Thursday, July 28, 2011

We're now on the bookface!

Mark of the Beast, Inc.
                  That's right, Philaphilia's up on the fuckbook now. Like that shit, motherfucker!

                                                                                     Your Buddy,


Philly 2111-- July 29th

Empty Lot of the Week-- July 28th

Forever Forgotten Lot

Bounded by Franklin Town Boulevard, Callowhill Street, 19th Steet, Some Buildings, and the Baldwin Locomotive Trench.

Fuck that's a lot of empty.
                         This is a lot that nobody thinks about.. a forlorn patch of grass that serves no purpose. Most people think it's some kind of lawn for the Community College. Nope. It's just an undeveloped parcel of shit. It's not like this particular spot held anything super-special... just some rowhomes and a crappy factory.

Corner of 18th and Callowhill 1894.
                  It just sucks that nothing seems to be going on with this Grass Doldrum of Dickcheese. It's owned by University City Housing, who bought it in 1997 for $700,000. I guess they wanted to build housing on it... it's zoned RC4, which means you could pretty much build whatever the fuck you want there except a dildo factory.
                 So what the fuck has been going on with this thing for the last 14 years? I understand that there may be some issues with it on the northwestern quadrant because there was an industrial building in that spot... sometimes they leave behind some fucked-up shit. Otherwise, I have no clue why this parcel can't get anything going. It's location is awesome... it's surrounded by tall buildings, rowhomes, a beer distributor, a former community center, and the elusive Baldwin Locomotive trench. It's only a few blocks from a supermarket and commercial strip. Baldwin Park is right there. WHAT THE FUCK?
                 Well, it's been owned by the same group for 14 years but has been vacant for at least 35. In 1971, city officials noticed that the huge area north of the Free Library and Rodin Museum looked like shit. The surviving homes were in ass condition and empty lots were everywhere... such a great location was producing very little tax revenue. A plan was created that would not only revitalize the area, but make it a whole new downtown.

Greatness was planned. From the watermark.
                     Franklintown was going to be beautiful. A residential and commercial powerhouse with super-ultra-modern buildings, a town square called Baldwin Park, and a new diagonal main street called Franklintown Boulevard, which was going to be a wooded high-end commercial district.

What they thought it would look like by now. Watermark.
               Don't think that there weren't NIMBYs. There were tons of them. Never in a million years did they think that tall buildings would be built in a city.

The NIMBY army on the march. Watermark.
                 Despite the NIMBY effect, the city eminent-domained a shitload of property and knocked it all the fuck down by the mid 70s. A great sea of empty lots filled the area and most of them got built on, but MANY survive to this day. The Forever Forgotten Lot is one of them. This particular spot is worse than the others because it's not even in use as a surface parking lot. It's in use as NOTHING. They even removed the Belgian-Blocked Shamokin Street that once ran through the lot. A small portion of it survives behind the Beer Distributor and former Community Center (now Childrens' Crisis Center).
                   Anyone who knows the Franklintown district is well aware that the lofty vision of a new downtown never materialized. Franklintown Boulevard is a concrete desert of inactivity. Future developments for the area look promising, but the neighborhood will never live up to the grand scale that was once presented in 1971. Meh, we're probably better off. Architecture in that time period was HORRENDOUS and we would've ended up with tons of lifeless 70s-ish concrete boxes everywhere that would be all browned up by now.

How it ended up. Compare to the 1971 model above.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Lost Building of the Week-- July 27th

Betz Building (a.k.a Liberty Building)

1 South Broad Street

Holy fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck!!! Click to see supersized super-detailed version.
                    Now here's a motherfucker that never should have died. This beast is a study of how many awesome things you can stuff into one facade. Go ahead and click that motherfucker to see all the cool details. No architect alive today has the nutsack to put a sculpture of every president on their building, let alone all the gargoyles, patterns, different kinds of columns, and statues that this monster possesses. This Supertall Victorian Skyscraper/Megacastle has so many goddamn facade details that they were still being added on 5 years after the building's completion.
                    It all started with John F. Betz. He was born in Stuttgart, Germany and was brought to America as an infant. He then went back to Germany to learn brewery secrets, then came back and began the most badass brewery in New York. After a decade or so in NYC, Betz said "fuck this" and moved to Philadelphia in 1868, naming his product after himself. By 1888 he was a fucking millionaire. A dollar was 24 times more valuable back then, so it's fair to say that he was SUCCESSFUL AS FUCK.

