Thursday, December 8, 2011

Dead-Ass Proposal of the Week-- December 8th


501 N. 22nd Street

Pictured: Something that will never happen.
                        This would have been a cool building to have around... instead we ended up with that shitty-ass Best Western. The worst part is, this proposal strung us all the fuck along until the last second before going kaput. It wasn't like other dead-ass proposals that just faded away... this thing seemed like it was ready to go.. then it wasn't.
                          Parkway22 started as a 2006 proposal for a tall-ass residential skyscraper called the Barnes Tower in anticipation of the new Barnes Foundation Museum that was going to be built nearby. NIMBYs from two neighborhood groups went fucking ballistic over the idea.

The Barnes Tower. Should have called it the John G. Johnson Tower.
                        Their main concern? Shadows!!! NOOOOO not the shadows!!! Son of beeeeeech!!! Anyway, the NIMBYs didn't move to a city to have tall buildings be built within site of their homes. They took the developer V & H Hotel Associates to task, even getting corrupt politician Vincent Fumo involved. When the NIMBY problems were all said and done, they lopped off over 100 feet from the tall tower, made it into two smaller buildings, and called it Parkway22. A sales office opened up in April 2007, and actual demolition of the shit-ass Best Western/Franklin Motor Inn began.
                        Folks couldn't believe their fucking eyes. Not only did an actual skyscraper plan get approved in a NIMBY stronghold, the plan was actually going to be built!! Then... the market tanked like a motherfucker. The sales office closed in May 2007 and the project was put on hold "until market conditions returned to normal." The developer popped back up 2 years later with a new plan that would start with the shorter building being built first... that idea didn't go much farther than the initial presentation.
                       Its almost unfair to say that this is a Dead-Ass Proposal because technically it could still potentially happen... the building is approved... but it probably never will happen. Fuck.

It's over, Johnny! It's OVER!!!!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Lost Bridge of the Week-- December 7th

Girard Avenue Bridge I

Spanning the Schuylkill at Girard Avenue

That's one hell of a bridge.
                      Sometimes a bridge can be really nice looking but turn out to be completely useless. This is one of those bridges. It was one of the most important arteries over the Schuylkill in its time, but managed to be so fucked up that it was demolished in less than 20 years. Talk about a shitty bridge.
                    In 1852, City Council argued about the need for free bridges over the Schuylkill. The current bridges were crowded as fuck and became more of a burden than a benefit. On March 27th, 1852, the Council passed "An Act to Authorize the Erection of Free Bridges over the Schuylkill", initiating the creation of both a Girard Avenue and Chestnut Street Bridge. The cost was not to exceed $175,000 for each one.
                    For the design, the city went with the German-educated Philly resident engineer Rudolph Hering. He designed a triple-spanned bridge that obviously went further for style points than functionality. The builder was Aldophus Bonanzo, and he took his goddamn time. Construction began in early 1853 and was taking forever. In the middle of 1854, Council complained about how the bridge was taking too long to build and how the Chestnut Bridge hadn't even started yet.
                     They shouldn't have been so surprised. Other Schuylkill River bridges that had been authorized in earlier decades (especially one that was planned at Arch Street numerous times) never materialized. The bridge finished construction in 1855 and that Chestnut Bridge didn't even start until 1857. The Girard Avenue Bridge came in waaay overbudget at $267,000.

Painting of the bridge by Thomas Eakins. It's the one behind that railroad bridge.
                       As the bridge came into use, people figured out pretty quickly that it sucked. It was too thin and way more people were using it at any given time than it was designed for. Trolleys started running over it in 1859, the same trolley line that exists as the Route 15 Trolley today. By 1871, the bridge was literally falling apart. It was in desperate need of repair but interests that used the river didn't want it blocked for the construction, namely the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company. They sued the city in that year for not stopping the repair and lost.
                      Despite the repairs in 1871, the bridge was all fucked up again a year later. With the Centennial coming up, the city just said "fuck it" and destroyed the bridge in 1872. The bridge that would be built to replace it was the widest in the world and lasted nearly a century.
                     Even though he was a shitty-ass engineer, Hering went on to become very well-known later in life due to his involvement with the reversing of the Chicago River. There's awards and metals and shit named after him now. Not bad for a fuck-up.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Butt-Fugly Public Art of the Week-- December 6th

