Friday, October 7, 2011

Philaphilia Map now available!!!!!!!!!!!

Cool as fuck.
                    Philaphile Maxwell Pistilli was nice enough to take on the task of mapping all of the Philaphilia article locations! This thing is cool as shit... Now I can figure out the distribution of all the places I've talked about.  This map has taught me that I need to talk about more Rittenhouse-related crap. It also gives you an idea of how far I still have to go in cataloging all the shit that's out there. Thanks Maxwell!!!!

Here's a link to the map.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Empty Lot of the Week-- October 6th

South Street Dread Lot

1240-1252 South Street, 613-615 13th Street, 1237 Kater Street, 1243 Kater Street.

What a hole!
                               This is another one of those lots where a whole bunch of empty lots meet to make one gigantic shameful pile of fuckturds. It may look pretty harmless but this Shame of the City has been sitting here empty for a generation. Though there are plenty of other empty lots in the area, this is the one that will live on beyond them all. This block and the entire area surrounding it will be developed and re-developed 150 times before this motherfucker sees a stick of construction. The southeast corner of 13th and South will look exactly the same in 500 years.
                             There's no special history for this lot... it once held a bunch of commercial storefront residential buildings, nothing unusual for this part of town. The blocks of South near it were briefly a nightlife hotspot in the 80's, but that's long over. It's just such a shame to watch this empty rectangle of grass sit here and rot, especially while long-time empty lots and buildings near it are finally being built on.
The corner of the Dread Lot in 1930. Click here for a pic from 1982.
                 Other than that, there's not much else to say... other than IT SUCKS. The current owners of the many properties that compose this lot live in Florida. Have they ever even seen this piece of shit?!?!? Hellooooooo out there!!! Are you owners reading this?!?! Sell this motherfucker already!!! I know you have to care a little bit... you purchased and demolished the three abandoned bum condos on the Kater Street side four years ago! What's the deal?!?!?

             Anyone out there have any news or cool info about this spot? It needs to be exposed so someone will give the owners an offer they can't refuse and we can finally put this grasshole to rest!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Lost Building of the Week-- October 5th

Athletic Club of the Schuylkill Navy (aka Grand Fraternity Building)

1628 Arch Street

Willis G. Hale aint nuthin to fuck with!
                   Willis G. Hale was such a badass motherfucker that this is the kind of building he produced when told to tone it the fuck down. Seriously, this building is an example of him phoning it in. Just look at that shit... no one today has the mettle to design such a structure.
                  The Schuylkill Navy is the oldest amateur athletic governing body in the country. They formed to prevent people from fixing and betting on boat races. The group consisted of a whole bunch of individual rowing clubs. In 1884, it was decided that the rowing clubs should get into other sports as well, and members of many of the clubs formed the Athletic Club of the Schuylkill Navy. Their first clubhouse was in a mansion at 1913 Market Street.
                     Only a few years after they formed, they became interested in building a new clubhouse, one that would be the envy of jocks everywhere. They were able to buy a thin plot of land in a residential neighborhood, but the Athletic Club was growing so quickly that their needs started to outmode the size of the land they purchased. The club hoped to be able to build a tall clubhouse that would have kick ass amenities but fit into this little space. They found an unknown architecture firm from the time that worked on the problem for a year. The dumbass motherfuckers failed to come up with a design that worked.
                    That's when the club went to Willis G. Hale for help. They begged him to solve the design problem, even though they were almost out of money. Hale was like, "fuck that other firm, I'll get this shit done with my eyes closed. Shoulda came to me first, bitcheeessss!!". Hale designed this 119-foot-tall super-clubhouse in like 10 seconds while sitting on the toilet.
                    He was able to fit bowling alleys, a billiard room, cafe, restaurant, parlors, garden roof deck (before it was cool), swimming pool, Turkish bath, racquetball court, running track, barber shop, and a full-sized gymnasium... all within a 45' x 150' lot. The framing was of wood and the facade was a highly detailed melange of Indiana limestone that Hale thought was extremely simple.
                   Though Hale had solved their problem, his wooden skeleton for the building proved to be somewhat inadequate. Reports of it flexing and creaking came along when the building would have huge events and hold over 1,200 people...that combined with the fact that it was a fire trap caused it to eventually gain a reputation of being unsafe. That didn't stop it from being called "the most perfect clubhouse in the country". The Athletic Club only end up using the building for a short time. Later, the building just became known as the Athletic Club of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Athletic Club. 
                  In 1915, the Grand Fraternity (yet another gentlemans' club) purchased the building and did extensive alterations to make it more useful. They converted much of it to meeting rooms/banquet halls for different lodges and installed elevators, skylights, new gas lighting, and a brick stair tower for fire safety. They reopened the place January 1, 1916.
                 They didn't stay in there too long... by the 1920's the building was converted to offices, but the name "Grand Fraternity Building" stood firm until the end. This Mega-Parthenon of Party Prawns stood until 1972, 83 ball-busting years. Not bad for a throw-away project by Hale. That's some good shit right there.

