Saturday, July 9, 2011

New Jefferson Building Update-- July 9th

Wocka Flocka Flame Center

901 Walnut Street

             Well, here we go again. The Wocka Flocka is going up even faster than before. The crane is gone, which means that anything too large or too heavy to be brought up by the external elevator is complete. The mechanicals and foamy shit seem to be almost all the way to the top. Green insulation is being installed from floors 4 to 7, and the fake-ass brick paneling is up to the 10th floor. At the bottom, some kind of ugly beige crap has been attached. The fake cornice and white bricks/cladding/whatever still hasn't been installed.
               In case you forgot, this building will be called the Health Professions Academic Building Jefferson Clinical Research Center, which is a foolish name. The new state budget that was just passed threw 10 Million dollars at Jefferson for a "new research building in Center City". Do they mean the Wocka Flocka or do they mean the mysterious buildings that Jeff is planning for 9th/10th and Sansom? 
Once again... fake-ass brick panels on the left, skillfully masoned real bricks on the right.
                     The connection between the Wocka Flocka and the 84-year-old Edison Building next door has not even really started yet. There's still some wall and windows fucking-up to be done. This just reminds us that the Wocka Flocka is really just an expansion of the Edison and 903 Walnut that will connect all three. Here's another obligatory look at the rendering:
What, did you forget already?
                Thirty-two blocks west on the same street, there seems to be quick steel-framing happening. The 4100 block of Walnut has a new friend about to be built.

The birth of a Butt-Fugly Building.
          This is the construction of the new butt-ass ugly Homewood Suites that'll be going in over here, right across the street from U.S. Representative Chaka Fattah's suspiciously hard-to-find office. They've only just begun so there isn't much to it yet, just a pile of girders. We'll get back to this one when there's more to it. Here's the rendering, try not to throw up:

Homewood. Yeah, I had that this morning.

Friday, July 8, 2011

This Week on Philly Sports History

              Are you getting rained on right now? Check out what's going on down at Philly Sports History this week: 
  •  Horace Fogel was a crazy ass dude who took over the Phillies, changed their uniforms to green and white, changed the team name to the Live Wires, and was convinced that the whole league was in on a huge conspiracy to make the Phillies look bad,
  • The Phils and the Red Sox could meet up in this year's World Series. They've met there 1915, when Babe Ruth was a pitcher for the Red Sox. Here's the story of that Series, complete with some cool ass 1915 photos. 

Philly 2111

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Empty Lot(s) of the Week-- July 7th

Luckless Lots of Locust Row

Halfway between 13th and Juniper Streets, Locust to Chancellor

Piece of shit #1
13th and Locust

Piece of fuck # 2
                        These lots don't look like such a big problem when you first see them. They're small, they are in convenient places to park if you're going to park on a surface lot, they have these murals on them. So what's the big deal? Why would these lots be a problem? BECAUSE THEY'RE BOTH 80 FUCKING YEARS OLD! Eighty years.
                        How do you stay an empty lot for that fucking long? Other empty lots that were long-lived in the area were built on by the end of the 80's... but what the fuck is wrong with these spots if they're still around now? Are they just extremely profitable surface lots or is there something mysterious about them?
                       The first spot, between 13th/Juniper and Locust/Chancellor, once held mansions of the elite from the extremely brief time period when this stretch was the new cool spot for rich people. Most of the storefront, office, and apartment buildings on the row were once each a single family home. The Library Company and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania are a legacy of that strange period that still exist on the street.

The Lot in 1916. The C.B. Newbold mansion on the left was only 19 years old but was already boarded up.
                The lot at the corner of 13th and Locust once held the College of Physicians building, which later became the Free Library of Philadelphia during the era when this stretch was known as Library Row due to the shitload of different Libraries that existed there.     

The College of Physicians during the height of the neighborhood.

Towards the end of its life in 1916 as the Free Library HQ.
                     In 1929-31, some early urban renewal was going on nearby on Broad Street. The once great neighborhood had long gone to shit and historical preservation wasn't invented yet. The old mansions midway between 13th and Juniper were pieces of shit. They were knocked the fuck down in favor of a lot that would live on until the present.

Birth of a luckless lot.
                    As for 13th and Locust, a separate urban renewal program was just about done and the Free Library moved to their current building, leaving the old College of Physicians building to rot. It met it's end after almost 70 years. The lot that replaced it is now 10 years older than the building was when demolished.

