Monday, September 12, 2011

Mystery Building of the Week-- September 12th

The Locust Rendezvous Building (aka American Protestant Hall aka Rugby Academy aka a shitload of other names)

1415 Locust Street

Now that's some nice shit.

                     Check this shit out... though it looks like shit now, this structure's facade reminds you that it was once a great building. This beast is not a mystery because of its origin... the history is known. The real mystery comes from how this structure has managed to survive for ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY ONE years without being noticed or acknowledged for almost that entire time.                                                        
                   The Locust Rendezvous Building is not on any historical register despite the fact that it actually is an historical building. A shitload of other buildings that aren't culturally, architecturally, historically, or even slightly interesting are listed on all kinds of historical registers and surveys but this one has managed to be completely ignored. NOT ANYMORE!                                                                                                                                It all begins with the American Protestant Association. They were a group founded in Philadelphia in 1842 that was composed of men that were extremely concerned about the spread of Catholicism in America. They were convinced that the Pope was attempting to take over America.
                       Two years after their founding, the club was a major player in the Philadelphia Bible Riots, a series of violent insurrections in Kensington and Old City. Needless to say, this club was a bunch of fucking troublemakers. By the late 1850's their organization had grown into dozens of chapters in cities all over America and managed to become a full-on gentleman's club along the lines of the Free Masons or Odd Fellows.

Philadelphia Bible Riots. Like a flash mob but more violent and about Jesus.
                          In the late 1850's the organization became concerned about protestant literature being suppressed (by Catholics, of course) and made plans to build a Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania that would include a library of writings regarding protestantism and the bible. They would call it the American Protestant Hall and Library Association. Since Locust Street was the so-called "Street of Libraries" at the time, they placed it at 1415 Locust Street. It was built in 1860.
                   For 1860, this building is the equivalent of a 20-30 storey building now. An 18,330 sq ft building was HUGE back then. This Tower of Testicle Juice Cocktails was large enough for multiple chapters to meet separately at the same time. Other organizations, like the Orpheus Club, would meet in there as well.
                    After about 20 years, Catholicism had not take over America yet and the many chapters of the American Protestant Association started to dissolve. This is when the building got into its second historical use, as the Rugby Academy for Boys and Young Men.
                    The Rugby Academy was a secondary school for rich-ass trustafarian kids to prepare for college. It was a small school, consisting of only 17 instructors. Though it only existed for about 20 years, it became THE breeding ground for captains of industry.
                   In 1900, 1415 Locust became another secondary school, the Catholic Military Academy. Pretty ironic that a Catholic school occupied a building that was built by an anti-Catholic hate-group. They only stayed in the place for a few years. In 1905 the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel purchased the old Hall with the intention of demolishing it for a parking garage. Obviously, it never happened.
                   At some point in the 00's decade, the building was converted to offices and became the headquarters of the American Ethical Union. They published their famous International Journal of Ethics from their offices there. In the teens, famous architect Clarance Edmond Wunder had his firm's offices there and designed a bunch of kick-ass art deco buildings that still stand today. He moved to the Lewis Tower(now the Aria Condo) down the street in 1924.
            After that, the building was occupied by an assload of office and storefront tenants. Bartlett Tours Travel Agency in 1926, Tune-Disk Records in 1948, Philadelphia Council for Arts, Sciences, and Professions in 1951, Keystone Records in 1952, Processing and Office Workers of America labor union in 1953, Baer Insurance Agency in the 1970's, Sidney M. Bert Associates engineers in 1979.
           The building was purchased by its current owner in 1988 for $76,900 and the Locust Rendezvous, the current storefront tenant, opened in 1991. After all those uses, functions, and tenants, 1415 Locust still has "American Protestant Hall" emblazoned on its crumbling facade.
           With all those uses and all those decades passing, you think someone would take a fucking picture of this thing once in awhile. I can't find shit. I was able to scrounge up a close-up of an aerial view from 1930, but other than that, niente!
            This poor building doesn't get any recognition. I mean really... this thing is from 1860 and is connected to numerous historical events and people. How did the myriad of historical commissions, societies, and fanboys in this city, state, and country manage to miss this one? Anybody reading this have old pictures of this thing? If you do, send them over to me at


  1. "In 1905 the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel purchased the old Hall with the intention of demolishing it for a parking garage."

    1905. Parking garage.

    1) I'm amazed that the desire to knock down awesome buildings to parking lots has transcended the ages in Philadelphia.

    2) Who the fuck had CARS IN 1905!?!?!?

  2. This is where I got it:

    1905 Automobile Trade Journal, Volume 10, Page 49:

    "The recently erected garage of the Bellevue Hotel Philadelphia has already proved inadequate the hotel proprietors have taken the property at 1415 Locust St where a 3 story building will be erected to be used an auxiliary garage"

  3. Wow. That's just amazing. Speculating on parking garages 106 years ago.

    It's too bad the story of 1907 Walnut, which is apparently a "site of a failed condo tower, and a tax delinquent property" (via doesn't have the same happy ending.

  4. Great article! Never would have guessed the background of the building I've drank in, and walked by countless times!

  5. The upper floors were home to PARAGON - a gay mulit-floor nightclub in the late 1990s that lasted about a season. It then became Club 1415 - and died on the vine.

  6. Just stumbled upon your blog entry, My father owned the Tune Disk Records mentioned as a former tenant, We lived a couple blocks away when I was born in 1959, never knew he had an office that close. Thanks for your interest in this property.

  7. I am a historic preservation student doing research on this property for a HABS report. Where are your sources coming from?? It would really help me alot because little is known about this property but without the source its just hear say.

    1. Sorry, I wrote this two years ago so I really don't remember. Check Google Books and