Saturday, September 3, 2011

This Week at Philly Sports History

          It was nickname week this week on PSH, and they came up with the best ones in Philly history. Here they are, sport by sport. 

Who gave Cole Hamels the nickname "Hollywood"? Who was known as Pudd'nhead? And who exactly was Death to Flying Things Ferguson? Find out here.

Which Eagle safety got burned so badly and so often he earned the nickname Toast?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Dead-Ass Proposal of the Week-- September 1st

World Trade Square

Columbus Avenue, Callowhill to Noble Streets

This came so close so never happening... oh wait, it didn't!
                     This right here is a goddamn travesty. This dead-ass proposal exposes the fact that a little squadron of neighborhood NIMBYs is all it takes to kill a three million square-foot mixed-use megastructure. This beast of beasts might have been the savior of the Delaware waterfront... if its plan had gone forward, the many other waterfront building proposals from the same era may have gotten started.
                     It all started with the Carl Marx Real Estate Group. This company was trying to get into the waterfront real estate game, banking on future development of the Delaware River Waterfront. These motherfuckers took a huge gamble. They bought a shitload of empty lots and buildings, wheeling and dealing with numerous property owners, in order to assemble one gigantic 5.3 acre parcel in the name of their affiliate, Waterfront Renaissance Associates
                     Waterfront Renaissance set the goal of building a goddamn Greater Philadelphia World Trade Center. They went up to Alesker and Dundon Architects and was like "Listen, motherfuckers! We need a huge goddamn super-complex that'll take four phases to build! You've got 5.3 acres to fill, you bastards!".
                       In response, the architects gave them a design for twin 636-foot office buildings, a 435-foot residential tower, a 324-foot Greater Philadelphia World Trade Center, a 2,149 space parking garage, and 118,00 square feet of street-level retail!

I didn't say it was pretty.
                    Essentially, it would be a city upon itself. At first, everything seemed to be going very well with this project. Even the Delaware River Port Authority got into it and invested millions of dollars. Mayor after Mayor backed it up. The parcel got Keystone Opportunity Zone status.  No one could stop this thing! No one! Well, they were wrong. Wrong as shit.
                     How do you kill a one billion dollar project? How do you derail 20 years of assorted work? NIMBYs. First, they went for the design. Three civic associations haggled with the developer over each and every detail. Waterfront complied to their demands... everything was still a GO even with the NIMBYs. Did you see that rendering? There's barely any neighbors! How could three civic associations be involved?
                    By the time 2006 rolled around, permits were being gathered and construction was imminent. Then some Old City NIMBYs who had nothing to with this project (and probably didn't even know about it) pushed City Council into voting for a 65-foot height limit in and around Old City, bringing death to this and many other projects, costing developers millions upon millions of dollars. Thanks, assholes.
                   The worst part is that World Trade Square could BARELY be considered part of Old City. Barely. Even the councilman who brought up the bill publicly regretted including their parcel in the restriction. That small error killed this massive economy-boosting project. Dumbass.
                    Waterfront Associates sued the city in 2007 for fucking them out of the millions and millions of dollars already invested in the project. They got their asses kicked in court by the time the bullshit went to trial in March of 2011. Why? Because the city repealed/suspended the height restriction in March of 2010, so the lawsuit was rendered moot.
                  It's such a damn tragedy. Without that stupid height restriction, its pretty certain that this thing would have been built. Maybe not all the phases would get done, but SOMETHING would get completed and lead to further growth. This never had to happen... this is probably one of the city's greatest blunders.
Jesus can often be found weeping in front of the butt-fugly storage bin sea that is the World Trade Square site.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Lost Bridge of the Week-- August 31st

Wire Bridge at Fairmount (aka Spring Garden Street Bridge, Ellet Suspension Bridge, aka Fairmount Bridge)

How fucking cool was this thing?
                       It's hard to believe that there was once a time when spanning over a river as thin as the Schuylkill was considered a great feat of engineering. This bridge is from that time. The Wire Bridge at Fairmount was the first wire suspension bridge in America. It all began with one of the greatest badasses of the 19th Century.
                      Charles Ellet was born and raised in Bucks County. He studied engineering in France (he was the first American to study engineering in Europe) and became obsessed with the then-futuristic idea of a large-scale suspension bridge (smaller suspension bridges were around back then but they sucked). When he finished school, he returned to America with the intention of getting a new-fangled large-scale suspension bridge built.
                  He first went to Washington, DC and proposed a suspension bridge over the Potomac. Back then that was like proposing a bridge to the International Space Station. He got laughed out of town. In 1841, however,  Ellet was commissioned by the City of Philadelphia to design a 398-foot pedestrian bridge that would cross the Schuylkill River from the Water Works to Bridge Street in West Philly (now Spring Garden Street), replacing the beat-up old wooden bridge that was currently there (that bridge in itself has a cool history).
                  Ellet had a crazy idea. He would design a suspension bridge that was held up by high-tension wires. This would allow a much longer and wider bridge than other early suspension bridges, which were held up by chains. It would be able to hold much more weight, which would help the bridge stay useful for a longer time. Ellet was the top engineer in the nation.. he knew that much heavier vehicles would one day be built.
                 People were gonna flip their shit once they saw this thing. The Wire Bridge at Fairmount opened on January 1st, 1842 to massive fanfare and the first ever New Year's parade in Philadelphia, a city that likes its New Year's parades. The bridge became an instant landmark.

