Thursday, May 1, 2014

99 Years Ago in Philadelphia-- First Week of May, 1915

A Gigantic Women's Suffrage Parade Takes Over the City 

          On May 1st, 1915, a planned Women's Suffrage parade was set to take place, with participants called to meet beforehand on Washington Square. About 1,000 women were expected but about 10,000 showed up, some of which waited there since early in the morning. At 3pm, the parade's grand marshal mobilized the throngs of ladies into military precision, marching them up 7th Street. With banners and signs in hand, some women ran out of their workplaces and followed along.
           For the older ladies, a group of cars and buses were volunteered to bring them along the parade route for a fee of $2. The gigantic parade attracted large groups of both men and women as it turned onto Market Street, then to North Broad, finally descending onto the Metropolitan Opera House at 4:30pm, when a bunch of Suffrage-related lectures/events were to take place. Along the route, there were six designated stands where famous leaders of the Women's Suffrage cause would publicly proselytize.
           A good time was had by all. Nowadays, Women's Suffrage is so taken for granted that its a funny youtube prank to get women to sign a petition to end it.

Who the fuck stole the Liberty Bell's clapper?

            This week in May, 1915, visitors to Independence Hall started to notice that the clapper of the Liberty Bell, which was on display at the bottom of the main staircase, was missing. The guards that normally patrolled the area didn't seem too bothered. The curator of the bell, Wilifred Jordan, gave a bunch of shady answers when reporters asked him about it. When prompted, he said "I don't want to talk about it" and "Ask Chief Ball (of the Bureau of City Property)".
           This led reporters to start spreading the lie that the clapper was stolen by a crazy souvenir hunter. The bell was in a glass case at the time so this would be an exceedingly difficult theft. It wasn't until half a week later that Chief William H. Ball finally admitted that the clapper had been removed to make room for the steel support that would be employed to keep the bell safe on its long train ride across the West for the Panama Pacific Exposition in San Fransisco. The same steel support, known as the "spider", is still in the bell today.

The inside of the bell from 2003 when it was getting stress-tested by the NSF. Photo from

Flash Mob of Housewives Fucks Up the 1000 Block of Arch

                  Back in the day, some stores offered something called "Trading Stamps". These were the predecessors to modern day store club cards and memberships. You would collect these little coupons that were worth points that were worth a fraction of a cent each. After you collected enough points, you could go to other stores and redeem them for certain products.
                 On this week in May, 1915, the Acme Tea Company announced that their trading stamp subsidiary, the Crown Stamp Company, would be going out of business and to redeem your stamps as soon as possible. This, of course, was irresponsible as crap. The very next day, 3000 women descended onto the Crown Trading Stamp Premium Store at 1007-09 Arch Street, panicked as shit. The weather that day was terrible, a huge rainstorm falling while everyone waited outside. As the doors opened, people were trampled, their pocketbooks and stampbooks stolen, and the front display window of the store got shattered.
               In the aftermath, several of the women were hurt and robbed. A six-year-old boy was abandoned. News spread of the melee and somehow caused an EVEN BIGGER crowd the next day. Other trading stamp-redeeming stores also experienced huge crowds, the customers assuming that they would go out of business soon as well. The crowds were reported to be mostly foreigners, with all sections of the city and surrounding suburbs represented. The Camden branch of the Crown Trading Stamp Premium Store got overrun as well.
              The Acme Tea Company (predecessor to the Acme supermarket of today) was forced to put ads out promising that customers will be able to redeem their stamps until August 1st, 1915.

oh, and The Lusitania is torpedoed by a German Submarine, killing 17 Philadelphians

              This is an insignificant event of little importance, proven by this small blurb in Wikipedia about it.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Fill This Front: Champions

1201 Market Street

Putting up big photos is NOT the alternative to an empty storefront!!!
                 Ok, 6 fucking years? How does a space like this stay empty for 6 years? While the previous tenant wasn't exactly a superstar, it did manage to stay open for 13 years. This corner is one of the more highly visible and heavily trafficked in Center City, yet this space manages to stay so empty that they don't even bother to put "For Lease" signs up.
                The previous tenant was, of course, Champions, the "Great American Sports Bar". It opened in the Summer of 1995 as THE place where Philadelphians and Out-of-Towners would come together to watch sporting events, get wasted, and eat shitty food that you wouldn't know is shitty because you're wasted. When it opened, the place offered free popcorn and ready-made pizzas in addition to the usual crap you get at a bar like this. In reality, Champions was less "Great American Sports Bar" and more "Shitbird Hotel Bar for Tourists". After all, the chain itself seems to be exclusive to or created by Marriott, since every other location is found in a Marriott-controlled property. Nonetheless, it did just fine. After all, restaurants are considered highly successful if they last 5 years, right? Double-and-a-half-and-some-change isn't that bad.

This is what the space looked like when Shitpions was still open. Image Courtesy of TripAdvisor
                     Once it closed in 2008, the corny tourist bar niche it left behind was already filled by the Field House in Reading Terminal and the Hard Rock on the other corner of 12th/Market that's been there since 1997 and, because of their sweetheart lease, will still be there after the Convention Center collapses in on itself from lack of use. Bank and Bourbon, a much higher end hotel bar/restaurant, has just opened in the PSFS Building/Lowes Hotel across the street. I should note that a few of the other storefronts in this Marriott are empty as well, but none are as prominently empty as this one at a super-high-trafficked street corner.
                    Ok, so the Champions space has been empty. Of course, it doesn't have to be. Let me sell it to you:

                  This is a 3,800 square foot space at the northwest corner of 12th and Market, located in the Philadelphia Marriott Hotel, the largest hotel in the whole city. It now has a brand new owners. In the heart of the Convention District, this location is heavily trafficked by both Philadelphia's tourists and natives. The space is accessible by countless points of transit, located near a heavily-used subway and trolley stop (13th Street Station). It is also close to a Regional Rail station (Market East Station). Not enough for ya? What are you, made of stone? Ok, well its also located on or near numerous bus lines, one of which is one of the most heavily-used in the city (the 23). Its even accessible to a bunch of New Jersey Transit bus lines!
                 This space offers the opportunity to take advantage of Philadelphia's exciting culinary scene! While most of the other restaurant spaces surrounding this spot are chains found all over the country or tourist-trapalooza's, there is an opportunity here to give and up-and-coming chef his/her chance to prove Philadelphia's food superiority to tourists from around the world!! How can you pass this up? Contact Oak Tree Capital Management or Clearview Hotel Capital (the new owners) and make an offer. The place has been vacant for six years-- what are they gonna do? Turn you down?
               C'mon people-- work with us here. Maybe it doesn't even have to be a restaurant! There's got to be some kind of retailer that caters to tourists/conventioneers that can utilize a 3,800 square foot corner property that sees so much foot traffic.


Another reminder of how it looks with Champions. Source: Loopnet

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Old-Ass Building of the Week: Robbins Rocks Building

140-142 South 8th Street

Photo by Brad Maule

            The Robbins Rocks Building, as I call it, is now 100 years old! Ends up its really called the Alexander Sheppard & Sons Building. Learn all about it at the Hidden City Daily!