Thursday, November 3, 2011

Empty Lot of the Week-- November 3rd

Lucky Garden Trash Lot

Bounded by Ridge Ave, 12th Street, Spring Garden Street, and Buttonwood Street

That's crap.
                         Now this is one sorry-ass piece of land. The area around it on Spring Garden is finding ways to improve, but this shitty lot is stuck in development limbo, probably forever. Hopefully, as progress continues in the Loft District and other parts of the neighborhood, this shit-lot will finally give way to some construction. The only thing that's historically cool about this lot is that it once had a building that had a giant cast iron statue of Henry Clay on it.

From the Ridge Ave. side in 1858. It makes for one eerie looking picture.
                      In more recent history, the lot has held a brass works and a lumber yard. Someone tried to build a fast food restaurant here awhile back but the Chinatown Neighborhood Association kicked the shit out of 'em. In the mid '00s, the lot was purchased by a developer called Lucky Garden. Lucky Garden built a large mixed-use development on the block to the south, but left this 2 million dollar 30,698 square foot parcel bare as fuck.
                    This lot is a locational goldmine. The confluence of three well-trafficked roads: Ridge Ave, 12th Street, and Spring Garden Street. The lot is zoned heavy industrial and probably needs environmental clean-up, which might be what has held back development here. Though this area actually counts as Chinatown North, I say fuck that and build something here that could be the gateway to the Loft District.
                   There's not much else to say other than BUILD NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Lost Building of the Week-- November 2nd

Aldine Hotel

1910 Chestnut Street

The one on the left. Image from the Philadelphia Architects and Buildings Project.
                This thing was cool. The one on the right still stands, but the one on the left is gone. Just check that shit out. It would be great if the building was still complete. I guess this article counts as an Old-Ass Building of the week as well, since the addition to the original building still stands.
                Dr. James Rush, crazy-ass creator of the Ridgeway Library building at Broad and Christian, Treasurer of the U.S. Mint, and medical doctor, designed his own gigantic damn house in 1847. So on top of all that other shit he did, he's also an architect. It was so gigantic that it took three years to build, 1848-1851. Once complete, it was capable of holding 800 guests for the huge balls-out keggers the Rush/Ridgeway rich-ass family would have there. After Rush died (in the house) in 1869, Philadelphians wondered what the fuck would be done with it.
                In 1875, the massive house/monster was put up for sale. Those trustafarian Lippencotts purchased it for $110,000 and opened it as the Aldine Hotel in 1877. They eventually got the design firm of Yarnell and Cooper to alter and expanded the building in 1887. They ripped off the facade, applied a new one, and added floors to the building.
                The hotel was one of the most luxurious in the city, and partially served as an extended-stay location as well. In 1893, a fire consumed part of the structure. The weight-bearing walls of the place became damaged, and Mega-architect of Doom Addison Hutton was brought in to renovate the whole building and also design a huge (still standing) addition in 1895. When the hotel re-opened, it was the most badass motherfucker in town.
When the addition was new. Even the side of it is cool. 
                      In 1909, the hotel became the object of what we've been calling a Flash Mob here in Philadelphia. Ty Cobb was staying at the hotel at the same time that Connie Mack was campaigning to have him banned from baseball. Thousands of people swarmed the 1900 block of Chestnut Street to kick his ass. A 12-man police escort was needed to get him out of there.
                    Less than 20 years later, the original part of the hotel was gone. No one seems to know the actual demolition date. I know it lasted until at least 1923, since there's a picture of it from that year:

You can see it there way in the background.

                        I also found one account from 1927 describing the building as "recently demolished". Once deleted, the original Aldine was replaced by the Boyd Theatre and a bunch of crappy one-storey storefronts. Nowadays, that stretch of Chestnut is improving but still isn't as nice as it was in the 1890's. The question remains... what happened to the Aldine? Fire? Sold and demolished? What the fuck? How did the addition survive but not the original building? I guess this article counts as a Mystery Building of the Week as well!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Butt-Fugly Building(s) of the Week-- November 1st

Centre Square Towers

1500 Market Street

Asser Square.
                     These two buildings prove that the 1970's plus architecture multiplied by Vincent Kling = Shit! These two concrete Boredom Boxes are what you get when Kling is trying to be creative. No matter how many times they redesign or renovate the plaza between them, these two buildings sit there looking like shit.
                  It started in the late 50's and early 60's. Ed Bacon was looking for an architect that was dumb enough to commit to a huge redevelopment plan that had no backers and no budget. Louis Kahn was asked but he was like "FUCK no!", so they went with Vincent Kling. By 1967, Bacon and Kahn managed to take down some of the city's most beautiful buildings and replace them with flat-ass boxes. One of the only relics left was the former site of the Harrison Building, a perfectly preserved 19th Century awesomecastle which had been demolished in 1969 for these pieces of shit.
                  Developer Jack Wolgin jumped on the opportunity and wanted something more than a box from Vincent Kling. Kling came up with two slightly different boxes with the corners cut off connected by a lobby/plaza thing. That was as far as his creativity could go.