Portrait of Betz... from the facade of his own fucking building!
                     When Betz became super-mega-wealthy, he got into real estate speculation. In the 1880's, the primary business district of the city was located entirely east of Broad Street. During this period, the area around Centre Square is where the super-rich hung out. This is why the Masonic Temple, Elks Club, Scottish Rite Temple, Union League, Philadelphia Club, and various other Rich Motherfucker clubs were located nearby. Once it was decided that the new City Hall would be in this Big Ballers neighborhood, shit got real. Real estate speculators wet themselves over the possibility of adding a commercial business district to this already kick-ass area.
                     It was also a time of transition in architecture. Badass stone Victorian fire-proof monuments were the style of the time (which kicked ass) and steel/iron-frame construction was brand new. This meant that they could build much taller badass stone castles. These new giants would be built along South Broad Street. John Betz took advantage of the situation and commissioned Badass Motherfucker-in-Chief William Decker to design him the tallest building on the street and the second tallest in the city (the only thing taller was the wooden steeple of the Tenth Presbyterian Church).
                    Decker was not shy about decking the motherfucker out... not only was it super-detailed, it was super-high-tech. It was built with an iron and steel framework that supported the weight of the building. Since the exterior walls were not load-bearing, they used hollow bricks. The building cost 1.5 million dollars, which back then was an immense amount of scrilla.

Under Construction.
                 Betz had his favorite bar/restaurant, Soula's Cafe, move from it's South 8th Street location to the basement of this badass. It was renamed Soula' Cafe and Rathskeller (an old timey word for underground restaurant) and became the premiere social spot for politicians, businessman, and old-money millionaires. Betz himself was known to get wasted there. You gotta wonder if he was like "This is my building, biotch!!!" the whole time.

Soula's Broad Street entrance.
                    In its' own time, the building received nation-wide acclaim. It's badassedness was known far and wide. By time the 20th Century was in full gear, this building became disgustingly out-of-style. People were no longer into Victorian kickassedness and were more into Art Deco super-badassedness. Also, the real estate that the Betz and it's awesome-looking neighbor sat on was far too valuable for a thirteen-storey building. After only thirty-five years of existence, the Betz Building was knocked the fuck down in 1926 and replaced by the Lincoln-Liberty/PNB Building, which is not too shabby a building either.
                    What a fucking treasure this thing was. There are not many buildings left from the short period of Victorian Skyscrapers and the ones that remain are severely fucked up (Divine Lorraine, anyone?). Too bad this motherfucker couldn't be saved. No current architect has the talent to design a building one third as cool.

The Betz Building asserting it's badassivity shortly after completion.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Butt-Fugly Buidling of the Week-- July 26th

Police Administration Building (a.k.a. the Roundhouse)

750 Race Street

                       A Police Headquarters that looks like handcuffs. What a fucking joke. This concrete monstrosity is one of those buildings that stands between regular humans and architecture nerds. 99.9% of the people that see this building say "What a piece of shitfucktastic garbitechture!" but a small small sampling of architecture geeks love this fucking thing. Not me. Fuck this building and fuck concrete.
                     It was the 1950s. Mayor Dilworth was spearheading the revitalization of the entire eastern third of Center City. One of the biggest challenges of that revitalization was the renewal of what was known as Skid Row. It was sort of like Deadwood but with the whores and drunks outdoors instead of in. That place really chapped Dilworth's ass. It had a few historical buildings including some of the city's last wooden houses, which became a code violation in 1796.

No, really.
                      Dilworth had saved the ancient homes that still stood in the Society Hill section, calling the neighborhood "irreplacable". When it came to Skid Row, he was like "Fuck this shit!!!" and mowed it all the fuck down, especially in the areas of it that would touch the not-yet-complete Independence Mall. It was such a high crime area, he was like "Let's drop a new Police HQ there!! That'll solve the crime problem!"
                      At the time, there was a movement of creating futuristic looking municipal buildings. People went fucking nuts over it. Designs that looked like some shit you would see in a bad 50's sci-fi movie became reality, and reality fucking bites. This new police HQ was going to be the most high-tech and futuristic one ever seen... in the early 60's. The brand new architecture firm of Geddes Brecher Qualls Cunningham was on the case.
                      They must of been smoking some pretty good shit because they came up with this goofy-ass plan to create a building consisting of two large cylinders with curving connections between them. They made it look like fucking handcuffs.
Like this, but a building.
                     Dilworth nearly shit his pants. He was like "Do it motherfucker!!!" and construction began. Back then, urban revitalization meant Concrete Over Everything. That was what was going to be answer for Skid Row. They even wanted to run a highway through Franklin Square!
                   For some reason, they thought that concrete would stay all shiny and white forever. Apparently, none of them ever looked down and figured out that you shouldn't build a building out of SIDEWALK. Dumbasses. The firm of shitbags that designed this fuckstick thought they were cool as fuck by making it built of big pre-fab concrete panels. Two thousand of them.

