Thursday, January 19, 2012

Butt-Fugly Public Art of the Week-- January 19th

Burst of Joy by Harold Kimmelman

In the sunken pit in front of the Gallery at Market East, near the northwest corner of 9th and Market

Ahh jeez. Pic from
                          Burst of JOY? In front of the Gallery? Burst of Failure, Burst of Disappointment, Burst of Inappropriate... these are more apt names for this shiny-ass piece of shit. I never heard of joy bursting out of a steel column to kill us all. What a mess.
                           The worst part is, this isn't even a unique piece for this artist, there's like 800 different versions of it, many of which HAVE THE SAME NAME! This Kimmelman guy must be nuts. It's bad enough when sculptors have one successful design and just rehash it over and over again in different forms... but to give them all the same name? That's just beyond fucked up.

A different sculpture also called Burst of Joy.
                           This unfortunate piece of Public Art was a Percent-for-Art-shoehorn-in-some-crap project that was due to the construction of the Gallery in 1977. The piece was put there in order to create a "festive atmosphere" out front. Festive? What's festive about an exploding steel column? You know, the things that hold up buildings in a city? Its not festive when they explode!.Well it didn't fucking work, assholes. The front of the Gallery is depressing as shit.
                           Burst of Joy wasn't even supposed to be the name of this thing. In early newspaper articles from before it was installed, they called it Cornucopia. Cornucopia? What the fuck? I guess even Kimmelman has to set limits on what to name his goofy-ass shit. This silly motherfucker got installed on August 8, 1977, and has been standing there making people say "huh?" ever since.

Burst of Shit arriving on the back of a truck. Burst of Truck would be a more interesting sculpture.
                        After September 11th, this sculpture got more attention than it ever had before or since. Some nutty-ass 9/11 Truthers out there started to say that this thing was proof that the whole disaster was an inside job. How would that work? So in 1977, Kimmelman was helping the Illuminati or whatever plan the attack, then made a sculpture about it? Its more likely some Al Qaeda dude went to the Gallery, saw how much the mall sucked, and declared payback against America. As he was walking out, he saw Burst of Joy, and said, "That's a great idea!!".
                       Needless to say, it DOES resemble September 11th. Kind of unavoidable with a large exploding rectangle. If it wasn't inappropriate before, it is now. This thing is so ugly, it'll make you join Al Qaeda.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Lost Bridge of the Week-- January 18th

Penrose Ferry Bridge III

Spanning the Schuylkill at Penrose Avenue

Looking awesome with its draw open in 1880. 
                     This right here is a crossing that never gets any damn respect. Penrose Avenue is one of the oldest spots to cross the Schuylkill but no one gives a shit now and no one gave a shit back in the day, either. While every other Schuylkill crossing has been analyzed and painstakingly historically recorded over the centuries, this one barely gets a mention anywhere.
                      This spot became a nameless ferry crossing in the early 18th Century. By the end of the 1700's, the area got officially named "Penrose Ferry" after the ferryman who worked it the most, Samuel Penrose. In the early 1800's, a rope was suspended over the river that helped ferrymen push and pull small skiffs across for a nominal fee. When a ship needed to pass, they just dropped the rope into the water. Everyone forgot about Penrose at this point and just called the spot "Rope Ferry".
                     As the city continued to grow, talks began about building a Rope Ferry Bridge. This would be a railroad crossing for all points south and west of the city. Matthew Newkirk, businessmonger and bridge benefactor, decided that idea sucked and made the train line cross at Gray's Ferry instead. It was not until April 7th, 1853 that the state legislature approved a bridge at Penrose Avenue. The new bridge got mired in legal battles because it was only going to clear the river by 6 feet and multiple shipping interests sued. Once the bridge finally got built, a flood washed it away in less than a year.
                    Penrose Ferry Bridge II opened on June 30th, 1860. It didn't last very long either... on July 7th, 1876, the center deck of the bridge fell right into the river. The great Centennial Exhibition was going on in the city at the time and the incident was a source of massive embarrassment.
                   Finally, in 1878, a bridge that would actually last awhile was built. Penrose Ferry Bridge III was a 416 foot long iron truss bridge with a rotating pivot pier, which allowed the center section to open and create two 183 foot wide passages. The photo at the top of the article shows the bridge when the draw is open... and as you can see, looks pretty fucking awesome.
                  Unfortunately, it didn't look awesome for very long. In 1900, the whole bridge was reconstructed...the iron trusses were replaced with a network of steel. Though technically the same bridge, it  looked very different (and boring).