Still kicking ass in 1968.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Butt-Fugly Building of the Week-- October 4th

Sidney Hillman Medical Center of the Men's Apparel Industry of Philadelphia

2116 Chestnut Street

Grumble Grumble
                         Yeah, that's right, I'm going there. This fucking thing is loved by many but hated by more. What a pile of garbage. I can't imagine any context where this architecture looks good. I'm pretty sure a dog's anus is a superior design. This asscastle makes the Guild House look like City Hall.
                         This thing is supposed to be "modernist". Yeah, right. This piece of shit is about as modern as the left side of my ass. What's worse is that people go fucking apenuts over this motherfucker. Supposedly, its supposed to be a great example of post-WWII early modern architecture. Since its placed on the lot on a diagonal to the street (the worst possible use of the space), people think that means something. That diagonal-to-the-street bullshit gets on my nerves. Way to slap Thomas Holme in the balls.
                         It all started with some badass Lithuanian-American named Sidney Hillman. This guy had a tough-ass life in Eastern Europe and then came to America to be a garment worker. In 1910, when his union went on super-strike, he took the lead using his Eastern European mega-toughness. I call it a super-strike because the union wasn't just on strike against its employer, it was on strike against itself. The super-strike ended with the formation of a new union, the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America.
                          Amalgamated? So the clothing workers were rendered through process of recovering precious metals from ore, using mercury? The ACWA remembered how much of a ball-buster Hillman was in the super-strike so they asked him to be their president.
                      He made the union into the creator of standards for the whole goddamn industry. His subjects got awesome working conditions and benefits. This guy was such a big dick-swinging motherfucker that he beat the shit out of communists and roundhouse kicked corrupt city officials. He even made the mafia kiss his Converse.
Sidney Hillman 1887-1946
                      The Philadelphia version of the ACWA started in 1915 as an amalgamation of several little local garment unions. They formed the Philadelphia Joint Board of the ACWA. They got large enough to open an office on South Street in 1934. In the mid-40's, the ACWA was able to get insurance and retirement plans going, and at the end of the 40's, the idea came along for full-scale prepaid medical care for all members. One revolutionary idea was going to be a medical center that would be exclusively for union members that would be built at 22nd and Chestnut, the first of its kind. They named it after Sidney Hillman in tribute to him, but it would turn out to be a huge insult.
                     For the design, they went with the firm of Louis Magaziner and Herman Polss. These two should have known better. They threw together a design with long rows of ugly windows and a beige stone exterior. It looked like a 1970's suburban elementary school, except it was 1949. Then they took it and turned it diagonal so dumbasses would think it was cool.

The model. Someone should have told 'em it looks like shit.
                     The Shitslice was built 1949-1950 and has baffled everyone who has walked by ever since. The ACWA merged with another group and became the ACTWU in 1976. Then they merged with some other motherfuckers to become UNITE in 1995, which has in turn become UNITE HERE, one ridiculously gigantic fucking acronym.
                    UNITE HERE is about done with this shitty building and started working with a Chicago developer to knock it the fuck down and build a brand new Sidney Hillman Medical Center along with a mixed-use 33-storey building. Not bad, right? Think again. Immediately after this was proposed, the NIMBYs came, this time in the form of the Preservation Alliance.
                     A controversy began over whether or not this and the other ugly boxy shit from the mid 20th Century deserved to be preserved. Their hearts are in the right place... if they were around when the INHP was tearing ass through Old City they would have saved a shitload of cool buildings... but this is going too far. This pile of bile never looked good in the first place. Future generations would shame us for not knocking down this shit.
                   The Chicago developer negotiated with the Preservation Alliance and threw them $125,000 to shut the fuck up. I guess everyone has their price. Hopefully the lengthy delay as a result of this misguided nonsense won't kill this new project. It's rare that I get to present a Butt-Fugler that will imminently be destroyed. Huzzah!

Post-NIMBY-modified design for the Fuck You Tower, or whatever the hell the new building will be called.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Old-Ass Building of the Week-- October 3rd

A.J. Holman & Company

1222 Arch Street

There ya go.

                     This building is from a time when even a bible factory/warehouse was reason enough to design a kick-ass building. How many modern publishers print books in such a Fortress of Fucktitude? Just look at that thing. Its cool because if you get bored looking at the cool-ass detailing at the bottom, you can look at the top and see a whole new canvas of intricate details. I love buildings that yell at you about the year they were built at the top of the building instead of the bottom. 
                     If it's the 19th Century and you want to make a shitload of money, start printing bibles, motherfucker. A. J. Holman and Company claimed to be the oldest bible publisher in America, even though that was barely true. In 1801, the German Immigrant Saer/Sauer/Sower family published the first English Language Bible right here in Philafuckingdelphia.
                    Andrew Jackson Holman became their plant's superintendent in 1839 and managed to buy them out in 1869 (not 1872 as some modern books say). He was such a dick that he named the company after himself and set up a publishing house at 930 Arch Street, which still stands today but is mangled beyond recognition. This crazy bastard was so good a bibling that he bought out many of his competitors and needed a much bigger HQ only 10 years later.
                  A.J. chose the Wilson Brothers firm to execute a high-tech fireproof bible factory/warehouse that could not only print bibles and photo albums in six languages, but store them as well. The building had a cast iron skeleton... that doesn't sound like much now, but in 1881 was a big fucking deal. A.J Holman and Co. moved in on November 1, 1881.
How it looked in 1885... it used to tower over the whole block.
                   This building was so useful that the company was still occupying it when the Holman family sold themselves off to those trustafarian Lippencotts in 1961. When Harper & Row bought out the Lippencotts, they chose to sell the Holman subsidiary, since they already published their own bibles. In 1979, the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention bought the company and recouped the purchase price in only 5 years. The Holman company is technically still around, now the "H" in  B&H Publishing Group.
                  The old Holman Building is still kicking ass and taking names as apartments and as part of the Fabric Workshop and Museum, directly across the street from the Great Wall of Pennsylvania aka the Convention Center. It goes pretty unnoticed by most nowadays so check it out the next time you're on the 1200 block of Arch Street.

Ad for the company from 1882.