Monday, October 3, 2011

Old-Ass Building of the Week-- October 3rd

A.J. Holman & Company

1222 Arch Street

There ya go.

                     This building is from a time when even a bible factory/warehouse was reason enough to design a kick-ass building. How many modern publishers print books in such a Fortress of Fucktitude? Just look at that thing. Its cool because if you get bored looking at the cool-ass detailing at the bottom, you can look at the top and see a whole new canvas of intricate details. I love buildings that yell at you about the year they were built at the top of the building instead of the bottom. 
                     If it's the 19th Century and you want to make a shitload of money, start printing bibles, motherfucker. A. J. Holman and Company claimed to be the oldest bible publisher in America, even though that was barely true. In 1801, the German Immigrant Saer/Sauer/Sower family published the first English Language Bible right here in Philafuckingdelphia.
                    Andrew Jackson Holman became their plant's superintendent in 1839 and managed to buy them out in 1869 (not 1872 as some modern books say). He was such a dick that he named the company after himself and set up a publishing house at 930 Arch Street, which still stands today but is mangled beyond recognition. This crazy bastard was so good a bibling that he bought out many of his competitors and needed a much bigger HQ only 10 years later.
                  A.J. chose the Wilson Brothers firm to execute a high-tech fireproof bible factory/warehouse that could not only print bibles and photo albums in six languages, but store them as well. The building had a cast iron skeleton... that doesn't sound like much now, but in 1881 was a big fucking deal. A.J Holman and Co. moved in on November 1, 1881.
How it looked in 1885... it used to tower over the whole block.
                   This building was so useful that the company was still occupying it when the Holman family sold themselves off to those trustafarian Lippencotts in 1961. When Harper & Row bought out the Lippencotts, they chose to sell the Holman subsidiary, since they already published their own bibles. In 1979, the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention bought the company and recouped the purchase price in only 5 years. The Holman company is technically still around, now the "H" in  B&H Publishing Group.
                  The old Holman Building is still kicking ass and taking names as apartments and as part of the Fabric Workshop and Museum, directly across the street from the Great Wall of Pennsylvania aka the Convention Center. It goes pretty unnoticed by most nowadays so check it out the next time you're on the 1200 block of Arch Street.

Ad for the company from 1882.

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