Thursday, August 7, 2014

99 Years Ago in Philadelphia: Second Week of August, 1915

"Physical Freak" Kills Self To Avoid Dissection, Gets Dissected Anyway

                 William Gutmiller, a German immigrant boarding at 922 Nectarine Street (now the parking lot of Union Transfer) had a problem. He was born with a genetic disorder now called Situs Iversus, which in 1915 was just called "transposed organs" or "transposed heart". His internal organs were reversed. At the time, this condition generated great interest in the medical community, especially because doctors thought it was cool that his heart pumped rightward instead of leftward.
                Gutmiller was put on display to students at Jefferson Medical College for a little while and was offered a whole pile of dough to live in Jefferson Hospital under observation for the rest of his life. This freaked Gutmiller out. Those doctors and medical students must have given him some funny looks because Gutmiller became convinced that they were going to kill and dissect him to whet their crazy appetites.
                 In the second week of August, 1915, Gutmiller was found by his landlady, Mrs. Mary Earley, with a bottle of poison in his hand, gagging and choking. He later died at Hahnemann Hospital. Having no known relatives, the Coroner was ready to throw his dead ass into a potter's field when both doctors and Mrs. Earley started chomping at the bit to get that corpse. The doctors wanted it because of its medical curiosity, Mrs. Earley wanted it because Gutmiller owed rent. Mrs. Earley claimed that Gutmiller put his own body up for collateral, telling her that she could sell it when he died to pay off his debt.
             Coroner William R. Knight was disgusted by both parties and insisted on the potter's field. The State Anatomical Board overruled him, stating that Gutmiller's body would have to go to a medical institution unless someone pays for his burial. Mrs. Early said "fuck that" to the burial cost, so Gutmiller ended up on the dissection table at Hahnemann Hospital, the very thing he feared his entire life.
            Today, Situs Inversus is no big deal. It effects 1 in 10,000 people, a lot more common than people thought it was 99 years ago. NBA player Randy Foye and Home Alone's mom both have it.

Randy Foye, medical curiosity

Audenreid: "Women on the School Board!?!? Are You Out Of Your Fucking Minds!?!"

                 In the Summer of 1915, there came to be many openings on the School Board, due to both term limits and the death of the Superintendent. In the second week of August, 1915, the president of the Civic Club of Philadelphia, Gertrude Biddle, demanded that some of these positions be offered to women. The dude in charge of the crew that voted on these positions was Charles Y. Audenried, Secretary of the Board of Judges.
               At first, Audenried was receptive, citing that the Board had a woman on it once, but that since then the Board was made smaller and was to be staffed with "persons well-known to the entire population". He then stated "Woman's normal place is in the home and no woman has stood out prominently for that reason". This understandably pissed off the Civic Club, who came back to Audenried with a list of qualified women. Binders full, so to speak.
             Audenried dismissed one after the other. Many were leaders in the suffragist movement and others were leaders within the school district itself. Audenried stated that he was too busy to keep up with famous suffragettes so he had never heard of any of them. He denied the others based on their employment within the district, but he would accept their application only if they resigned.
            As it ended up, the vote on the new Board was on October 1st, 1915. All men were elected, though two female candidates were considered: Dr. Ruth Webster Lothrop, head of the Women's Medical College, and Mrs. Mary Van Meter Grice, President of the Home and School League. Charles Y. Audenried's legacy is the shitty high school named after him.

Urban Farm on a Green Roof

              Oh, so you thought Urban Farms and Green Rooves were a new thing, eh? Well, in Philadelphia of 1915, Harry Konollman of 1631 North Street was way ahead of his time. This dude was nuts.. he owned a combined double rowhouse where he ran an auto repair garage on the first floor and lived with his family on the second. On the third, Konollman installed chicken coops brought in 400 (FOUR HUNDRED) white Leghorn chickens.
             On the roof of the third floor, Konollman installed cartload after cartload of dirt, brought up there one bucket at a time. He grew corn, egg plants, spinach, tomatoes, carrots, beans, peas, and cabbage. In 1915 his tomato vines got so large that they hung down to the street. On the flat roof of the second floor, Konollman installed a free-range chicken run so his chickens could get out of the coops once in awhile. He later got plumbing installed to more easily bring fresh water up to the roof.
              Harry Konollman ended up being one of the best chicken dudes in the area and got even better at raising chickens, learning how to tend to their illnesses and selectively breed the best egg producers. He would eventually bring his chicken number down to 175 and add at least three more species to the list. The next year, Konollman covered his chicken run area with a few feet of dirt and started growing their feed in his bathtub. He eventually was selling 60 dozen eggs a week, a buttload of vegetables, and of course, more chicken meat than you could imagine. He was recognized for having one of the cleanest chicken operations in the region.

