Thursday, June 9, 2011

Empty Lot of the Week-- June 9th

Past Gas Mega-lot

Bounded by 22nd and 23rd, Market to JFK Boulevard.

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                     Goddammit, it's always so upsetting coming out of a subway stair and seeing NOTHING. If you ever ride the Subway-Surface trolleys and get off at 22nd St, you come up the stairs out of this dirty-ass smelly underground cavern and you think it's going to be nicer topside. Then you come out and there's this cheap ass empty lot with a porn theater across the street like it's Taxi Driver or some shit.
                    This lot is the most likely to stay an empty lot until the end of time. This is one of those lots that is a victim of circumstance. In the 1830's, Philadelphia was growing quickly but still lagged behind other cities technologically. At the time, we were one of the only major cities without a gas works. Every time it got brought up in City Council, excuses were made for why the city shouldn't have gas lighting. As usual, City Council was stalling for a kick-back. Then came Imperial Shogun Master Samuel V. Merrick. He got elected to City Council with the intention of kicking the shit out of any councilman who opposed a gas works. He actually went as far as researching, designing, and running the gas works once it was built in 1836 just to shit in the faces of all those corrupt-ass councilmen.

1853. What are all those horses so excited about?
                   The big gas storage towers at the gas works became local landmarks due to their height.. they were some of the tallest buildings in the city at that time. The works was owned and run by the city, which meant MASSIVE corruption became entrenched within the system. During an age of municipal reform, United Gas Improvement Co. took over the gas works in 1882 and cleaned out the 50 years of dirty dealings our great city government is so good at.

You think this picture looks old? Those gas towers were already 45 years old by this time!
                About 50 years later, the city was like, "Whooooooa... why did our predecessors ever think a private company should run our gas works? We could have been getting kick-backs all this time, motherfuckers!! What the fuck are we doing?!?!". They re-municipalized the gas works in a snap and tore down the gas towers which were nearly 100 years old. The lot then began its long and illustrious career as a surface parking lot. One cool thing that it had was one of the old smokestacks from the gas works the corner, which became something of a local landmark in the neighborhood:

1932. That little building on the right lives the fuck on today.
Still going strong in 1950.
                       It's pretty safe to say that the earth under this lot is probably contaminated from the 100 years or so of being a gas works. The only thing that could go here is a skyscraper... a smaller project wouldn't be worth the extra cost of removing all the shit that must be underground. Therefore, get a fucking skyscraper going here. No excuses. The American Commerce Center would do just fine here and you won't have that many NIMBY's to worry about... What, is the porn theater gonna complain? Fuck 'em.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Lost Building of the Week-- June 8th

Tower Hall II

518 Market Street

Even the horses think it's badass.
                         Damn, this thing is awesome. There's nothing out there like this one today. Just look at this shit. In 1855, Colonel Joseph M. Bennett, self-made clothing company tycoon, had a problem. He wanted his entire company located in one building. He had a four-storey building called Tower Hall but it wasn't big enough. He noticed how the Jayne Building was built tall instead of wide so it could fit all the necessary offices to run a pharmaceutical company. He also noticed that tall buildings looked cool. Bennett realized that if he builds tall, he could fit his entire company and attract customers to his clothing store. The theory was that customers would see his building from afar and be like "Let's go in that building and buy shit!".
                        Bennett ran up to Commodore of Kick-ass Samuel Sloan and slapped him in the face with his giant cock. He told Sloan, "Build me a tall motherfucking building that will get me customers! You have to make it be so fucking crazy that people will come running!" and Sloan was like "I got you covered, brah. Now get your fucking porksword out of my face!".
                      Most of the cool buildings in Philadelphia at the time were Greek Revivals. Sam Sloan said "Fuck those assholes! I'm sick of looking at columns and shit! I'm going to go Medieval on their asses!". Medieval castles were the shit in the early to mid 1800's. People went crazy over paintings and drawings of Norman architecture. Sloan designed a seven-story thin-ass Norman castle, even gave it embattlements at the top so you could shoot arrows and shit from the balconies.
                        Bennett's rich ass loved the idea (especially because the first Tower Hall had an embattled roof) but demanded large open spaces on all floors. Sloan, who was a former carpenter, developed a skeleton of metal that all the bricks and wood could sit on, making a large-windowed open-spaced floor possible from top to bottom. That's right motherfuckers, this is the FIRST metal skeleton skyscraper. It predates the second one by 16 years and was MUCH more technologically advanced. Then, in case that shit wasn't impressive enough, Sloan capped this sucker off with an octagonal embattled observation deck.
                        When it was built it became an instant landmark. It was the second tallest building in the city, Jayne's being just a little taller. Bennett opened a new Bennett's Tower Hall Clothing Bazaar and got even more rich. Not only did customers come stampeding into the place, he was able to manufacture and store his goods in one building that also contained his offices and store. He was the goddamn King Shit of Clothiers.
                        A plucky 18-year-old kid that worked down the street left his shitty-ass job at Lippencott's crappy clothing store and worked his way up the ladder at Bennett's Bazaar. The little shit learned about advertising from Bennett, who was at the time considered an advertising guru. This scrawny punk was so badass that he ended up starting his own little store called Wanamaker's. Have you heard of it? Bennett sold off the company when he got older and became a real estate magnate. He owned acres and acres of land in the city, some of which became a portion of Fairmount Park.
                       This Embattled Tower of Tonsillectomies was unceremoniously ripped down in 1959 for the construction of the Independence Historical Grass Lot Collection. Replaced by grass. Now that shit's depressing.

