Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Lost Building of the Week-- June 1st

The Arcade Building aka Commercial Trust Building

15th and Market Streets

You've probably driven through the site of this building like 5 million times. Image from Go buy one.
                      Wow, just look at this shit. This was Frank Furness at his best. He was good with some of his smaller works but his bigguns really take the cake. After Broad Street Station was completed, there were some problems. Hundreds of people would come off a train at a time and wander in all different directions out the front doors of the station. This made traffic a bitch out front and was dangerous for the pedestrians.           
                     Pennsylvania Railroad had this really thin, long, crooked-U-shaped empty lot across the street from the station. The monocled railroad tycoons in their top hats and coats with big collars and shit were like "We can easily solve the problem! We'll build a tall commercial building with a pedestrian bridge over Market Street that will funnel people into a shopping center along the sidewalk!! When it rains and snows, we'll be even more rich!! Bahahahah! Now let us sacrifice a kitten to Molech."
                     They solved the problem of building a 13 storey building on a sliver of a lot by BUILDING IT OVER THE SIDEWALK. This created a promenade of shops called the Arcade. Really, the same idea behind the atrocity known as the Gallery was used here. Railroad passengers coming off their trains would take the pedestrian bridge across dangerous Market Street and end in a tunnel full of stores right on the sidewalk. Then they would buy shit.
                      Are there any buildings in the city today that straddle over a sidewalk? We have some that straddle over a whole street, but a 13-storey building OVER a sidewalk? How the fuck did they get away with that one? Well, as usual, you can count on our wonderful city's corrupt-as-shit city government. They probably approved this idea based on someone accidentally dropping a burlap sack with a dollar sign on it during the proposal.
                   Of course, in order to ensure maximum kick-asstitude for this structure, they hired Frank Furness and his gang to design this cool-ass building. Furness knew that the building should complement his masterpiece Broad Street Station but also look cool on its own. For him this was as about as easy as falling asleep is to us humans. He threw together a big Victorian Longhouse of Doom:

Back when City Planners had balls.
                Don't let the angle of that picture fool you... this building is thin as shit. It just wraps around the corner which gives it the illusion of mass. Frank Furness must have conjured this out of a cauldron full of his own wings and horns. It was a ball-grabbingly huge success. The Pennsyvania Railroad made a shitload of money from it and all those tycoons were able to buy extra rolls of golden toilet paper as a result. About 15 years after construction, they built a 21-storey addition with a cool-ass dome on top. Here's a pic of it from right before it was demo'ed:
Did I mention that Frank Furness got busy in a Burger King bathroom?
                   Now, wait a minute... this thing was about to be destroyed when this picture was taken? Does it really look like demolition material to you? Well guess what? It wasn't. The Historical American Buildings Survey report on it says  "the building is in good condition at this time" about 7 years before it was banhammered. Well, thank Edmund Bacon and is giant Kevin Bacon-making cock. Part of his urban renewal program was the removal of this Cathedral of Brass Knuckle Boxing in order to make way for... wait for it... NOTHING!

View Larger Map

              That's it right there. That streetview above is the site of the Arcade Building. The curve in Penn Square runs straight through the site. Thanks Ed. Furness would have kicked your ass if he knew about this.

Only color picture I could find of this beast.


  1. City Hall Annex (now a Marriott) is/was built over the sidewalk on at least one side, maybe more.,-75.162369&cid=3823697929029442629&cbp=13,124.44,,0,-1.29&cbll=39.953247,-75.162097&hl=en&ie=UTF8&hq=marriott+courtyard+philadelphia&hnear=&ll=39.953158,-75.162492&spn=0.006152,0.009645&z=17&panoid=AxdmAHMv8j1tu88ogzsIpQ

    I can't think of any others.

  2. You're right... I forgot about that one... funny because I often walk by that location. Nonetheless, the Arcade Building is still unique in the fact that half the width of the building was over the sidewalk whereas on the City Hall Annex the bulk of the building is in the center of the block.

  3. This is my favorite building I never saw. Where on earth did you find that color pic? I'm surprised there aren't more. It's so hard to imagine this tall building on top of Dilworth Plaza. Most people don't realize that a section of Broad Street once looped around City Hall.

  4. The color picture is a small piece of a very large picture that I found a long time ago, don't remember when or where. For the longest time I thought that the addition was an entirely separate building.