The second lot is born. Ignore the interdimensional gateway opening up on the left.
                    What a damn shame. The lot between 13th and Juniper has been owned by some guy in the burbs since 1983 and has been assessed at 1.095 Million dollars. The lot at the corner of 13th and Locust was purchased by Parkway Corp. in 2008 for 2.7 Million dollars. Considering the astronomically high property taxes these owners are paying, these lots must be profitable as fuck. Any rich-ass developers or speculators reading this shit? Buy these lots and build on them, motherfucker!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Lost Building of the Week-- July 6th

Joseph H. Schenck Building

535 Arch Street

It's so old, this is the only picture of it. Ever.
                      Look at this sucker. This is from a time when architects actually wanted their buildings to look nice and be memorable. That's no plastic or fake-looking material facade like we have now... that's cast iron and marble, motherfucker. Cast iron was once the way to go in the making of cool-ass facades... a few in the city still survive if you know where to look. No architect in the present has the cojones to put up a cast iron facade like that... they would need some kind of sissy-ass LEED certification to justify it. LEED-Iron?
                     This Castle of Cock-Rockets just didn't make it and was almost forgotten... until now! This building is the proof that there were many great building designs in this city that have been totally 100% lost. The fact that there's only one dinky little drawing of a building that housed a famous company of its time, designed by a famous architect of its time, is completely fucking insane. How many great buildings will we never know about? Fuck.
                    It all starts with Dr. Joseph H. Schenck. Legend has it that he had respiratory problems all his life and no doctor could help him. At the ripe old age of 25, Schenck developed his own remedy, supposedly based on one given to him by an "old family friend".  His neighbors and friends starting using it, and Joey started a business called Dr. J.H. Schenck and Son in 1836, selling his concoction as Schenck's Pulmonic Syrup. Ads claimed that it cured consumption (tuberculosis) and clergyman's throat (laryngitis).

Schenck would put a big picture of himself on his ads. This one is from before the Schenck Building was built.
                    The Syrup became nationally famous and Schenck was forced to expand his operation by moving to Philadelphia and setting up something better than running the shit out of his house in Moorestown, New Jersey. Back then you could sell anything and call it medicine. Schenck's remedies started to come in more goofy varieties like Mandrake Pills and Seaweed Tonic and the business kept growing.
                    He moved from building to building, going larger every time, until finally he got rich enough to build his own. He bought property at 6th and Arch in 1858 and commissioned Admiral of New Asshole-Ripping Stephen Decatur Button to design him a medical super-fortress. When it was completed by 1862, it made Tower Hall look like ass and the Jayne Building look like balls. People called it the "Palace of Marble".
                   It should be no surprise that a Stephen Decatur Button building should be so praised... Button was a fucking powerhouse of the era that was nationally famous in his own time. Very few of his Philadelphia buildings still stand (First Baptist Church, Arch Street Presbyterian Church), but many of his buildings outside the city are still around (Cape May mansions, Alabama State Capitol).
                 This Ziggurat of Scissor Kicks became a landmark to sick-ass tourists who would visit to try and see Dr. Schenck, who, in the midst of running his snake oil empire, would take time to see patients at his office in this building. Schenck died in 1874 and his sons took over the business. He still has living relatives today, surely having to explain how to spell their name to call centers and doctor's offices.
                 The building lasted until at least 1909... that is to say, the complete building. At some unknown point in time, the top 4.5 floors were lopped off and the once great Palace of Marble became a crappy single-storey rusty-ass cast iron box. Here it is in 1958:

                     It was put out of its misery in 1959 in favor of the Independence Historical Grass Lot Collection. The lot is now covered with the weirdly-shaped southwestern edge of the Constitution Center.


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Butt-Fugly Building of the Week-- July 5th

One Parkway (a.k.a. Bell Telephone Company Building, a.k.a. Pennsylvania Bell Headquarters)

1515 Arch Street

Fuck this shit.
                      Ugh, what a craptonius piece of turd this motherfucker is. A big reflective wall of metal for a facade? What the fuck were they thinking? Were they trying to blind people? I don't get it. In what world is a stainless steel facade a good idea? Assyworld, that's what world.
                      In the 1950's Bell Telephone Company was starting to outgrow their 1926 headquarters on the Parkway and needed to expand. They had a limited choice as to where to put their new building because the long distance trunk line only ran under certain streets in the city. Bell chose the corner of 16th and Arch. They approached the architectural firm Francis Cauffman Foley Hoffman and told them, "Design for us the most revolting building you can think of. Be creative... you can make it out of stainless steel for all we care!!".
                     This is what the crappy firm came up with:

They always look so innocent before they're built.
                 It's not like they had some idealized rendering of this thing... they had a full-on 3D model! The boys at Bell should have taken this thing, wiped their asses with it, and sent it back. Mayor Richardson Dilworth also checked the model out... he should have ate it and put this ugly fucker out of its misery.

