Monday, June 6, 2011

Old-ass Building of the Week-- June 6th

Ridgeway Library (Now Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts)

900 South Broad Street

Greek was so revived with this building that Zeus threw a lightning bolt at it.
                   This building is proof of the first three rules of real estate. This Parthenon of Pirate Puds barely managed to survive into the 21st Century. No one can argue with the beauty of the building, but plenty have argued about every other possible fucking thing about it. This Mausoleum of Mighty Mackerel has been praised, reviled, and literally shit on.
                  The story begins with the death of crazy-ass Dr. James Rush. He was a nutty motherfucker whose father had signed the Declaration of Independence. His rich-ass father-in-law, Jacob Ridgeway, had left Rush's wife over a million dollars. Back then that was enough money to buy a space shuttle. After his wife died, the money went to him. In 1860 he wrote up a will about how this immense fortune was to be doled out.
                He wanted the bulk of the money to go to the Library Company of Philadelphia for a new building. The Library Company is a subscription book and artifact collection started by Ben Franklin and a bunch of really rich nerds. The Library of Congress had a fire that destroyed a lot of shit so libraries all over started to become paranoid about fire. The Library Company wanted a fireproof library/inpenetrable dungeon. Rush left all that dough so the collection could be housed in a safer place.
                One of Rush's goofy additions to his will was that his brother-in-law Henry J. Williams, Director of the Library Company, would become sole executor. Williams claimed that Rush, on his death bed, declared that the new library building should be located at Broad and Christian Streets, which back then was a bunch of undeveloped land and wooden shacks near a noisy, smelly-ass train station. Rush had purchased land there and had a philosophy that the collection was to be preserved, not ogled by the dumbass general public. 
                   The rich motherfuckers who used the collection were pissed about the possibility of having to travel out to that shithole of an area to read a book, so the controversy went all the way to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. It became the Barnes Foundation Move of the 1800's. The State Supreme Court ruled that crazy-ass James Rush's wish was their command. The castle would be built where he said.
                   The Library Company still wanted the building to be awesome, so they brought in the Commodore of Cock Cremation, Addison Hutton, to put together the last great Greek Revival building in America. The members were PISSED. Before the Ridgeway Library even finished construction, plans started being made for another one closer to the center of town. After that building was complete (it is it's own story), the Ridgeway became a damn storage area for all the shitty books that no one wanted to see.

Ridgeway Library from the Age of When Everything Had Its Own Postcard. What would people write on this? Dear Mabel, I went to this library and read a book about snails. -Gro
                   Years passed and the neighborhood around the library got developed. Noisy/smelly factories and rowhomes got built around it. By 1944, the Library Company was in financial ruin and did not want to keep maintaining this mega-fortress. They sold it off to the city and the Ridgeway Library became the Ridgeway branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia while still storing a large part of the Library Company's collection and offices. At this point the building was beyond fucked up. It became the Divine Lorraine of South Broad Street; a dirty-ass relic of Philadelphia's grand architectural past.

For the Ridgeway, 1965 was Nineteen-Shitsky Five
                  Years later, the Free Library was sick of holding on to this old motherfucking book prison. It was leaky, it was falling apart, artifacts and irreplaceable books were getting fucked up inside, and though it was built for fire protection, was a fire hazard. They just boarded the motherfucker up and let it rot. It became a symbol for blight in the city. It was even used in Twelve Monkeys to depict urban blight itself:
Click to see this shit.
                 In the 90's, the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts was sick of their students getting their asses kicked by kids from the Hawthorne PHA Towers. They moved over to the Ridgeway building thanks to a 30 million dollar pork project that saved the fuck out of this awesome building. Also, by building a large addition, they brought to fruition the insane will of James Rush. He wanted the building placed on a disproportionally large plot of land because he expected an expansion in the future ages the building would exist. He got his fucking wish.

Ridgeway Library in the present. Restored as shit and living on to kick ass for at least another century.

1 comment:

  1. I know this post is about a year old, but the caption on the second photo down makes me lol.