Thursday, October 27, 2011

Dead-Ass Proposal of the Week-- October 27th

Curtis Temple of Learning

1800 North Broad Street

That's a big temple.
                            Holy shit, this motherfucker would have been really cool to have around. North Philly would be a totally different place with this 350-foot beast looming over it. Really, this building would go unrivaled in North Philly to this day. It would be a well-known landmark.
                            In 1927, Temple University was expanding its enrollment very rapidly. The school's new president, Charles Beury, was intent on building up Temple into a super-massive mega-school. Under Beury's direction, the campus expanded and built a number of new buildings. Beury's ultimate goal was to build a super-massive collegiate tower that could compete with the University of Pittsburgh's then-new 535-foot Cathedral of Learning. To make sure everyone knew that it would be a complete knock-off, he named his tower the Temple of Learning.
                          The Temple of Learning would be a five-building complex that would come to fruition into a 34-storey beacon of education that would kick the shit out of any college building, anywhere (except for the Cathedral of Learning). Beury wanted to name it after Shogun of Printing Cyrus H. K. Curtis, who had been donating endless amounts of his scrilla to the school ever since Beury took office. This beast wasn't just tall, it was wide. 400 feet wide North-to-South and 150 feet East-to-West. 
                          The building would be built in five phases...Phase One was a one-storey addition to the pre-existing Conwell Hall. Phase Two was started in 1928 and was open for learning on February 15, 1929. I assume Phases 3, 4, and 5 would be the tower and the other two pieces, but the Great Depression reared its ugly head after that and the rest never happened.
                          Too bad this bitch-bastard never got built. It's over 220 feet taller than any current building on the University's Main Campus. Wachman Hall, the current tallest at Temple, is only 131 feet. Luckily, it won't be the tallest much longer. Temple's newest residence hall is currently under construction, set to be the tallest building in North Philadelphia. Even so, its still slated to be slightly shorter than the Temple of Learning would have been. Bummer.

New Temple highrise "Gateway South". What a goofy name. Call it Assinthrope Hall or something cool like that.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Lost Bridge of the Week-- October 26th

Chestnut Street Bridge I

Crossing Dock Creek at Chestnut Street near Hudson's Alley

VERY lost bridge of the week. This engraving is somewhat inaccurate, but the house in the picture was the main focus of the original drawing, which was done by William Strickland 119 years after the bridge was built.
                           Now it's time to talk about Old Philadelphia, like village-sized primordial Philadelphia from the early early days. Dock Creek, that once ran through what is now Old City, was spanned by many little crappy bridges all around Penn's Green Country Towne of old. This was one of them. This bridge is so ancient that when it was installed, Chestnut beyond third street was the fucking edge of town.
                            It started in an unknown year in the late 1600's. Chestnut Street had a dip in it that would get filled with the water from Dock Creek for some parts of the year and be an impassable muddy hole the rest of the year. A rudimentary wooden bridge was built that did not last very long. In 1699, the city (village) of Philadelphia commissioned a stone arch bridge that would span the trench.
                            Money ran out before the protective sides of the stone bridge could be built, so the span was just a stone arch with a flat top that proved to be extremely dangerous. A man named John Reynalls lost his daughter to drowning after falling off the span. The Governor of Barbados, who rented the house in that engraving, wouldn't even use the bridge.
                          The first written account of the ancient Chestnut Street Bridge was from February 7th, 1719 and is all about how it was precarious as fuck to cross and how it needed to be repaired. Folks who lived nearby would build makeshift wooden railings for the bridge, but these would often end up falling down. Later in 1719, another account talks about how it had partially collapsed.
                         The bridge went through repair after repair until 1750. In that year, the Chestnut Street Bridge had deteriorated to the point of impassibility. The arch had completely collapsed at this point and the creek would overrun the bridge/pile of rocks in certain parts of the year. Only seven years later, the creek was filled and the bridge was forgotten.
                         Very forgotten. By the early 1800's, the existence of this bridge was completely unknown, save the ravings of the few people that managed to live long enough to remember it. A 75-year-old man named Arthur Howell told tales in 1822 about how his father told him that the family home was built over the site of the old Dock Creek that was next to the old Chestnut Street Bridge. It wasn't until one year later, when the first water pipes were being laid under Chestnut Street, that the oak pilings of the old bridge were discovered to the surprise of the entire city. It was like finding Bigfoot!
                         This bridge seems so simple to us now.. a pile of rocks in the form of an arch spanning only a small gap... but in 1699 protoamerica, this was THE SHIT. No matter how many crossings that would later be called the Chestnut Street Bridge, this was the first.

You can see the Chestnut Street Bridge in the upper middle of this conjectural engraving.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Butt-Fugly Public Art of the Week-- October 25th

Spirit of Enterprise  by Jacques Lipchitz

Central Terrace of the Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial Sculpture Garden,

