Thursday, September 6, 2012

Butt-Fugly Building of the Week-- September 6th

The Pain Center

501 South 12th Street

                    PAAAAAIIINNNN!!! That's what I feel whenever I see this thing. The fucking PAIN Center is one of the ugliest buildings in Wash West and has been making people feel pain since 1969. This brutalist pile of shit was considered quite the cool building when it was constructed, but now everyone hates it, and rightly so.
                     In the 1960's, what is now Washington West was a fucking shithole. While a 3 decade long gentrification process was in the works, the corner of 12th and Lombard was still somewhere no one wanted to be. Dan Rose's book Black American Street Life, South Philadelphia 1969-1971 paints a pretty sorry picture of the neighborhood, even though Mr. Rose calls this area "South Philly" and calls 12th Street "Fourteenth Street".
                     In 1969, such a corner was considered a perfect location for a psychiatric rehab center for alcoholics, drug addicts, and the mentally ill, called Horizon House (not to be confused with like a million other places with the same name). The design, by the Francis, Cauffman, Wilkinson & Pepper firm, was intended to make the institutional building not seem so much like an institutional building. How did they do that? By making it AS UGLY AS FUCKING POSSIBLE!!!
                    Brown terra cotta bricks, tiny-ass bronze-tinted windows (with bars), and that stupid sloping roof that can't decide which direction it's going. What an insult... its like they're saying that the design of the building should be mentally ill in order to match the people going there. Really, this building is a 20,000 square foot pile of fuck.
                    Eventually, Horizon House got tired of looking at this fucking thing and moved out to superior quarters. The building became crappy medical offices and shit until being sold to new owners in 1997 for $975,000. At about the same time, Wash West residents started noticing this silver Lamborghini driving around that would park itself at this crappy building. The asshouse now took on a new name that described it well... the PAIN Center.
                   The Pain Center would continue on for the next 15 years, until the guy running the place got busted for insurance fraud and the building went up for sale. Though they originally asked for $5 million, the listing eventually dwindled down to $3M. It was purchased by developer Virgil Procaccino with the intention of demolishing the shitpile (hooray!!) and replacing it with some super-fucking-gigantic houses designed by Harman Deutsch.

                 Ok, so they're not the best-looking houses ever, but they're waaaaaaay nicer than the shitty Pain Center. Its a wonderful, wonderful feeling to know that such an ugly building will be eliminated from this area forever. Now to meticulously remove any records of the building from history... I'll do it later.

It looked just as bad twelve years ago.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Lost Mystery Building of the Week-- September 5th

Girard Avenue Station

9th and Girard

                        Ninth and Girard might be a big steaming pile of mammoth shit now, but in the early 20th Century, it was wicked. You had a huuuuge farmer's market that served the entire area, two nice theatres, lots of fancy housing, a grand hospital nearby, and an ELEVATED FUCKING REGIONAL RAIL STATION!!
                         Nowadays, its crap. The market is an empty lot, the housing has been replaced with boring suburban-style "affordable housing", and the theatres are shells of their former selves. The hospital is still there, but its new additions look like fracocta baloney. Most disappointing of these losses was the regional rail station-- Girard Avenue Station. That picture up there is pretty much the only visual record of it. Its not clear when it was built or when it was removed.
                     One thing I have figured out is that the track wasn't always elevated like that. It used to be on the ground. This picture from 1906 proves it:

There it is, with the long-lost Swift & Co. HQ.
Across the street, the kick-ass Girard Avenue Farmer's Market.
                   At some point, Reading RR turned that track into a causeway/viaduct and created a passenger station at Girard Avenue. While there were other lost passenger stations along this line (the Spring Garden one is sort of still standing, the Columbia Ave [Cecil B. Moore] one is now a baseball field), this was the only one straddling a street. This thing had to have an architect/engineer... it had to be built some time, and it had to be taken down some time as well. Nonetheless, I can't find shit. This thing is LOST AS FUCK.

...but it DID exist. This 1910 map has it, even though a 1909 picture I found has the track on the ground.
                        Any of you railroad nerds out there know anything about this? Where the fuck this thing came from? Where it went? What happened to all the other cool buildings that surrounded it? I mean, for fuck's sake, here's a Google Streetview of the same location shown in the photo at the top of the article:

                     THAT'S THE SAME FUCKING LOCATION? Did the Borg come and wipe the whole place out? Its one thing to have a lost building, its something else entirely to have a lost transit point surrounded by lost buildings! Maybe I'm just over-reacting. Maybe this stuff was demolished in the last 30-40 years and some old heads out there remember them and could tell me what happened. Nonetheless, this is a mysterious fucking loss of mysterious fucking buildings that really pisses me off.
                     Have any info on this?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Empty Lot of the Week-- September 4th

South Broad Street Shitjungle

Northeast Corner of Broad and South Street

                 This lot has always pissed me off.. I remember noting it with disgust before I even lived in Philadelphia. A 19,000 square foot wasteland on what should be one of our nicest intersections, this piece of shit has sat empty for waaaaay too long. Thankfully, it will soon be coming to an end despite NIMBY attempts to preserve it. This pile of wild vegetation is also known as the Garden of the Arts. As I've stated before, you know an empty lot is bad when you're not the first one to name it.
              Read more at the Philadelphia Citypaper's Naked City Blog!

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Hidden City Daily is one year old!

Philadelphia, PA

August 30th, 2011 to August 30, 2012

              Happy First Birthday to the Hidden City Daily!!! This website right here is one of the city's greatest assets, and I'm not saying that because I'm a contributor. Though you probably have already been there, I urge you to go check it out and see what some serious Philaphiles can do when they put their heads together.
              In order to celebrate, the Daily is taking a day off today... so this week's Old-Ass Building will be published on Friday. BYE BYE!!

Update: It'll be on Monday instead.