Now that's an Urban Farm
Hey West Philly, Would You Mind Not Bathing for A Few Days?

                 In the second week of August, 1915, the Belmont Pumping Station broke down, causing a water shortage in West Philadelphia. Every resident of West, for three days, would have to track and limit their water consumption to 120 gallons per day.
                West Philadelphians freaked out, complaining that they couldn't keep it that low with all the clothes washing, milk diluting, wine making, and general cleaning that needed to be done each day. Chief Carleton Davis of the water bureau had the perfect solution: the right amount of water could be saved if no one bathe for those three days and throw in a fourth if they can.
                 No one really knows how this all turned out, but it was never mentioned in the annals of history again so it can't have been that bad. A year later, a bigger water crisis would hit West Philly when the George's Hill reservoir sprang a leak and caused mud to come out of everyone's faucets for a whole month.

Belmont Pumping Station. The building still stands.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Fill This Front: The Ashe Building West Side

1230 Chestnut

               Chestnut East sure has come a long way since I started this shitbag blog, but it isn't fixed yet. Though there has been an ASSLOAD of improvement along this stretch (with much more to come), some little pieces still manage to stay shitty. The Cunningham Piano Building and attached one-story retail structure are still vacant, the old Bread and Butter space is still the featureless rear of a fucking nightclub, the Hale Building is still empty, 1208 Chestnut looks even shittier than before, the Bailey Building is still in limbo, 1200 Chestnut is still covered in bum piss, and this, 1230 Chestnut, has had that fucking gate down for 6 years.
            1228 and 1230 Chestnut were once part of the same building, built in 1925. It was called the Ashe Building, named after the guy that paid for it, Benjamin Ashe. It was built as 4 stories and became store and offices of the Philadelphia location of a NYC-based shoe store chain called Wise. For reasons unknown, the whole building was reduced down to two stories in 1940 and the 1228 and 1230 storefronts were separated forever.
            1230 went through a buttload of different stores over the next 6 decades, mostly clothing store chains from NYC. From 1980 to 86, it was Sounds of Market II. In the late 1980s it was the KSS Cab Company. In 2001, Famous Brands Outlet came along, giving the front the last lit-up sign it would ever have. The sign was still visible on the front as recently as 2 years ago, reversed around so as to not be as readable. As late as 2007, the front held one of those shitty electronic junk stores with no name.
             On February 28, 2008, the owners of the Omnivision optical store/optometrist's office at 1103 Chestnut bought 1230 Chestnut for exactly $2 million. They had designs for a massive renovation of the place drawn up by Moto Design Shop. From the look of things, the place would become a gigantic version of Omnivision, with huge first and second floor spaces with some more stuff in the basement. Things seemed to have been delayed and the plans changed several times but by the start of 2012, everything about the project was approved by zoning, even a small third story addition on the back.

The drawing for the overhaul from late 2011
               I guess that's still the plan for the place, but very little seems to have changed here... though the facade has been cleaned, the graffiti that was on the gate is gone, and the old signage has been removed. So what's the hold-up? Are the owners still trying to get funding together? Is there something about the building that's holding construction back? The place has racked up a whole mess of L + I violations and is getting more and more noticeable as a vacant storefront while the rest of the block has (slowly) improved.
           I do seem to remember some rumors of a local restaurateur being interested in this space once, but I can find no confirmation of this. Moto Design Shop's website has an old restaurant rendering that resembles this space, but there are plenty of other storefronts in this city that have a similar configuration so its hard to tell. 
            Well if this place gets put back up for sale or goes up for lease, just think about this: this is two stories of 1800 square foot floors of storefront located in a high-foot traffic area near the Tony Goldmanized 13th Street in the Midtown Village/Gayborhood section of Washington Square West. Public Transit kicks ass over here, one block from both subways, 5 trolley lines, and the countless buses that run down Chestnut Street. The 23 bus, the most heavily used in the whole system, runs down 11th and 12th Streets nearby. Even more buses run on Market Street a block away, including a bunch of New Jersey Transit stuff. Therefore, if you put the right store in here, you will kill!!!
            Think about all the shit that's going on at East Chestnut right now-- the retail is waaay better than it used to be-- long empty storefronts are now filled and two are expanding. Three buildings that used to have vacant upper floors are now apartments. Brickstone Realty's development is set to change the East side of Broad forever. Now's the time to get this building back to life. FILL THIS FRONT!
June 2012 via the Google Streetview time machine, with squatter-types hanging out in front. Compare this to the current pic above to see how the facade has changed.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Old-Ass Building of the Week: Wayfarer's Lodge #1

1720 Lombard Street

                   This isn't just any apartment building-- those walls have a lot of talking to do. Check it out at the Hidden City Daily!