Monday, May 9, 2011

Old-ass Building of the Week-- May 9th

Terminal Commerce Building (aka the North American Building)

401 North Broad St.

Fuck you, I like this building!

             That's a huge bitch. A 13-million square foot bitch. Thirteen million fucking square feet. That means you can fit 6 or 7 Comcast Centers in it. Remember how the expansion of the Pennsylvania Convention Center was such a big deal because 2 full conventions can run there at once? Well this place can hold twenty-six. This Great Wall of Kick-Ass is so big it has its own zip code. That's not a gag or anything, it's 19108.
            Back in the day, North Broad Street from Callowhill to Spring Garden was dominated by the Baldwin Locomotive Works and the Pennsylvania Reading Railroad, a massive seven-block spanning cloud of dust and dirt and sooted up buildings that served as an employment center and transit hub for thousands of people. It was also a  great barrier between Center City and the Original Gangsta's that lived in the wealthy neighborhood further up North Broad. We're talking actual active train tracks running through one of the most high-traffic boulevards in the city. Here's an historical account superimposed on an actual sketch of the area from way the fuck back when:

Broad and Callowhill of yesteryear. It was bad enough that the roads were pretty much paved in horseshit.. trains would hit you.
             Reading Railroad opened a new train station on 12th and Market, and in 1900 the city helped them bury the train tracks that caused all the traffic woes and testicular injury. Reading still ran a freight station on the spot, and business was so good by the 1920's that they were running out of storage space. They figured business would be good forever, so they built a 13 million square motherfucking foot warehouse just in time for the Great Depression. They wanted to call it the Biggie Smalls Building, but instead went with Terminal Commerce Building.
             This beastly badass of a building didn't let the Great Depression stop it. It held offices of numerous companies within, since it's pretty convenient for a business to have a freight station in the basement. It also boasted the city's first ever underground parking garage. By 1955, Reading said "fuck it" and sold it off. It became Class ZZZZ offices well into the 80's. Then, something amazing happened.
               This Art Deco Castle of Terra Cotta Crotch-kicks became the most important telecommunications hub in the region. It's so important that it has a gigantic emergency power source across 13th street from the back of it. That means that if there's ever a huge cataclysm and power goes offline, we could all plug long-ass extension cords into it and be fine.
                 The Terminal Commerce Building is now a big fucking carrier hotel, with five data centers. Shitloads of internet servers and high tech telecom-related shit make this building more important now than it ever was back in the day. If you're reading this post, it means that the data most likely traveled through this awesome building. Maybe it can read this post! Good for you, Biggie. Good for you.


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