Monday, July 4, 2011

Old-Ass Building of the Week-- July 4th

Witherspoon Building

130 South Juniper Street

Holy Fucking Facade!
                       This is that building that visitors of Philadelphia look at and shit their pants. A nearly unlimited myriad of facade sculptures fascinates the mind and makes you wonder what the fuck must go on inside if this is how awesome the outside looks. The Witherspoon Building is the shit and it sure as hell doesn't fuck around. This building is the proof that a boxy building can work if the facade kicks monster balls. Not only that, the building seems somewhat modern considering it's 115 YEARS OLD!
                        Here's another one of those buildings that people spread goofy rumors about. Literature claims that it was the first highrise in the city. Bullshit. Future Lost Building of the Week the Betz Building was built 7 years earlier, is 6 storeys taller, and isn't even the first one! It's also not the oldest surviving highrise in the city. The Divine Lorraine and the Stephen Girard Building are older.
                      That doesn't stop this Behemoth of of Giant Ballsacks from being old as fuck. This building is so ancient that when it was built, it was the tallest building on Walnut Street.

I'm huge!! Image from the watermark.
                   In 1895, the trustees and the Business Committee of the Board of Publication and Sabbath School work wanted a new building that would house the General Assembly, the Board, and the Presbyterian Historical Society. They hired a Seven-star General of Architectural Kick-ass, Joseph M. Huston, one of Furness' former proteges who had started his own firm. They were like "Give us a big fucking building that can hold all of our offices. Make it a landmark so people can be like 'meet me outside the building with all the statues and sculptures of shit all over it'." Huston was like "You pricks want a building? I'll give you a building! Now take off those ties and overcoats, put on these dresses, and dance for me, you whores!". 

John Huston with a pissed-off look on his face.
                    Two years later, the building was built. It had small architectural details everywhere and then a shitload of small sculptures carved over the entrances. Large statues of religious figures adorned the entrance and arches outside the 8th floor. The wider facade facing Juniper Street was the original front of the structure until the building across the Street obscured the shit out of it. Here's that facade on an old stock certificate:

Impossible to see it from this view in the present.
                      Over the decades, the building held those Presbyterian-related offices and taller buildings got built around it in all directions except on the Walnut Street side. By 1973 the building was old and fucked up. The facade was dirty as shit despite being restored a decade earlier and the large statues had long been removed for fear that they would fall off and hurt people. It got sold off, renovated, and incorporated into the Fidelity Building next door. It's still in use as an office building today.
                    The statues from the facade aren't dead, they now decorate the courtyard of the Presbyterian Historical Society. You can look at individual images of the facade details and statues here. What a great buiding... too bad we couldn't save others from its time period that were just as cool. Here's some pics:

1901. The Witherspoon towers over everyone.
Cool statue of Moses when it was standing outside the 8th floor. From what it says in the watermark.

1959. Covered in crud shortly before a facade restoration/cool statue removal in 1962. From the watermark.
One last look at the super-kick-ass facade. Click to see even more details!


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