Thursday, June 14, 2012

Butt-Fugly Building of the Week-- June 14th

Doubletree Hotel

237 South Broad Street

                         Look at this fucking cement accordion. This shitty-ass building may be pretty nice on the inside, but from the outside it looks stupid as fuck. Its almost like they forgot to finish the top... it just sort of abruptly ends. The worse part is-- this crappy building never needed to be here in the first place. Most of you know what used to stand at this spot but here's a lil reminder just in case:

                            That's right... the butt-fugly Doubletree was built on the ashes of the great Hotel Walton. The story of what we now call the Doubletree started with none other than the Great Wall of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Rumblings of the creation of a large convention center for Philadelphia began in the very early 1980's. To get a jump on the competition, four hotel companies went gangbusters on building new hotels to serve the coming behemoth.
                           One of those four was HERCO, the Hershey Entertainment and Resort Company. Back then, the Hershey Food Company was expanding all around the nation with resorts, amusement parks, even a zoo. Among their grand ideas was to build a luxury hotel for Center City Philadelphia that would kick the shit out of all the competition. All they needed was the perfect location.
                            At the time, the southeast corner of Broad and Locust was a piece of shit. A massive empty lot bounded by Locust, Spruce, Broad, and Watts Streets dominated the area for nearly 20 years. The area just to the east was, at that time, the seediest, shittiest, crime-ridden and shitbag infested spot in the city. The Mumia thing had just happened, bringing unwanted attention to the area. A revitalization plan for the spot had been in full swing for a decade with very little effect. The Hersheyfucks decided that this would be the best possible (and cost-effective) place to drop a super-luxury hotel.
                         They teamed up with a developer called Lobro Associates (sounds made-up) and went to Alesker and Dundon architects for a design. Being that it was the very early 80's, you can't expect much. Well, they managed to create something worse than you would even expect from that time period. They took your standard cement boxitecture and flipped it diagonal, creating great views from the hotel rooms (unless you're on the side facing the Arts Tower) but a crappy accordian-looking facade on the outside. The only redeeming quality of the whole place is the glass atrium at the bottom.
                          This 25-story bastard would include 431 rooms, a shitload of conference and ballroom space, three fancy restaurants, goofy shit like tv speakers in the bathrooms, and to top it all off, a gigantic 428-car parking garage that would reach all the way to Spruce and straddle Watts Street. The dirty motherfucker was built in 1981-1982. The place would officially open on March 8th, 1982 as the Hershey Philadelphia Hotel.

How it looked when it was brand new... like shit.
                        When the big-ass cement-cordian opened, people thought it would gentrify 13th Street and the surrounding area. They were wrong... it wouldn't be until the great Tony Goldman came along many years later for that to happen. Though the hotel got rave reviews, customers were hard to find. Marketing a hotel based around a food company was much more difficult than your standard hotel chain. On top of that, the promised convention center was delayed, delayed, and delayed again. The hotel would operate at a loss the entire time it was under Hershey's name.
                         In 1991, Hershey went crawling to Hilton Inns, Inc to help get some fucking asses in the beds. In September of that year, the hotel was renamed the Philadelphia Hilton Hotel and Towers. Wait a minute...Hotel AND Towers? Where are the fucking towers? Anyway, Hershey would continue to manage the place while using Hilton's humongous branding and reservation abilities.
                       By 1993, it still wasn't working out. Hershey had enough and did everything they could to break their lease, which was supposed to go until 2003. Eventually, the Doubletree folks came along and officially took over on October 1st, 1993. In 1999, Hilton bought up Doubletree's parent company... therefore Hilton is sort of in charge of the hotel once again... its official name is Doubletree by Hilton Philadelphia Center City. Today, the hotel is doing just fine.
                     Despite a shitload of renovations, remodelings, and rebrandings over the years, you can't get away from the fact that this is an ugly motherfucking piece of dogshit. You'd think with all those upgrades that they would do something about the horrendous trench out front that's supposed to be a stairway to the BSL and PATCO. Oh well. Hershey, you should have just stuck to chocolate.

The trench.


  1. One quibble. Your commentary led me to believe that the Hershey company tore down that beautiful Hotel Walton to erect the hotel you loathe and then you state that it was built on "... (a) massive empty lot bounded by Locust, Spruce, Broad, and Watts Streets dominated the area for nearly 20 years." I'm sorry but that's a bit disingenuous. I agree that the exterior of the Double Tree is not architecturally pleasing but to imply that it replaced a beautiful structure that had been long gone for decades is an unfair assertion.

  2. You didn't even mention the Empire Theatre that was also there right before the Hotel Walton (and which I only know about because it was your lost building of the week from 12/28/11).

  3. While the Hershey Foods folks didn't cover themselves in glory building and running this place, they do run an absolutely first-class, elegant, luxurious hotel in the company's hometown. Must be a Philadelphia thing.

  4. While the Hershey Foods folks didn't cover themselves in glory building and running this hotel, they do run a fabulous, luxurious, elegant hotel in a beautiful 1920s building in their hometown. Must be a Philadelphia thing, then.