Thursday, April 17, 2014

99 Years Ago In Philadelphia- Third Week of April, 1915

 Every few weeks, I will let you know about Philadelphia's biggest news stories from 99 years ago. Check it out!

 Fuck President Taft, We're Sending the Liberty Bell to San Fran

"Fuck this guy" -City Council
             So San Fransisco was about to put on the Panama-Pacific International Exposition and asked Philadelphia if they would lend the Liberty Bell for the event. Back then, that meant strapping the bell to a train car and letting it clackity-clack across the country, bouncing all over the place, possibly exposed to a shit-ton of different weather conditions. On top of that, there were bandits, Indians, rock-slides, easily-collapsible rail bridges, you name it. A whole lot of shit could have gone wrong.
            Ex-President Taft wrote City Council a letter, recommending that maybe they shouldn't send this national treasure over to San Fransisco until they assess all the risks. Council, after agreeing to the loan in a 12-person committee, included Mayor Blankenburg in on the final argument in the chamber. The Council and the mayor unanimously agreed to say a big "Fuck You" to the ex-President and send the bell over to the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. It went just fine.

"Fuck You, President Taft!"- Philadelphia and San Fransisco, in unison

Surprise, Surprise... Philadelphia Schools are Shit 

The Rudolph Walton School, one of the school buildings in use at the time.
                        The third week of April, 1915 was Schoolmen's Week at the University of Pennsylvania. Teachers from all over the city (and some from New Jersey) got together to discuss the state of Philadelphia Schools. The verdict: they SUCK. Why? They teach History. This, according to J. L Barnard of the Philadelphia School of Pedagogy, was obsolete. H.W. Foght of the U.S. Bureau of Education backed him up, citing an example of how a group of students honored for being best at memorizing the U.S. Constitution (memorizing the WHOLE THING was required in Philly Schools at the time) ended up becoming criminals later in life (counterfeiters). They urged that Civics should be taught instead.
                The other big problem Philly schools had was teacher qualification. The delegation agreed that teachers in the city should have at least 3 years of high school and one year of Normal School. This kind of discussion would continue decade after decade until today, when the teachers at one of the worst performing school districts in America rock Master's Degrees and permanent state certifications. Go figure. At least they still teach History.

Better Late Than Never: Passyunk Avenue Bridge Dedicated, Five Years After Being Built

The bridge when it was first built, 5 years before it opened. Image from, a project of the Department of Records.
             18 Years of dirty dealings and political in-fighting finally came to fruition with the dedication of the Passyunk Avenue Bridge, a month after it opened to traffic and fully five years after it was built. The ceremony included a banquet at the Point Breeze office of the United Gas Improvement Company attended by Mayor Blankenburg, the city's U.S. Representatives, and a bunch of other important motherfuckers.
            The party then moved over to the bridge, where a bunch of schoolchildren sang some corny songs. The Mayor then declared the $800,000 double-leaf bascule bridge as city property, and announced hopes that the overcrowded western part of South Philadelphia would expand over the bridge into Southwest Philadelphia. We all know how that turned out (garbage dumps, gaslands, car dealerships). The new bridge would last until 1983, when the current bridge/shitty highway-style overpass was built.

More Deadly Than Tigers or Snakes!! Stop Calling Them "House Flies", Call them "Typhoid Flies!"

Actual comic from the April 20th, 1915 edition of the Evening Ledger
               Apparently the common House Fly was a horrible menace in 1915. When April of that year rolled around, the city's Bureau of Municipal Research started putting out warnings all over the place to warn people that the House Fly was going to fuck your shit up and give you Typhoid Fever!
             Typhoid is a pretty shitty sickness to get, especially in 1915. It starts off feeling like you have a mild flu but soon turns you into a delerious, high-fever-having, endless diarrhea machine with red spots all over your chest. Then, after a couple of weeks, it starts fucking up your gastrointestinal system to the point where your other internal organs get fucked. Then, after a month, it all goes away... if you didn't die.
           The Bureau of Municipal Research's best advice about Typhoid was to not only kill flies, but to literally clean your shit up. Shit in drinking water was the most common way that Typhoid spread back then. They recommended thoroughly covering your manure pile (because that was something you had to think about back then), putting the lid on your trash can, making sure all the sewage you produce gets more than 250 yards from your house, and not drinking water with shit in it, obviously.
           Today, no one gives a second thought to Typhoid or House Flies. Typhoid vaccines were already around in 1915, so nowadays, they're everywhere. Also, the chlorination of drinking water pretty much wiped it out in developed countries. Though there are still outbreaks every so often, only about 5 in a million cases are reported in America per year. If you go back in time, don't drink the water.

Pictured: KILLER!

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!!!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Old-Ass Building: De La Salle In Towne

25 South Van Pelt Street

Photo by Brad Maule
                    You didn't know about this Center City building, did you? Well now you will. Check out my write-up about it at the Hidden City Daily!