Monday, January 2, 2012

Mystery Building of the Week-- January 2nd

Crazy Bay Window Building

1208 Chestnut Street

What the shit!?!?!
                   This building has always irked the shit out of me. That crappy storefront with the incredibly ancient-looking bay window that has vistichises growing all over it. Does that bay window hark from ages past on Chestnut East or was it added on sometime later for a cool effect? If so, who the fuck put it there and why?
                  The origins of the building itself is very uncertain. Most likely it is the mangled and re-mangled remains of a building built in the mid-1800's. The earliest record of it is this drawing:

1208 Chestnut in 1880. There's no way to know if this is even the same building. Pic from the PAB.
                    The space has had a looong list of tenants: American Copying House in 1876, Nagle, Cook, and Ewing Printing Company late 1870's to 1880's, Child's Dining Hall Company in the 1900's decade, Alaska Copper River Mining Company had offices there in the 1910's. A number of architects had offices there in 1900 to the early 20's, Tappin's Jewelry Store in 1929, American Loan Company had offices there 1900-1930, Elevator Constructor Monthly was published there in the 1920's, the list goes on and on.
                    The architects that occupied offices in the building 1900-1920's give us a clue to where the fuck that bay window came from. Frank R. Watson, designer of the bay, had an office in the building in 1900. Maybe it was that group of architects that altered the building to have that crazy design on it? Even if that's true, where's the rest of it? Was it only 3 floors then or was it four or was it MORE? The drawing above and the amount of office tenants in the building at the same time implies that the building must have been taller.

Pieces from the Crazy Bay and whatever other parts of the facade are now lost. From the PAB.
                         One major clue I found was from the Commerce Clearing House fire and casualty cases record from 1942. It states that 1208 Chestnut suffered a major fire and states that the building was "eight stories tall". EIGHT!!! It also talks about the imminent removal of five stories, which would explain why its only 3 stories today (the 2nd story is completely covered). Well, that's a great little tidbit to find about the building except that here's a picture of it from a year before that:

There it is on the left and its definitely not 8 stories.
                         WHAT THE FUCK. So in 1942 there was a plan to reduce it in height but the picture from 1941 already has it looking similar to how it does today? ILLOGICAL!!!!!!!!!!! Ok, so let's say that the picture is misdated and the building was eight stories tall with a facade that matched that crazy bay window. Why did no one bother to take a picture of it in its full glory?
                         The Conkling Armstrong Terra Cotta Company, builders of what must have been a kick-ass facade, never bothered to take a picture of it beyond the individual sections in the picture above? That sucks. Usually in a case like this I would look up old aerial photos for clues.. but since much taller buildings exist across the street, I can't get a good pic of the front of the building.
                           One mystery about this motherfucker just leads to another. If the building was 8 stories, when did it get that way? Once it was reduced to three, what was the logic of keeping that remaining little bit of the facade? All records imply that the drawing from 1880 above and the Crazy Bay Window Building as it stands today are one in the same building. Perhaps that is untrue. One day, when Chestnut East is great again (and it WILL happen), someone's gonna want to know what's up with this shit. Maybe someone will even take on the task of restoring the building to eight stories! Does anyone know what happened here? Can anyone find a picture of what the building looked like at its full height?!?! God fucking dammit!!!

1 comment:

  1. GroJLart, what is your e-mail? I have a photo of this building from 1899 showing all eight stories.