Monday, February 27, 2012

Mystery Building of the Week-- February 27th

Marketplace Design Center (aka Guaranty Industrial Building, a.k.a the Loft Building)

2400 Market Street

Here it is.
                         Known to most people as the Long Building with the Whales, the Marketplace Design Center appears to have popped up mysteriously in the early 20th Century and kept on truckin' despite numerous plans to take it down. Though most of its history is known, how it got to be there is still a mystery.
                         In 1915, the space along the Schuylkill River between Market and Chestnut Streets was an empty lot that was itching for development. At one point in time, a plan was floated for a Convention Hall that would not only fill the space but cover the Baltimore and Ohio railroad tracks that ran through. The old Furness-designed B & O station was just across the street on Chestnut.

Empty Lot of the Year, 1915. The old B & O Station is in the background.

If this was built, the Schuylkill River Trail would be much different today.
                   Needless to say, it never happened. The Convention Hall was built over by the UPenn Museum and was demolished in 2005 to make way for some HUP Shit. This is where the mystery begins. Some time between 1915 and 1922, the Marketplace Design Center building was built. The owners were J. E. Gomery and J. C. Schwartz, founders of the Gomery-Schwartz car company. The building's architect, name, and purpose are unknown, but it must be assumed that the building was used for the car company, since it was built with two-way ramps that went up to each super-reinforced floor.
                 In 1922, Gomery-Schwartz's corporation became known as the Guaranty Corporation, and the building finally got a verifiable name: The Guaranty Industrial Building. The Hudson-Essex car company did truck service and repair on the first, fourth, and fifth floors. They also got their name emblazoned on the building where the whales are now. The second floor was used as a showroom rental space, much the same purpose it has now, and the remaining floors were used by Gomery-Schwartz.
                Strangely enough, when the structure became the Guaranty Industrial Building, the articles that announce it make a point of saying that the architect and construction cost was unknown. So it was even a mystery back then!!! That shit's fucked up, yo.

Here it is in 1930.
                     Only eight years later, the Guaranty Industrial Building was being eyed up by the then Pennsylvania Railroad-owned B & O Railroad to be demolished to make way for their new Philly station. One fucking hell of a station.

A lot of people think that this is an alternate design for 30th Street Station. They are WRONG. However, B & O was owned by Pennsylvania Railroad at this point, so it was probably a non-starter.
                   Geez, talk about a Dead-Ass Proposal. That's one hell of a building. Obviously, it never happened. The building languished on for decades as crappy industrial space (called the Loft Building) until becoming the Marketplace Design Center, a rather unique use for this kind of building. Check out their website to see all the shit they do... to write it all here would make this article reach Sirius C.
                   The mystery remains... what year was it built? Who was the architect? and What the fuck!?!?!?!


  1. So is it correct to say that the above propsed train station could have been built opposite 30th Street Station? Talk about rail dominance.

  2. fwiw, the whale painting (by wyland) was added in 1993.

  3. IIRC on one of the historic land use maps or another it shows that the space was a Gimbels warehouse on top of everything else, too.

  4. Wasn't it also the Kennedy Center run by the Phila School District?