Major by Charles Fehlen

Northwest corner of 8th and Locust

Major? Major piece of shit!! Pic from
                   What an ugly pile of assfruit. Like the most butt-fugly buildings, this dung arch is made of concrete. Unlike most of the public art in the city, this one was actually designed by a Philadelphia-based artist (!!!!!!!!!!!)... too bad it looks like crap.
                    The year was 1983. At that point, the ugly-ass American Postal Workers House (now part of HUP) had been complete for 6 years without satisfying its percent-for-art requirement. They commissioned local artist Charles Fahlen to put together anything ugly enough to distract your eyes from their disfigured-ass structure... and he gave them this giant concrete Duplo Block Disaster.
                 The Postal Workers House was built away from the corner of 8th and Locust, probably because the PATCO train turns under there. It's logical to assume that they didn't want so much weight over the train tunnel. Well that whole theory goes to shit considering that this monstrosity weighs 53,000 goddamn pounds!!!! It's just a matter of time before this thing just falls straight through the sidewalk... and that day will be glorious.

                 Not much is known about what this crap is supposed to represent... this piece is called Major, but if there's anything we've learned about public art so far, it's that the title doesn't mean shit. You could say its some kind of monumental arch... but is it for a dog or something? The opening at the bottom is tiny, considering this thing is like 14 feet tall. Major? Major what? Like the military rank Major? Wow Fahlen, way to take a huge shit on our armed forces!
                I like to think that Fahlen drank a bunch of wet concrete and ate some tacos. He then shit out this giant fucknugget the next day. When he was done, he was like "Wow, that was a MAJOR poop!", and named the sculpture after it. Maybe he was building a new dog house and kept fucking up... after the third time he just piled them all up and submitted it as his newest sculpture. He named it Major to say how much of a major pain in the ass it was to build a dog house out of concrete.
                No matter what it means, its still garbage. A statue of a guy jerking off would be more appealing than this fading bunch of concrete blocks. Feh.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Mystery Butt-Fugly Building of the Week-- December 5th

World Communications Charter School

512 South Broad Street

Mystery AND Butt-Fugly? FUUUUUuuuuuuuuuuuuuu...
                This building is ugly as fuck now but probably looked pretty nice at some point. If you look closely at the facade, you can see how this was once a decent-looking building but has been Butt-Fuglified by crappy renovations over the years. This pile of dung makes the Avenue of the Arts look like the Avenue of the Farts.
               Broad and South should be a mighty corner in this city, instead its just a huge disappointment.. one nice-looking building (Arts Bank), a huge empty lot (about to be covered by an ugly building), a mangled-up church, and this Factory of Forgettable Fuck-ups. The problem with this building is... no one seems to know exactly when it was built and who the fuck designed it.
               The northwest corner of Broad and South used to be home to the so-called "Red Mansion", also known as the Barton Mansion, along with its big-ass sideyard.

If it WAS red, there's no way to know.
                        The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission says the building was constructed in 1925, but other than that, no record of what was going on with it can be found until 1950. Here's a picture of it in 1927.. as you can see, it looked a hell of a lot better back then.

It all the way to the left.
                   The windows were of immense size and the first floor was storefronts. Its hard to tell what it was being used for because no one ever bothered to take a picture of the whole thing... just the edges of it appear in pictures of other things.

There it is on the left in this pic of the Johnson/Darley Mansion in 1936.
                      From what I can tell, the building was occupied by the R. Jacobs Clothing Company in 1950, A & A Clothes in 1956, Novelty Printing Company in 1969, and Guilford Graphics Inc in 1986. In far more recent history, this building was home to the McCarrie School of Health Sciences and Technology Inc, a small Associates Degree-bearing for profit college that gave out licenses in Dental Hygiene and shit like that. They went to shit in 1998, the same year World Communications Charter School moved in. I wish World Communications Charter School was as goofy as charter school names get in this city, but its definitely not.
                    This leaves the eternal question... who or what was the building's first occupant? Who was the fucking architect? Why were the huge windows reduced in size down to little portholes? It's a goddamn mystery. The ground floor of the facade now has these silly images on it that say "Question. Learn. Change." on them. To me, they mean: Question where this building came from, Learn what the facade is supposed to look like, and Change the facade to make it look nice again.
                    Anyone out there know the origin of this building!?!?!? Help!!!