building for the first time last month for the Broad Street Street Festival. The glass enclosure is pretty bad ass. So it dates from the 1950s? Nifty, it had a 1970s vibe to me.

  2. -Thanks, fixed it.

    -The court was glassed over in 1983, that's probably why it looked 70'sish

  3. Thank you for this post! the architecture style of that building is so out of place now, i've always wondered what it used to be