Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Fill this Front: Dinette

1025 Chestnut

               As far as chronically empty storefronts in Center City go, this dirty motherfucker really takes the cake. Whoever is responsible for getting this storefront filled has failed miserably, and that fail goes back at least 15 fucking years. What's worse is that the space isn't even available for lease, so even if you want it, YOU CAN'T FUCKING HAVE IT!! Want to add more insult to injury? Think about what used to stand in this location. What a sad fate this spot has become... what a bummer.
              I've told you about this location before back in the day when I trashed the old mid-century Mercantile Library, whose ugly fucking over-kissed ass just went up for sale AGAIN. This location was once home to the original campus of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and later became home to a kick ass theater, and then a kick ass Opera House. Let me put it to you like this:


1930s or so
             OK? Now do you understand why a shitbag empty storefront under an ugly parking garage in this location pisses me off? To be fair, the first-ever tenant of this shitty retail space in the 1950s actually made it look pretty good. It was an 142-seat Horn & Hardart.

The storefront in 1959. Image from, a project of the Philadelphia Department of Records
             As an H & H, the spot did very well, outlasting the vast majority of the other locations of the chain. This particular Horn & Hardart was among the last seven stores of the Philadelphia version of the company and closed in early 1982. In 1969, the space was split into two storefronts.
             After H & H was gone, Rite Aid #1310 moved in. They severely altered the space, moving the wall between the two storefronts so that the whole space could hold both a Rite Aid location and an optometrist/glasses store under their Sterling brand. Then they put up that shitty vertical brickwork, eliminating the giant glass wall that was once there. The Rite Aid stuck around until the early 1990s.

Yes, someone actually had to draw a rendering of the shitty new 1982-83 facade.
             I'm gonna need the help of some old heads on the rest of the history here, because after the Rite Aid, I've been hard-pressed to find any other tenant that's been in this space. I can't even find record of this "Dinette" place. Is it just one of those shitty placeholder signs? I'm told that there was a cheap furniture store in the smaller storefront on the right.
             Well, since at least 1999, this place has been empty as fuck. Until recently, you could see inside the windows and check out the barren 9,500 square feet of space for yourself. When going to photograph the place for y'all, I was surprised to find that the store's windows have finally been covered and the front door of the larger space sealed. This Google Streetview shot will show you what it used to look like:

               Before this, it didn't even have the metal gates on the left down. Here's a tiny picture of it from an old retail listing from the early days of the internet:

Like wearing someone else's glasses.
               Hmm-- it looks like there used to be more to that Dinette sign. Oh well, this ugly motherfucker has been empty for a long fucking time. The Philadelphia Parking Authority has owned this parking garage since it was built... they are the ones that control this mega-empty storefront. Since they've finally gotten into restoring shitty parking garages, maybe they'll be putting this one back up for lease some time soon (Actually, at the end of this Inga article, they say that this parking garage is next up for a makeover) Hopefully the papering-up of the windows is an indication that this space will fill back up again in the near future.
             Now, you should know that this retail space has some shit working against it that may stop a potential tenant. According to an L & I Violation issued this last February 20th, the party wall between it and the old Mercantile Library Building is fractured and deemed unsafe. The case is still open and being appealed by the owners of the Mercantile Library, so we'll see what happens with that.
           Either way, PPA, get working on this shit so we can FILL THIS FRONT!!!


  1. If memory serves correctly (and it has been known not to), "Dinette" is referring to dinette sets sold by Society Hill Furniture, which had an annex in this building. Wasn't there a Roy Rogers there before that? And wasn't there a McDonalds there before that? My presence only goes back to 1989, when there was a Free Library branch in the Mercantile Library building. Hope that helps.

    1. Thanks-- I've been told that this was an extension of Society Hill Furniture at some point, but could not confirm.