From 1910. Boooooring.
                       The bridge actually had this shitty look for most of its lasted all the way up until 1949, when the humongous George C. Platt Bridge replaced it. That bridge is currently only 9 years younger than the Penrose Ferry Bridge III was when it was demolished. In 1931, well before the Platt Bridge was thought of, funds were appropriated and plans were drawn for a Penrose Tunnel that would go under the Schuylkill to quickly bring cars to the planned "Municipal Airport" (now Philly International) that was on the drawing boards at the time. The funding and plans for that project were transferred to a different tunnel planned to cross under the Delaware that was never built.
                       This bridge lasted 71 years but no one seems to remember a damn thing about it, other than how much of an uproar occurred when it was closed for reconstruction in 1900. Apparently the construction of the new approaches took forever and was fucking up some farmer's lands on either side. Other than that, there's not much else recorded about what went on with this bridge. What a shame.

Pic of the site of the bridge after it was removed. You can see the construction of the Platt Bridge in the background.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Dead-Ass Proposal of the Week-- January 17th

              Today's Dead-Ass Proposal is one of the saddest broken dreams the city has ever seen. The one that people always say, "You know what Dead-Add Proposal you should do?" to me about. Which one is it? Check out the Philaphilia article down at the City Paper's Naked City Blog to find out!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Mystery Building of the Week-- January 16th

Edwin Hart Livery Company Building

631 North Broad Street

What the motherfuck is going on here?
                 What's with this building? Its obviously very old and seems to have been ignored over the years. All of the other buildings on its block from its same era have been long demolished. How did this one manage to survive? Worse yet, who designed it and when the fuck was it built?
                 Luckily enough, at least we know WHY it was built. The plaque on the middle of the facade reads "E. Hart Stable". The old maps corroborate that this was indeed the location of the Edwin Hart Livery Company. The other users of the building over the years are also known. Edwin Hart Livery was there from at least 1875 to at most 1900. The Banker Brothers Car Company was in there in 1902. Prest-O-Lite Gas Tanks were distributed here in 1903. The Cleveland-based White Sewing Machine Company occupied the space in 1907, then got into the car business and filled the building with the White Motor Car Company from 1908 to 1913.
               The Falls Tire Company held the spot in 1915. The building later became the Guarantee Automobile Exchange in 1920. Sharpe and Dohme Pharmaceuticals held a lab in there from 1929 up until the 1960's. The West Wholesale Drug Company ran a store there in 1954. In more recent history, the Lucky Circle Hosiery Company ran the place in 1990. The main storefront on the building says "Houseplant Wholesalers Open to the Public", but I've never seen anyone walk through the door. Until recently, a vintage furniture store held the small storefront to the south.
              The building once had a big-ass water tower on it... you can see it in this picture from 1925. 
The building is halfway down the block. Gee, this section of North Broad looked a helluva lot better without the retail pad sites.
                  Some motherfuckers named Varenhorst put together a fantasy-ish master plan for North Broad Street that eliminates the entire block that this building is on and replaces it with some new shit that surrounds a circular green area to the east.

Someone find me a bigger picture of this.
                    That's certainly an interesting idea, but I don't know if we should really want to lose this ancient building that is the only vestige left on its block of the olden days of North Broad. Though the construction date is a mystery, I have found that it is at least 137 years old. If only anyone out there knew when the fuck it was built and who the architect was...
                   Another part of the mystery of this building is the construction that seems to be going on in front of the southern storefront and on the southern wall. I thought maybe a mural was being painted there, but the Mural Arts website doesn't have shit about it. All the websites, forums, and blogs about Philly-related shit haven't mentioned a damn thing. That picture above is from a couple of weeks ago so maybe some progress was made since then that could tell us what the fuck is going on. Anyone out there know? Tell me, goddammit!!!!


                                Hello, this is John McLaughlin and you are now reading this in my voice. The building was puh-chased in 2001 by the Caldah-wood (Calderwood) family. The building is about to open as the Caldah-wood Gallery, 20th Century Design and Photahh-graphy. BYE BYE!!!