Friday, June 17, 2011

This week over at Philly Sports History

                     Check it out... these are the articles that were featured this week by known Philaphile Johnny Goodtimes over at Philly Sports History. If you don't know who Johnny is, you'd better brush up on your goddamn Philadelphianism. Philly is chock-full of sports fans and history buffs... when the two combine, watch the fuck out. Johnny is able to fill a certain need that I can't, mainly because I don't know jack shit about sports. Here's the good shit he's writing about:

Philly 2111-- June 17th

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Empty Lot of the Week-- June 16th

Washington Shame Lot

Parallelling Washington Avenue from 15th to 13th.

The Horror! Image by Google
                   This Empty Lot is the lot every Philaphile thinks of when the someone says "Lot" around them. Even if someone says "Thanks a lot!", a Philaphile cringes and yells "Broad and Washington!!! DAMN YOU!!!" to the sky like a vicious but nerdy wolf. This lot represents the shame of this great city. There's simply no excuse for this lot to exist. It has value from it's location, value from its history, and value from all the possibilities of what can exist there. Instead, what do we get? A crappy Cirque du Soleil Tent Farm every few years.
                  The corner of Broad and Washington was once a bustling vibrant center of transit and manufacturing. Back when it was called Prime Street, the city's first in-town train station was right at the corner. The Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore Railroad Station was the predecessor of Broad Street Station. It was the only way to go to and from all points south of Philadelphia, which means that all those soldiers who needed to travel south to get to the Civil War went through the site of the Shame Lot. They also returned home through the same.

Early Philaphile Frank Taylor drew a picture of it when it was called the Southern and Western Station.
                    A freight station was built next door in 1876. The trainshed for that building is still half-standing, now serving as a crappy food distribution company. You can see it in the upper right portion of the picture at the top of this article. Across the street from the PWB Station was John Wanamaker's Clothing Factory. This block-long building still stood until the late 1990's shortly after the freight tracks running down Washington were removed. Together, these buildings formed an actual city streetscape on what is now a barren fucking desert.

Passenger and Freight Station on the left, Wanamaker's Clothing Factory on the right. At this distance, you couldn't read the City Hall clock, so it would turn off at 8:57pm and turn back on at 9pm so you could set your watch.
                     Industrial buildings and yards occupied all the Washington-side parts of this Bermuda Fuckangle and rowhouses filled the innards. The PWB was knocked the fuck down in the 20's and most of the other buildings were completely out of use by the late 1960's. They sat and rotted until they got knocked the fuck down. After that, a 20,000 Mile March of the Renderings came. Proposal after proposal after proposal for what would fill this Death Lake of Denial. If I showed you a picture of each rendering, this article would reach the fucking moon.
                    Here's some from the last few years... I know there's more out there. I remember seeing a few of them in the newspaper in the early 2000's.

This one was pretty cool but the NIMBY's didn't like the height and the developer is a dumbass. It's dead as a motherfucker.

WRT Design still has this one on it's website as THE plan for this spot. Another proposal carcass.
Here's the latest proposal for the piece of the Shame Lot on the west side of Broad. I like that they're complimenting the old trainshed but otherwise this looks like ABSOLUTE CROTCH!
                     You read about one proposal, get excited about it, then soon find out ITS NOT FUCKING HAPPENING. Then it happens again and again. This lot is cursed. At this point, a giant pile of tennis balls would be better than what's there now. You'd say to your friend, "Hey, let's get wasted and go hang out by the balls!". Then businesses would start popping up nearby to serve the tennis ball visitors. In a few years Tennis Ball will be the new cool neighborhood. Hipsters from far and wide would flock to its organic sustainable streets paved with pinto beans. BROAD AND WASHINGTON DAMN YOU!!! Here's some more pictures:

Another drawing by early Philaphile Frank Taylor, showing alterations made to the PWB Station.

The forlorn PWB Station serving as an extension of the freight station next door in 1914. 13-year-old City Hall looks like a futuristic supertall skyscraper in the distance.

Broad and Washington in December 1980. Hard to see but if you look closely you can find the Wanamaker Clothing Factory.
The corner shortly before the elimination of the Wanamaker Clothing Factory. What a bummer.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Lost Building of the Week-- June 15th

The Gladstone

328 South 11th Street

Their motto should have been "You'll never be more Glad to be Stoned than at the Gladstone!"
            Look at this sexy thang. Check out that corner roll... they don't do that shit anymore. Balconies without overpowering the facade... Street level retail... L-shaped and wrapping around the corner for the illusion of mass. Pretty fucking nice.
            In 1880's Philadelphia, the first generation of young wealthy trustafarian hipsters had nowhere they could safely call home. They grew up in mansions, and when they were old enough to be out on their own, weren't about to live in no fucking normal rowhome like the peasants. They sure as hell weren't going to live in an insecure apartment like a damn dog.
              The need for housing this new demographic with lots of disposable income whet the appetites of real estate moguls. Several new high-tech luxury apartment buildings popped up in rich parts of the city. The first of these was the Gladstone in 1890, designed by the Grand Marshall of Meat-beating, Theophilus Parsons Chandler.