Shitpiece 1, image from
and Government by the People by Jacques Lipschitz

Thomas Paine Plaza (aka Reyburn Plaza aka Municipal Services Plaza)

and Asspiece 2. Image from
                     I'm gonna catch plenty of flack for this one. People love these two sculptures, but I think they look like turds. No, literally. This Jacques Lipchitz guy sure likes to make sculptures that sound like his name, that is, Lift Shits. His Prometheus Strangling a Vulture in front of the Art Musuem ain't no picnic either, but it works well where it is. These other two, however, are completely useless other than for Scat Porn.
                  Spirit of Enterprise was commissioned by the Fairmount Park Art Association in 1950. They wanted a large sculpture from Lift Shits to represent America's "Constructive Enterprise". Ten long years later, this gigantic pile of wasted bronze got installed in the Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial Sculpture Garden. Take a good long look at the picture at the top of the article. Is the eagle standing on the faceless figure's giant dick? Supposedly, the massive cock, large enough for an eagle to perch on, is supposed to be some kind of faceless snake. Suck MY faceless snake, Lift Shits.
                At least Spirit of Enterprise is tucked over on Kelly Drive, so most people only see it for a split second as they speed by. Only joggers and cyclists have to suffer viewing it when passing... serves them right for trying to live forever. Unlike Spirit, Lift Shits' Government by the People is one of the most highly visible pieces of public art in the entire city. An embarrassment, really.
                In 1967, right about the time that the Municipal Services Building was nearing completion, Lift Shits was asked by the city to create a "monumental" sculpture for the shitty-looking plaza. They told him he could choose what to make. Lift Shitz came back to them with this:

One of the plaster sketches of Government by the People
                         The commissioners loved it so much that they named it.. Lift Shits didn't care what it would be called. Somehow, this pile of turds is supposed to represent Democracy. I think it represents Shitocracy. I'm not alone in hating this thing. In 1972, then-mayor Frank Rizzo cut off funding for this mess, thinking it looked like spilled plaster.
                       The Fairmount Park Art Association got involved along with Lift Shits' butt-buddy, PMA guru  R. Sturgis Ingersoll,. They managed to get the 30-foot bronze feces monument installed in 1976. Lift Shits had been dead for three years at that point, never getting to see his shitsterpiece go up. The giant turd that is being lifted by the mishmash of human figures is supposed to represent the flag of Philadelphia. Get the fuck out of here. Way to slap the city with your cock, Lift Shits.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Mystery Building of the Week-- October 24th

Hawthorne Hall

3849 Lancaster Avenue, 3849 Hamilton Street

Awww Shiiit--- Image by Google

                        Now here's a mystery. This is that crazy curved building that everyone always says needs to be rehabbed in order for its neighborhood to come roaring back. Its one crazy motherfucking structure. Its actually a mishmash of different properties put together into one rounded juggernaut. Its got statuary friezes all over the place, one of them being a huge sign that says "Hawthorne Hall!!", only adding to its mystery.
                      This building is dangerous. Everyone who walks, runs, bikes, or drives by this thing slows down and says "Holyfuckcurvybuildingwithfriezesandshit!!!", and crashes into a pedestrian. The history of the building is somewhat known, but the architect, who put it there, and WHY is a forever mystery that know one wants to talk about.
                       Seriously... if you research this building you'll get a thorough description, its full timeline, and an assload of pictures of it, but no one seems to know who the fuck the architect was. Was it some kind of architecture god? Was the angel in the frieze in the middle responsible? Did she shit the building out her back and get stuck within it?

"I am Angel! I defecate late Queen Anne-style buildings! Pic by Max Buten
                        No one can even seem to get the year it was built straight. One sources says 1900, another 1895, another 1875. The maps from 1895 don't have the building, but who knows how up-to-date they were. Therefore, not only is the architect unknown, the year built is still a damn mystery!! Even the Philadelphia Architects and Buildings Project doesn't have any details. What the fuck!?!?!
                        The one thing on the PAB file that gives some hope is that it was locally historically registered on July 5th, 1984... therefore there has to be a file on it at the Historical Commission. Here's a picture of it from 1908:

Looks like the upper floors are boarded up in this pic. Image by some dead guy.

                      Hawthorne Hall has had many uses. The upper floors have been used as a meeting space for decades... everything from neighborhood association meetings to railroad conventions. The retail spaces at the bottom started with a succession of drug stores but have also held others kinds of businesses. Nothing to crazy about the history... the real craziness comes from the look of the building and WHO THE FUCK DESIGNED THIS SHIT?!?!?
                       You wanna know something even weirder about this building? There's another one!!!!

What the fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck!!?!?!?!?!? Image from Google.
                              Hawthorne Hall has an evil twin just northwest of it... this one is/was in use as Truelight Missionary Baptist Church. This neighborhood seems to have a lot of old buildings and rowhomes being used as churches. In fact, the newest owner of Hawthorne Hall is one of those churches! Anyway, this version of the design doesn't have its name emblazoned across the top, but has a statuary frieze in its place. It also seems to have had its bay windows removed.
                              Recently, this stretch of Lancaster Avenue where Hawthorne Hall is located has received some attention due to pieces of public art being installed all over the place. Hawthorne Hall currently has wheatpastes in the windows and come kind of weird rainbow colored shit hanging from the top. This is all part of Drexel University's LOOK! project.

Colored bottlecaps hanging from Hawthorne Hall. Oh I get it, its recyclable. Whoop-de-shit. Pic from
                                Who the fuck designed this thing? Was it Hale? Furness? MacArthur? The Twelfth Imam? Does ANYONE out there know? If you do, let us know in the comment section below or e-mail me at


                     This is John McLaughlin and you ahhh now reading this in my voice! Haw-thooohne Hall was built by the Wright and Prentzle Company, some real estate speculatahs who built many high-end commah-cial and residential projects in Philadelphia and New Juh-sey. The building was probably modeled after the work of Wilson Eyah by some knock-off ahh-chitect on theyah staff. BYE BYE!!!

                                                                                                    *Special thanks to Rebecca Chan for the info!!