Still dominating the 500 block of Market Street 47 years after construction. Don't get me started on what dominates that block now.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Butt-Fugly Building of the Week-- June 7th

Ridgeway Library of the Library Company of Philadelphia

1320 Locust Street

What the balls?
                       Whoa-ho-ho-holy shit. Look at this unfortunate piece of 60's puke. Didn't anyone realize what bare cement walls would look like when they aged? Or when it rains? This building is so ugly that people barely notice it. Two windows like a foot wide on each floor? What the fuck is that thing at the top supposed to be? This building inspires more What the Fuck Were They Thinking moments than any other.
                      Yeah that's right, I'm talking about the Library Company of Philadelphia again. Around the 30's and 40's the Library Company was in financial ruin. It built a parking garage on it's old real estate and moved back into a corner of yesterday's Old-ass Building, letting the Free Library run it. They started making some good dough off their shit-ass parking garage and they re-catalogued their collection, finding all kinds of crazy artifacts they didn't even know they had. They decided to become a Research Library and move into a smaller building back in their old neighborhood.
                     The Company approached some dumbasses named Carroll, Grisdale, and van Allen and told them, "We, the Library Company, are sick of cool-ass buildings. Design us the worst piece of garbage you can think of. Shit, you could make the facade bare concrete for all we care. Make sure it will look dirty and dated in the shortest possible amount of time." The dumbasses came up with this:

                  Who looks at this rendering and hopes they build it? Did someone actually approve this? "Big blank concrete walls? What can go wrong? Build that shit!". Wasn't anyone like, "Hey, wait a minute! This looks like ASS! You're fired, you fuckbags!"
                   If I saw a building like this being built today I would jump in front of the dozers and shit. Do you know what this building replaced? Just a bunch of custom-built Victorian-era homes representing a brief period in the city's history when the Nouveau riche lived on the 1200 and 1300 blocks of Locust:

3 Houses on the Left = GONE in favor of the Concretewallodrome. The one all the way on the right mutilated beyond recognition. 2nd one from the right got attached and semi-restored.
                  The Library Company moved in by 1965 and decided to add insult to injury. They used some leftover James Rush funds to build this Great Wall of Concrete Playing Cards and then MOVED HIS FUCKING CORPSE THERE. James Rush and his wife are buried under this piece of dogshit. Then they named it the "Ridgeway Library", just as one final berating-ass insult to James Rush and to confuse the fuck out of people.
                  Look at the pics in yesterday's article and look at the pics in this one. How can you call this building "Ridgeway" like it in any way honor's Rush's last wishes? That's like me naming my shoe the Barnes Foundation and throwing it out the window. I hope the corpse of James Rush and Pheobe Ann Ridgeway Rush rise from the grave and crumble this building.

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.