It was a big fucking deal at the time.
                        The success of the Fairmount Bridge caused other cities to shit themselves and beg Ellet to build them suspension bridges in areas that were once considered impossible to cross. By 1848, Ellet was building the two longest bridges in the world and at the same time. American bridge-building began to surpass Europe and the age of the suspension bridge was born.          
                 Ellet was such a continuously-achieving 65th Level Badass that he ended up becoming a Civil War hero on top of all of his other accomplishments. He was commissioned by the Secretary of War (they didn't have pussy names like "Secretary of Defense back then, it was Secretary of WAR) to use his engineering prowess to convert common tugboats into war machines.

Ellet-Class Fuck You boat.
                       As an added bonus, he would be given the rank of Colonel and command one of the kill-boats! Ellet was actually pretty good at warring but ended up getting killed by wounds inflicted during the Battle of Memphis. He was such an incredibly huge dick-swinging engineer/colonel/father of suspension bridges that the U.S. Navy named a Destroyer after him in 1939 that saw a shitload of action during World War II.

U.S.S Ellet, DD-398. Do you have a Destroyer named after you? Didn't think so.
                   The Wire Bridge at Fairmount was already recognized at the most important bridge of it's time when it was demolished in 1874. It's ability to handle a large amount of weight kept it in service even after early trolleys became common. It would probably be able to handle a decent load of cars if it was still around today. One of Ellet's later bridges still stands and handles normal vehicular traffic.

The Fairmount Bridge in its final years.
                     The city wouldn't have another suspension bridge until the Ben Franklin Bridge in 1926. Another, the Walt Whitman bridge, would be built 24 years later. Are there any suspension bridges in Philly's future? Probably not for a long fucking time... the BFB and the Walt Whitman have a good 100 years left in 'em if they're properly maintained.
                    The only hope we have is an old Master Plan for the University of Pennsylvania from 2006. One of the renderings shows a cable-stay type suspension pedestrian bridge. If built, this would be the true successor to the Wire Bridge at Fairmount due to it's crossing of the same river and being in use for the same purpose (pedestrians). This plan is pretty much dead but if Penn had any balls they could make it happen. Do it, you fucks!


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Butt-Fugly Public Art of the Week-- August 30th

Phoenix Rising  by Emlen Etting

Dilworth Plaza Trench

Oh, that's where I left my booger-filled metal handkerchief!
                   Goddamn, this thing is a piece of shit. Why this? This is a metal sculpture that uglies-up the already nasty Dilworth Plaza. Not even really the plaza, the shitty trench that opens up to the underground homeless catacomb that surrounds it. It looks like butt all the time but it really looks like ass when seen from the side or from street level.

The BNY Mellon Center is back there looking down upon Phoenix Rising in shame.
                      Hey, I like public art and I usually like the artist, Emlen Etting, but this is one big and public fucking mistake. What's worse is that some people love this fucking thing. There's a blog dedicated to it here. Needless to say, there will definitely be some folks who think I'm an asshole for not loving this paper airplane plane crash. Emlen Etting was a Philaphile and actually quite a badass painter. He should have just stayed out of the sculpture business, I guess.

...and he was so prolific, even I have one of his paintings!
                   It all started when Mayor Richardson Dilworth died in 1974.  The public park/concrete tomb of bumshit being assembled next to City Hall was in process and City Council thought it would be appropriate to name the place after Dilworth. Frank Rizzo was mayor at the time and wasn't a Dilworth fan. When the dedication rolled around in 1977, Rizzo didn't even bother to show up and invitations were not sent to Dilworth's friends or family.
                  Joseph Stratos, a friend of Dilworth's, was pissed at the shitty job the Rizzo administration did of memorializing the former mayor. He spent five years putting together the appropriate ceremony, creating the Richardson Dilworth Memorial Committee and raising the $40,000 (!!!!!!!!!) necessary to construct Phoenix Rising. The memorial finally took place in 1982 and the unveiling of this aluminum kleenex was the centerpiece. Ever since then, this piece of shit has been collecting bird poop and other generalized nasty for the last 29 years.
                It's ironic that this sculpture is supposed to represent Philadelphia as a phoenix rising from urban decay. This thing is literally surrounded with the worst kind of urban decay... a smelly dirty crumbling partially submerged cement castle surrounded by deafening noises that was designed to be a serene public space. It even has plants growing out of the bottom of the pedestal, attempting to pull down the structure despite the trash strewn throughout.

