Thursday, October 16, 2014

99 Years Ago in Philadelphia: Middle of October, 1915

Camden Population Passes 100,000!!

        In the middle of October, 1915, a two-day celebration was held in Camden celebrating its population passing the 100k mark. Local businessmen paid for the whole affair. It started out with a parade of floats designed and built by each local industry. At night, there was another parade, led by Boy Scouts and the Walnut Street Patriotic Association. Ten dollar pieces of gold were awarded to the Boy Scout troops that had the most in line, the best display, and came from the farthest distance.
The Victor Talking Machine Company's float.
              On the second day, there was a Baby Parade, where proud parents created floats and presented Camden's latest offspring to the crowds. Ten dollar pieces of gold were awarded to the best float, an order of one dozen photographs was awarded to the prettiest baby, and a $2.50 piece of gold was awarded to the fattest baby. After that, a Charlie Chaplin impersonation contest was held. Five bucks and $2.50 were given to the first and second prizes respectively.
           Today, Camden doesn't have much to have a parade about. While the future construction of 1,000 houses was announced in the 1915 parade, Camden is now going about demolishing 600 houses, no doubt some of those that were built during that period. Things are shitty enough in Camden right now that the opening of a supermarket there was big news. The current population of Camden is 77,250.

Typhoid in Town! Dont Touch Ya Fren!

It's Dangeruss!!
        Despite vaccines developed in 1897, 1898, and 1909, in the middle of October, 1915, it was revealed that there was an official Typhoid outbreak in Philadelphia. 112 cases were reported and doctors warned that potentially thousands could be afflicted and that many more could be carrying and spreading the disease.
       Typhoid starts out as a really shitty flu-like sickness that seems like its going to go away until the 2nd stage, when the patient will go through periods of uncontrollable diarrhea and extreme constipation. Eventually, a big distended belly will occur. In the third stage, the patient becomes delirious and then goes into what's called a "Typhoid State", lying down exhausted with eyes half closed. Even if someone manages to survive it without treatment, symptoms can re-occur up to two weeks later. Its a pretty shitty disease to get.
        After an investigation, the State Department of Health blamed the curbside vegetable markets for the disease. They were able to isolate Salmonella Typhi in various products purchased at these markets, and declared the origin found. In the Spring of 1916, Typhoid ravaged the city again. Initially thought to be a whole other outbreak, it was eventually found that this was a second wave of the 1915 outbreak. This time, the State Department of Health took it a little more seriously and investigated markets, restaurants, and bars more thoroughly. They then blamed saloons for the spreading of the disease, stating that their practice of providing free lunches for customers spread the affliction through the common utensils that were used.
       Interestingly enough, 1915 showed the least Typhoid deaths in Philadelphia up to that point. For example, in 1906, Philly had 1,063 Typhoid-related deaths, while 1915 had only 106. An antibiotic treatment for Typhoid was developed in 1948 and there are now seven different Typhoid vaccines available, so no one in the developed world gives a shit about it anymore. Nonetheless, outbreaks still occur all over the world, most recently in 2005 the Democratic Republic of the Congo where 42,000 cases were reported.

Chestnut Blight Reaches Philadelphia

           At the same time Typhoid was hitting Philadelphia hard, Chestnut Blight was kicking the American economy's ass. At the time, chestnut trees were found all over the country and were a major staple. Not only were chestnuts themselves a valuable food, chestnut wood was used for telephone poles, roof shingles, you name it. Chestnut trees were prolific and grew gigantic-- ones over 100 feet tall with a diameter of 8 or 9 feet were found in every city park.
         At the turn of the 20th Century, Cryphonectria parasitica was accidentally brought to America by East Asian trees planted at the Bronx Zoo. By 1915, the state had already developed the Pennsylvania Chestnut Tree Blight Commission to combat the destruction. At this time in 1915, it was determined that 88% of the Chestnut trees in the city were infected. Local industry was really upset about this, especially the leather tanners, who used Chestnut tannins for their processes.
       The city went about clearing most of the Chestnut trees in the city at this point, stripping them down for use as telephone, telegraph, and electric poles. They then stored them all in a big pile at the electric company's yards in North Philly.