Early rendering for the Centre Square Towers.
                             Now, I must say that the original plan for these things was for them to be covered in a facade of stainless steel... this would have given the buildings a little more style... but when the project started running over budget, Wolgin said "Fuck it, we'll do it live! Make it out of concrete! WE'LLDOITLIVE!!!! Fuckin' thing SUCKS!" Construction began in 1972.

Under confucktion.
                     Wolgin loved shitty art so he commissioned the crappiest garbage he could think of for the percent-for-art requirement. The most infamous of these was the big-ass clothespin by Claes Oldenburg, while the others, a DuBuffet and a Calder are so unmemorable that no one even cares to think about them. Once complete, the building complex was considered super-asstastic awesome. Companies moved right in, the largest being Towers Perrin, a "consulting" firm that is still there. The buildings are credited with bringing big business to west Market. Whoop-de-shit.
                    In 2002, the complex was sold to a new owner and they eventually got Daroff Design to create a new lobby and plaza for the building a few years later in order to make it less butt-fugly. The new plaza works a lot better than the old one, but the towers remain brown stained pieces of shit. Wolgin should have plunked down the extra cash for some stainless steel instead of that shitbag sidewalk they built them out of. Dumbass.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Old-Ass Building of the Week-- October 31st

Jefferson Medical College and Curtis Clinic Building

1015 and 1035 Walnut Street

                      Shitbag modern architects, take some fucking notes. This thing is from eighty years ago but will never go out of style. In 500 years this beast will still be standing at 1015 Walnut Street, kicking new buildings' asses. I wish Horace Trumbauer was like Freddy Kruger, appearing in modern architects' nightmares and making them design cool-ass buildings.

"This is how you do it, dickheeeeeeeeead!!!" -Horace Trumbauer
                      This buildings has it all... architectural ceramics, little sculptures of shit all over it, and even GARGOYLES. Take some time to go over at look at this thing closely to see it all. A pic of the whole building almost does it no justice. The best part? Its not one, but actually TWO buildings. They come together so seamlessly that they appear to be and are always regarded as one building.
                      Back in 1928, Jefferson Medical College wasn't on the 13 acres of Center City it takes up today... it was relegated to the block bounded by Sansom, 10th, 11th, and Walnut Streets. That meant that if the college wanted to expand, it would have to take out its kick-ass 1898-built campus buildings and build new ones.
                   They went up to Horace Trumbauer, who was shitting out awesome buildings every few months in this time period, and said, "Look, dickface. We need you to design such an awesome building that no one will mind us knocking down our beautiful-ass buildings that we put up only 30 years ago. Are you up to it motherfucker?" Trumbauer let out a bellowing evil laugh of the "Muhahah" sort. He scribbled this design on a napkin and handed it over to them:

Holy shit!
                         Jefferson College shit themselves and went ahead with the project, but it was so much awesome that they were only able to build half of it.

Jefferson Medical College, part ONE!
                            Part one looked so fucking cool that almost immediately after it was complete, Jefferson Medical College initiated phase two. Since Cyrus H. K. Curtis had just put up some scrilla for the building, they name the second building Curtis Clinic. Later they would rename it the Curtis Building, confusing the fuck out of everyone considering there's like five other building with the same name. The Curtis Clinic was completed in 1931 and everyone forgot the 1898 buildings in like five minutes. The whole project came in at three times the original budget.

The building wasn't even completed yet in this photo and the people walking by are so excited about it their vibrating at an impossible speed.
                         The building(s) have managed to stay in continuous use ever since, and Jefferson's 1950's, 60's, and 70's expansions have (for the most part) used its color scheme. It was designed to take a four storey addition on top, but no modern architect or builder has the ability to design or build one, so don't bother.  Its still Jefferson's best looking building, even when you include the still-surviving 1898 "Main" building on 10th Street and the Edison Building at 9th and Sansom. Good job, Trummyballs.

View from 1970 with its crappy-ass noisy motherfucking Foerderor Pavilion.