Go plants go!
                      When Dilworth Plaza is destroyed and rebuilt in the coming year(or nine), Phoenix Rising will be moved to a new unknown location. I think they should keep it in the new Dilworth Plaza but with a small add-on to symbolize Dilworth rising up to introduce the city to the his new memorial. Here's my design for it:

Dilworth Plaza in 2020.
                       This sculpture pays tribute to the original by using the art of a great painter that isn't a sculptor to execute the plan. This time, the message of Philadelphia rising out of urban decay is much more clear. It would be called Phoenix Rising and Then Turning Into the Guy on the Cover of Manowar Albums
                     Joseph Stratos was right. Dilworth should have an appropriate memorial. A fucked up cement plaza and a crappy metal handkerchief is not it... many modern Philadelphians have no idea who the fuck Dilworth is and how he successfully spun Philadelphia into the city that most take for granted today. A giant depiction of him bursting out of his plaza with a sword and a hammer in each hand with lightning bolts and shit would make people pay attention and appreciate who Dilworth was.     

Monday, August 29, 2011

Mystery Building of the Week-- August 29th


104-106 South 8th Street

Look at this sexy old bitch-bastard.
                 Sometimes there's an awesome-looking building that preserves itself by going completely unnoticed for decades. This is one of 'em... a beautiful old building from an earlier age that has managed not to get torn down or fall over in the last 125 years by some leap of fate. Ok, so it lost one of its little horns at the top. Nonetheless, this thing is a survivor. This Fortress of Fist Surfing was from a time when even the crappiest business or organization was expected to build an impenetrable stone and brick fortress with kickass shit all over the top.
                The only problem is this... I can't figure out where the hell this building came from. How did this awesome-looking Castle of Cock Cannons go so unnoticed for so long? What was the fuck it is and what the fuck was it? Sure, I can find the names of its current owners and property tax info, but what good is that? I can't find any definitive shit about the history of this building, but I'll tell you what kind of circumspect shit I've found.  
               First of all it says "JM" at the top with sunrays bursting all over the place. Does that mean John MacArthur, Jr, designer of City fucking Hall? The crown of this beast does bare a slight resemblance to the one on a long lost Jewish temple that MacArthur designed. If this is a MacArthur, it's different than most of the shit that he's done, except that many of his designs seem to be in different styles.

It looks like someone cemented over the name of this building!
                      The patterns and colors are almost Furnessian. Furness had a shitload of students and competitors that copied off of his shit so it's hard to say if it's by one of his proteges, one of his collaborators, one of his enemies, or him! Then there's that shit at the bottom. Was that original to the structure or was it an alteration? Here's a picture of it from 1963:

              There seems to have been some kind of rounded piece that went between the two horns. As far as acual data about this beast, the most recent info I have is over 100 years old. Bornot Inc., a dye company, got inspected at this address in 1902, but they sure as fuck didn't build the building. They had factories and warehouses all over the country and invented a new kind of dyeing-related machine in the !?!?!?!?!?!?!??? building.
              American District Telegraph Company ran a branch office out of this building in 1888, but they couldn't have built the structure. They had their main Philadelphia office in the Betz Building at the time. It doesn't make sense to have their HQ there and build an expensive-ass stone and brick supercastle six blocks away just for a shitty branch office.
              They used it as a telegraph receiving center connected to hundreds of stores and homes that could contact them in the event of an emergency or break-in. The company in another form does the same type of shit now, except they just call themselves ADT.
Crappy picture of it from 1895. Was ADT in there at this point? There's that round piece between the horns!
                    So who the fuck built this thing and why? I don't know for sure. One account I found had this labeled has the publishing address of a newspaper called the Keystone Good Templar. That newspaper was produced by the International Order of Good Templars' Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. Could this building be the Grand Lodge? Is it possible? It would explain why its so ornate and shit. If so, when did they build it and who was the architect? What a pisser!

The IOGT is still around. I wonder if they have records about this shit?
                  At this point, I have no idea who could have conceived and built this thing, but I'm pretty happy that they did. I really thought of scrapping this whole article and writing about some other old building that's easier to find shit out about.. but this thing kept bothering me. This fucknugget is cool... its gone so unnoticed over the years that it deserves to be brought back into the light. The only glimmer of hope I have for this motherfucker is that it does indeed have a file at the Philadelphia Historical Commission. There's bound to be some info in there.
           If you know the truth about this building or think I'm an asshole for not knowing, contact me at so we can put this shit to rest.

Pretend this is the side of a milk carton.


                      Hello, this is John McLaughlin and now your reading this in my voice! And the answah is...its the Annex to an old newspaypah building, the Times Building (a futcha Lost Building of the Week) and was built in 1878. The ahh-chitect was the firm of Hazlehurst and Huckel. The contractah that built it was Allen B. Rorke. BYE BYE!!

                     *Special thanks goes out to Philaphile Walter Rice for pushing me into the right direction!