Arangging big pieces of sidewalk into a building. From what it says in the big-ass watermark.
                     They'd literally bring the walls on the back of a truck and crane them into place until they were done. People thought this was the coolest shit since toilet paper. At no point did anyone think of the impracticality of it all. Architects the world over had to change their underwear after looking at it. This Pair of Concrete Testicles gets praised and ass-kissed to this day.
                      What do I mean by impracticality? Think about it. Do you think it's fun to put rectilinear furniture and equipment into a curvilinear room? Kiss half of your square footage goodbye. Being inside a big hollow box of concrete blows. It gets moldy and mildewy and it sucks if you need to install any new plumbing or wiring. Over time, the concrete develops holes and crumbly areas, causing a moist drafty building that's paradise for roaches and ants. Literally, the Roundhouse, as it came to be known, is an Arcology of Vermin.
                      The Police Commissioner has made it clear that they want the fuck out of there, which is the biggest indicator that fifties-futuristic-looking concrete castles are not practical for any damn use... the very people that the building was designed for can't stand it. There's not going to be a new Police HQ built for a looooong fucking time so they will have to continue to suffer because a couple of dumbass shitchitects thought they were cool. Sorry, officers.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Old-ass Building of the Week-- July 25th

Saint Stephen's Episcopal Church

19 South 10th Street

Strictly Strickland.
                     You got to love a church that looks like the gateway to Hades. This thing is pretty cool. The facade is an embattled stone wall with two towers on it. It looks like there should be dudes shooting arrows down at you from the top. The coolest thing about this building is that it's managed to survive with the same name and function intact since 1823.
                     That doesn't necessarily mean that the building was built in 1823, though. People don't realize that this building is much older than that. The structure was first built, without that cool-ass facade, as the Saint Thomas's Methodist Congregation. The Episcopal Church purchased the building in 1822 and went up to Kick-ass SuperCommander William Strickland and said, "We just bought this fucked up old church building at the edge of town and it sucks. Design a rebuild of this thing that'll fuck everyone's shit up for generations.".
                      Strickland was like, "Motherfuckers, you're in for a treat. I'm gonna revive the fuck out of some Gothic for this bitch!". Ten months later, this Gateway to the Crotch Kiss Universe was built. It was Proto-Gothic Revival and helped usher in the Gothic Revival movement in the United States, even though Strickland preferred Greek Revival. That's how much of a gangster Strickland was. He could design a building that's not even his usual style and it can start a nation-wide movement. The church became a landmark as soon as it was built. The 86 foot tall octagonal towers were briefly some of the tallest structures on the neighborhood skyline.
The tops of the towers were embattled at one point. Bring that shit back!
One demolition-proof motherfucker in its prime.
                       Fifty years later the building was falling apart and William Strickland was already trapped in his crypt at the Tennessee State Capitol Building. The building needed an upgrade and it was the 1878. Who would you get if you needed an architect in that time period? Grandmaster Badass Motherfucker Frank Furness, that's who.  He broke down the back wall and extended the church, adding a transept.
                       Furness also had a gift for interior design. Along with his renovation he did up the interior with cool-ass Furnessian patterns and shit. He was like, "Oh, I can't change your precious-ass Strickland facade? I'll put my crazy-ass details on the inside!"

Furness lit up the furnace under his ass for this one.
                        There's not much else to say. The church remained in place looking relatively the same for decades and decades up until the present. To put it all into perspective, think of the view across the street from this structure. It went from this:

Wooden houses
                          to this:

Franklin Market built in place of those wooden houses.
                      to this:

Mercantile Library moved into the Franklin Market. 
                       to this:

I'd rather have the wooden houses.
                      ...all while the Saint Stephens Episcopal Church looked the same. It's the fucking Connor MacLeod of this block, which is saying something considering most of the other buildings on this street are old as fuck.
                      Oh yeah, then there's this thing:

If anyone ever asks you what bullshit looks like, it's this.
                   It's nonsense. There's like 9 other spots that also make the same claim. Sorry brah!