Thursday, August 9, 2012

Butt-Fugly Building of the Week-- August 9th

Seven Penn Center

1635 Market Street

                   You know, maybe I was too tough on Vinny Kling over 1601 Market... maybe I should have focused on the building next door, Seven Penn Center. This piece of garbage had a chance of being an ok-looking building until some dumbass decided it would be a good idea to have a blank stone wall facing Market Street.
                 What the fuck were they thinking? Were blank walls all the rage in 1964? The other three sides of this motherfucker are covering in glass-- why is the blank side on Market Street? At least they had enough sense to have the blank side of 1601 Market face the Penn Center plaza. What a bunch of morons.
                 Back in 1963, IBM was at the forefront of American technology. They were proud of their room-filling magnetic tape computers and two-year-old invention of sort-of mobile storage devices (the first swappable disks). They were getting ready to move their international HQ to Armonk, NY (trying to be like Reader's Digest or something) and they had just launched the first data-moving satellites. Among this bit of success, IBM was in search of a new Philadelphia office.
               Enter Kling and friends. They were in the midst of designing Five Penn Center and IBM latched on as the anchor tenant. Even when the building's first renderings came out, it was being called the IBM Building.

The rendering. Is the south-facing side supposed to be the front? I like how those rendering people are like "WTF?!"
                 The 21-story building was considered quite the big deal at the time. Construction began in May of 1963 and was rife with problems. A fire in December of 1963 put a dent into the construction time. The building finally opened in February of 1965.

It looks better like this.
Shiny and new (and ugly).
                  Once open, IBM didn't stay there very long. After only 2 decades, the building was surrounded by highrises and the only full facade of the building you could see at one time was that big stone wall. In 1985, IBM signed up to be the anchor tenant for upcoming One Commerce Square. The building at 1635 Market would then just be called "Seven Penn Center" and hold offices for various companies that are too shitty to rent better offices in the surrounding buildings.
                 IBM eventually moved the bulk of their Philly operation out to West Chester and keeps one crappy office in the Central Business District. There's not much else to say about this building except to say that IT SUCKS. I don't expect any new commercial buildings to be built in the CBD any time soon so demolishing this thing wouldn't make much sense... we're just stuck with it. That's crap.

The um... front? of the building-- only viewable from the side.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Lost Building of the Week-- August 8th

Dr. David Jayne Residence

1826 Chestnut Street

Already 35 years old in this picture from the PAB.
                 In the very first Philaphilia article, I talked about the Jayne Building... one of Philadelphia's lost landmarks and all-around shit-kicking super-building. Well the guy who made that crazy-ass building possible also had a big fucking mansion taller than the cool-ass building that currently sits on its site.
              Dr. David Jayne was about as badass as badass motherfuckers are capable of being. Born in rural Pennsylvania from a long line of clergymen, Jayne broke the family tradition by entering Medical Department of the University of Pennsylvania. This was a pretty big deal considering the guy might not of ever went to school as a kid. Supposedly, he was only taught by a tutor and only in his teen years. Not bad, Jayney.
             Once he became a doctor, Jayne practiced in southern NJ. About six years in, he started concocting his own medicines capable of curing pretty much anything. Back then, you didn't have to prove shit to say a medicine worked. You could poor your own piss into a bottle, mix it with vegetable oil, and call it Uncle GroJLart's Golden Cure-All. According to history, you would then become a rich-ass motherfucker.
            That's exactly what happened to Jayne. He came up with all kinds of chemicals and called them goofy-ass names like Carminative Balsam and Tonic Vermifuge. That's not a joke-- those are the real names of his medicines. He sold so many of these things so fucking fast that he had to open a store in Philadelphia just to keep his South Jersey town from becoming mobbed with snake oil customers from all over the region.
Dr. Jayne about to inject a patient with lead-based medicine.
                 Jayne's Philadelphia success grew so fast that he was forced to move from larger building to larger building until there was no commercial building in the city large enough to hold him. That's what made the Jayne Building possible. Note that he went from dinky storefront drugstore to largest commercial building in America (briefly) in only THREE YEARS. I told you this guy was a badass.
               After his big-ass building was constructed, Jayne allowed his son and nephew to run the drug business (and fail miserably) while he focused on real estate development. That's right, Dr. Jayne was also a slimy-ass Philly developer. Jayne's developments were usually marble or granite commercial buildings that dotted Old City, most notably Philadelphia's mid-19th Century Post Office. Pretty much all of them are gone now.
              When Jayne was ready to retire, he decided to build a fancy-ass mansion for himself at 19th and Chestnut, at the time a brand-new rich-ass neighborhood where Philadelphia's elite were building big fucking houses for themselves. Jayne was so powerful at this point that he was able to get the city to eminent domain a bunch of adjacent properties for him so that he could reserve the land to build a massive-ass house. He found a spunky young architect named James McArthur Jr. and commissioned a grand house the likes of which no Philadelphian had ever seen.
            McArthur came back with a mansard-roofed mega-castle of imperial cocksmacks, meant to stand at 19th and Chestnut FOREVER. The marble was shipped in all the way from Massachusetts and was special as fuck. People called the house the "Marble Mansion". The motherfucker took so long to build that Dr. Jayne died before it was complete. McArthur would go on to design a little-known building called Philadelphia City Hall.
           Jayne's spoiled-ass descendents lived in the house after that for the next three decades. Dr. Jayne's son Horace would go on to build his own mansion, this time designed by Furness, a few blocks away. It still stands.
          By the 1910's or so, the mansion was considered an out-dated looking piece of shit. The particular kind of marble used for the facade was considered quite weak (it was rejected as a facade material for City Hall), and was dirty, cracked up, and falling apart. The mansion finally went up for its final sale in 1921, about to fall the fuck over. 

While the mansion was for sale. Image from the PAB.
                     The site was considered perfect for a theater. The property was first offered to Oscar Hammerstein with hopes that he would build a new opera house. Hammerstein made a point of telling the New York Times that had had enough of Philadelphia real estate and that his answer was a big "FUCK NO!" The mansion was then purchased by some dudes named Fred D. and M.E. Felt, who built a pretty cool-ass movie theater there that now pitifully serves as a CVS/Pharmacy. They named it after the Aldine Hotel nearby. (Thanks to Philaphile Howard B. Hass for the correction)
                     Jayne's Mansion was considered quite the Rittenhouse landmark for its entire 55 year existence. The building that replaced it may be pretty cool, but there's plenty of other corners it could have been built. If the Mansion was never sold, it is likely that it would have been preserved by neglect (a la Society Hill) and still be standing today. It would be a great reminder of the lost gigantic mansions that dwarfed the already gigantic houses found in this area. Though a handful of the others survive, none come close to the badassery of this thing. Bollocks.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Empty Lot of the Week-- August 7th

Lot of Lots of Lost Uses

Northwest corner of 23rd and Walnut

                    Does this count as an Empty Lot? Its an active surface parking lot for a 24-hour Rite Aid. Well, of course it does. This dense and well-used part of the city shouldn't have a crappy pharmacy's surface lot occupying valuable-ass land like this.
                  Read more later today at the Philadelphia Citypaper's Naked City Blog!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Old-Ass Building of the Week-- August 6th

Clinton Place

324 South 11th Street

                   This seemingly normal apartment building in the heart of Washington West proves that in this city, history can be found almost everywhere you look. A remnant from the Reconstruction Period, this is yet another building whose history is nearly forgotten.. until now!
                 Read more later today at the Hidden City Daily!