               During the extremely brief period of time when Washington West was a super-affluent neighborhood, this Hanging Gardens of Gatling Guns was built to house the spoiled offspring of railroad tycoons and shit. It became known throughout the region for the simple fact that it was a highrise with fucking apartments in it. Before the Gladstone, Philadelphia had no such thing.
               Chandler had designed big-ass mansions and other flashy shit before, so he knew what would attract a lazy 21-year-old laudanum-addicted hipster. He made it highly luxurious and it had high-tech gadgets like a fire-suppression sprinkler system and a 6-ton refrigerator. Today that would be like your apartment building having a fusion generator and orbital elevator.
               Over the years, the Gladstone went from super-luxury apartment in the best part of town to crappy extended stay hotel in an okay part of town and then finally a shitty day-rate hotel for med students, bums, and transients. By the mid-20th Century, it was falling apart and became a victim of a really shitty neighborhood. You can read about how mega-crudulous that area was in 1961 here. In an attempt to improve the shitty area, the Gladstone was knocked the fuck down in March of 1971.

The cool-ass corner roll right before it was demo'ed. What a damn travesty. The antique store to the left just went out of business this year. Dang.
                   The corner of 11th and Pine became an empty lot until it was replaced with a concrete slab with a few plants on it called Louis I Kaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahn Park. In the 1980's the park got upgraded to its current appearance thanks to a bunch of nosy neighbors with a lot of dough. Kaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahn Park is nice but I'd much rather have a 10-storey Victorian building from 1890. I understand to some extent why it was destroyed but other formerly crap hotels in the neighborhood still live on as condos or apartments. The Parker-Spruce two blocks away is still rockin' the sleazy day-rate transient business model and doesn't seem to be going anywhere. A small park is better than that, at least.
Kaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahnn Park on a rare bum-free day.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Butt-Fugly Building of the Week-- June 14th

Guild House

711 Spring Garden Street

Jesus Fuck, where do I begin with this piece of shit?
                   What an embarrassment. I have an architecture book that has only ONE building in it from Philadelphia. THIS ONE. This building endlessly gets its ass kissed by everyone. Well not me. I think this Heap of Hungry Horseshit should be demolished and replaced by a surface lot full of quicksand. Willis G. Hale sheds tears in Valhalla every time this building is complimented.
                   The first rule of art and design is: If you have to explain it, it sucks. The longer the explanation, the more full of shit the artist/designer is. It's pretty safe to say that no other piece of design in this city breaks that rule more than Guild House. This pile of ass is supposed to be super-fucking architecturally important. It is a symbol of Post-Modernism, also known as Piece-of-Shitism.
                    It all began when the local Quakers wanted to build a retirement home. They didn't know what they were getting themselves into. Robert Venturi, architect of this atrocity, was sick of Modernism. He designed this building as a reaction to it, by purposefully making it ugly and ordinary in order to match other ugly buildings in the neighborhood. Yeah, that'll help. The world of architecture must have had some low-ass standards at the time (it was the 60's), because for some reason, this made him some kind of King Shit of Architects and the Father of Piece-of-Shitism. 
                   Venturi is such a dick that he placed a non-functional gold-plated aluminum TV antenna at the top as a symbol to represent old people, because apparently all they do is watch TV. What a kick in the teeth to the very people who would be using this building. That's like designing a Catholic Church and putting a statue of a priest baloney-washing an altar boy at the top. It's just not nice. Luckily, the antenna blew off the roof a long time ago and was never replaced.
                   Then he's gonna put a big fucking sign with the name of the building on it right over the door. This is a private residence, not a commercial building. Other buildings with big signs on them are for advertising, not just to announce who the fuck they are. I'm sick of buildings calling themselves a house. Guild House, Parkway House, Ben Franklin House, ALL FUCKING BUILDINGS! That's like me calling my car a tractor trailer. It's just not fucking true!!!
                  Don't make the mistake of actually reading about this Castle of Broken Cocks. All you'll find is a bunch of snippets that do the noble job of kissing the ass of every possible detail seen on the facade of this pile of puke. One of them literally says, describing the windows, " ...they not only were windows but they looked like and reminded you of windows". WHAT THE FIST-FUCK? You can't make that shit up.  Some even compliment the ugly chain-link fence around it. They must all be architects trying to get into Venturi's crappy firm.
                   You want to know the worst part? The WORST PART? This building will never be demolished... it's historically registered. That's right. In 2004, some Phd with too much time on his hands made an impassioned plea to get this Asshole of Aries preserved forever. I think the opposite should happen. We should demolish it and remove it from all historical accounts. Venturi is now of the age apropos to reside in Guild House. He should be forced to move out of his mansion and live here as punishment for bringing Piece-of-Shitism to the world. I wish my ass was a cannon so I could shoot my shit on it.

