Monday, November 28, 2011

Old-Ass Building of the Week-- November 28th

Beasley Building (aka Episcopal Church House)

1125 Walnut Street

Hell yeah, motherfucker. Image by Viking Squirrel
                    Back when I featured the long-lost Franklin Building a couple of weeks ago, many people asked me about the cool-looking building that was next to it. This is that building. Only a year older that the Franklin, this beast went through some hard times over the years but has managed to survive and be (almost) fully restored.
                    It all started way back in 1892. In that year, the Protestant Episcopal Church's Diocese of Pennsylvania decided at its yearly convention that it should build an office building headquarters in Philadelphia. They chose 221 South Broad Street as the site for it, but, over the next year became apprehensive about it. They thought the lot was too small and that their building should be located at a corner property. Personally, I think that they saw the future and knew that that crappy Pigeonhole Parking Building would be put there 70 years later.
                   In the 1893 convention, they gave up on 221 South Broad and instead decided to buy the corner of 12th and Walnut, a much more prominent location. They purchased the land for $150,000 and planned a 155,000 budget for a building. After reviewing submissions from a shitload of architects, they chose the design from the firm of Bailey and Truscott. They were a crazy firm that only lasted fourteen years but managed to design 110 buildings, many of which still stand today.
                 For this building, they went balls to the walls. They threw down elegant details all over the facade that still show through today... but that's not all. When it was first built, the building had stained-glass windows, crosses sticking out of it, and a shitload of huge statues standing guard on top.

When it was still new. Check out he Franklin Building next to it.
                     There were retail storefronts on the ground level that were put there to help pay the building's mortgage. The Bishop of Pennsylvania kept his office here and the building kicked Episcopalian ass all over the place until 1921. In that year, the Episcopal Church said "fuck it" and moved over to Rittenhouse Square, selling the building to the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce for $325,000.
                    The building languished on for the next five decades, first as the C.o.C. and later as some offices for Jefferson University. By the start of the 1970's, the building was dirty and falling apart. At this point, not even Jefferson wanted it. They sold it off in 1976 to some crooked uniform company.

The Episcopal House, looking like shit in 1971.
                  That's when this building became more famous than it ever was... as home to one of the coolest discos in the city, the Second Story! The Second Story was located in the second floor chapel of the old building and ran from 1976 until 1988. It started as a private gay nightclub but reformatted 13 months later into a kick-ass awesome disco that set the standard for the rest of the city.

The interior design supposedly took 3 years to get right... ok.
The only pic I could find of the exterior.
                        People liked this place so fucking much that the place's old regulars still have reunion parties and shit. There was also a gay juice bar in the basement called the Catacombs. Of course, the fun didn't last.  In 1986, the Beasley Law Firm bought the building and kicked the Second Story the fuck out so that they could restore the building to its previous glory. The restoration, both inside and out, took several years and five million dollars. The law firm occupied the building in 1991 and has been there ever since.
                       This building is an example of how a structure can be brought back from the edge and restored to its original elegance (minus the cool-ass statues) no matter how mangled and fucked up it gets. This gives hope to buildings like the Divine Lorraine and the American Protestant Hall, which seem too torn up to be brought back.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the dirt (and following up on my earlier comment/request) ... appreciated as always!