Mayor Dilworth fucked up.
                    Needless to say, this Steaming Pile of Dirty Punchbowls still ended up getting built.

Under Confucktion.
                    When it was done in 1961, Bell Telephone Company didn't even like it... they occupied the building for less than 30 years until they built a skyscraper that is also along the long distance trunk line. While Bell was in the building, they used to light up the windows at night in different configurations, sort of like the Cira Center does now.

UF? FU!!!
                   There isn't much else to say about this thing other than it sucks. After Bell left, the building was renamed One Parkway even though it doesn't even touch the Parkway. Crappy municipal offices moved in and have been using the building for the past 20 years. It's also about to get a butt-fugly neighbor...

Ah fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck.

   ...the new Family Court. This motherfucker makes One Parkway look like the WCAU Building. Wow, it's like they were trying to outdo One Parkway in ugly-as-fuckingness. Fifty years later, same general location, same relative size, and this is the best we can come up with? What a fucking shame.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Old-Ass Building of the Week-- July 4th

Witherspoon Building

130 South Juniper Street

Holy Fucking Facade!
                       This is that building that visitors of Philadelphia look at and shit their pants. A nearly unlimited myriad of facade sculptures fascinates the mind and makes you wonder what the fuck must go on inside if this is how awesome the outside looks. The Witherspoon Building is the shit and it sure as hell doesn't fuck around. This building is the proof that a boxy building can work if the facade kicks monster balls. Not only that, the building seems somewhat modern considering it's 115 YEARS OLD!
                        Here's another one of those buildings that people spread goofy rumors about. Literature claims that it was the first highrise in the city. Bullshit. Future Lost Building of the Week the Betz Building was built 7 years earlier, is 6 storeys taller, and isn't even the first one! It's also not the oldest surviving highrise in the city. The Divine Lorraine and the Stephen Girard Building are older.
                      That doesn't stop this Behemoth of of Giant Ballsacks from being old as fuck. This building is so ancient that when it was built, it was the tallest building on Walnut Street.

I'm huge!! Image from the watermark.
                   In 1895, the trustees and the Business Committee of the Board of Publication and Sabbath School work wanted a new building that would house the General Assembly, the Board, and the Presbyterian Historical Society. They hired a Seven-star General of Architectural Kick-ass, Joseph M. Huston, one of Furness' former proteges who had started his own firm. They were like "Give us a big fucking building that can hold all of our offices. Make it a landmark so people can be like 'meet me outside the building with all the statues and sculptures of shit all over it'." Huston was like "You pricks want a building? I'll give you a building! Now take off those ties and overcoats, put on these dresses, and dance for me, you whores!". 

John Huston with a pissed-off look on his face.
                    Two years later, the building was built. It had small architectural details everywhere and then a shitload of small sculptures carved over the entrances. Large statues of religious figures adorned the entrance and arches outside the 8th floor. The wider facade facing Juniper Street was the original front of the structure until the building across the Street obscured the shit out of it. Here's that facade on an old stock certificate:

Impossible to see it from this view in the present.
                      Over the decades, the building held those Presbyterian-related offices and taller buildings got built around it in all directions except on the Walnut Street side. By 1973 the building was old and fucked up. The facade was dirty as shit despite being restored a decade earlier and the large statues had long been removed for fear that they would fall off and hurt people. It got sold off, renovated, and incorporated into the Fidelity Building next door. It's still in use as an office building today.
                    The statues from the facade aren't dead, they now decorate the courtyard of the Presbyterian Historical Society. You can look at individual images of the facade details and statues here. What a great buiding... too bad we couldn't save others from its time period that were just as cool. Here's some pics:

1901. The Witherspoon towers over everyone.
Cool statue of Moses when it was standing outside the 8th floor. From what it says in the watermark.

1959. Covered in crud shortly before a facade restoration/cool statue removal in 1962. From the watermark.
One last look at the super-kick-ass facade. Click to see even more details!