Monday, June 13, 2011

New Jefferson Building Update-- June 13th

Wocka Flocka Flame Center

901 Walnut Street

Those wooden construction elevator doors make a more interesting facade than the one it's gonna have!
                     Well the Health Professions Academic Building Jefferson Clinical Research Center (try to say it all in one breath) a.k.a. Wocka Flocka Flame Center is getting slapped together rather quickly. Bricks (or panels with bricks glued to them) and some kind of stony cladding have started to grow out from the bottom. An endless maze of mechanicals go up to the fifth floor. Sprayed Foamy Shit all over up to the ninth floor. Steel girders seem to be topped out.
                    Only the red and dark red brick is being put up so far. White bricks will also be used, according to the rendering. Of course, renderings are often highly inaccurate compared to the final product so I might be completely full of shit on that. They could have tried harder making this thing match the beautifully facaded Edison Building attached to its rear but oh well. Here's more pics:

Seems a little redundant to put bricks over steel girders but shut the fuck up, we have enough glass boxes.
Plasticky bricks glued to panels on the left, hand-laid bricks in kick-ass patterns from the Edison Building on the right. Shouldn't have bricklaying gotten better in 84 years, not worse?
Just in case you forgot what it's supposed to look like.

Old-ass Building of the Week-- June 13th

North American Building

121 South Broad Street

It's located in North America.
                Look, it's not the prettiest building in the world but it's still important. This Obelisk of Brownstone Barnacles has lasted through the ages and doesn't look dated despite being 111 years old. How many of our current skyscrapers will last that long? 
                John Wanamaker was a rich motherfucker. He built an empire based around his department store, the first of its kind. Wanamaker raised his spoiled-ass sons to be Captains of Industry just like himself. Thomas and Rodman Wanamaker both worked for their Pop and then set out on their own business ventures. Rodman went to France and was solely responsible for America's interest in French luxury items soon thereafter... he was a huge success. Thomas, on the other hand, was kind of a cock. He bought a struggling newspaper called The North American and decided they should move into a new building in the city's newest business district.
                       In the 1890's, South Broad Street consisted of two new large buildings and a whole shitload of smaller old buildings. Businesses wanted to move there to be near the new City Hall, which was expected to be a stepping stone toward a grand new Philadelphia. The problem, of course, was that it was taking a long fucking time to get done. That's a lot of bricks. Thomas Wanamaker had a great idea. He would take advantage of the slow construction by constructing his building taller than the construction of City Hall so that it would briefly be the tallest in the city at a then-astounding 267 feet.

South Broad Street in 1893. The people on the right are like "When are they going to finish that fucking thing?"
                      He employed the most current 25th Level Badass of Badassisism he could find, James H. Windrim, to design him a building that could live up to all the hype. Windrum, who had previously designed the badass Masonic Temple, was like, "Listen, you trustafarian hipster bitch. I'm sick of Victorian and Gothic facade details. I'm gonna make this one a big fucking brownstone box. I'll put little columns at the bottom to satisfy you debutant pussies. Say 'hi' to your mom for me."
                     When under construction, the North American building stood out on the skyline. The bricks were applied to the steel skeleton from the 10th floor up, causing the building to look funny for a long time. It took much less time to build than other buildings of the era because it was so simple. By 1900, it was done with a year to spare as the tallest in the city. City Hall's construction was taller by 1901. In case anyone forgot the name of the newspaper, big fucking letters were placed on top.

1904. The box rises over the soon-to-be-doomed backyard of the Dundas-Lippencott Mansion. Pic from
                 The North American started to do much better but Big Papa Wanamaker was pissed off at the fact that his son's paper was published on Sunday and had weekly columns written by communists! It merged with another paper in 1925 and the building's brownstone columns were removed and replaced with a limestone cladding that's still there today. It's history thereafter is not that illustrious. The letters and cornice were removed a long fucking time ago. It became crappy Class ZZZZ offices that get renovated at regular intervals. It still stands at Broad and Sansom, now dwarfed by it's taller Depression-Era successors.
                 Pay your respects to this motherfucker next time you walk by. It may seem like an ordinary building now, but back then it was Burj Dubai of Philadelphia. Recognize.

The street-level facade in 1901, when it was the backdrop for the Pissing Contest World Championship.