The pile.
               The Commission figured that they could save the American Chestnut Tree if they cross-bred it with the Asian Chestnut Tree, which was immune to the fungus. This was attempted in the 1930s and 40s by the USDA. They managed to create one single hybrid in 1946 that survived the blight... until 1976.  Big-ass American Chestnut Trees became a thing of the past... its hard to get one to grow over 15 feet before the fungus takes it out. A few sixth-generation hybrids have been able to resist the fungus, but there's only a handful of them.
              In 1987, an attempt was made to create a virus that could take out the fungus that causes Chestnut Blight, but the fungus spreads more quickly than the virus could keep up with, so it didn't work. Today, genetic manipulation is being used to create mega-hybrids that will be able to resist the fungus. Its possible that in our lifetimes, the American Chestnut Tree will tower over all of our shit just like it used to. The same fungus also took out a once-common edible nut-bearing bush called the Chinquapin, but no one seems to give a shit about that.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Fill This Front: Thomas Lofts

726 Market Street

           This right here is a damn travesty. This building has been on the receiving end of a shit-ton of bad luck, but its storefront has suffered even more. FINALLY, a new owner has taken over this building, but the storefront, while available for a whole year, has still sat empty...making it a decade since it was last in use! Let's finally save this building and get this motherfucker filled!
            This building is, of course, the Kirshbaum Building, built in the 1890s under the designs of badass architect Frank Watson. It is not unlike many other buildings that used to be on Market Street before they all got fucked up as a result of the "improvements" brought on by the Gallery at Market East. The storefront pretty much exclusively held women's clothing or hat stores over the building's first 8 decades or so. To list them all in order would make this article reach a sector of outer space that would be out of range of the Argus Array
          This building has had a lot of shitty luck in the more recent decades. When Sam Rappaport owned it, he was able to fill the storefront with two tenants at a time but sealed off the upper floors. The last two tenants to use the ground floor were a McDonald's and the La Paradis Beauty Salon. After Rappaport died, his estate started using the building's big exposed party wall as a giant illegal billboard. They first had a giant ad for Jerry Blavat's radio show which never even got finished before it was declared illegal. The party wall then had a giant Nike ad featuring Dawn Staley that was actually approved by the ZBA. Finally, the wall had a giant Absolute Vodka ad featuring Ben Franklin before SCRUB and a few other organizations went bananas and forced the Estate to have the ad space removed. Ironically, after the sign bill for Market East got passed in 2011, those giant ads might have been able to be legalized. The Rappaport Estate put the building up for sale in 2004.
       People were excited about this, hoping that the building would be restored and no longer be owned by a shitbag speculator. Boy, were they wrong. In December 2006, the building got sold to the infamous Lichtenstein brothers out of Brooklyn.

Yay! It sold! 2007 view via the Google Streetview Time Machine
          The Lichtenstein brothers installed condos in some of the upper floors and ripped off the facade of the storefront. Though they re-exposed the old brick design, the facade was half-destroyed and the windows where kept boarded up for years thereafter.

2009. Love that Google Streetview Time Machine.
               Probably due to the massive amount of flack they got over the burning of the old Buck Hosiery building, the brothers (or the bank that owned the place) finally decided that they should pay their property taxes on the Kirshbaum Building, get their many building violations fixed, and finally restore the street level facade. By the start of 2013, it was finally done. While this was all going on, the Lichtensteins were in a 4-year legal battle over the bank's foreclosure on this property.
              On August 26, 2013, the building sold to a new owner for over $10 million dollars mysteriously named "Market Street A", whose address leads back to an apartment building in Union, NJ. Whoever this new owner is, they are now offering up the storefront space for the first time in a decade... so now's the time to get it filled!

             This space consists of a 4,138 square foot ground floor spot with a 1,333 square foot mezzanine under an 18 foot ceiling! It is accessible by more public transportation than probably any other available storefront its size. It is located two doors down from the 8th and Market PATCO/EL stop which serves thousands and thousands per day. An unbelievable amount of bus lines pass this location on both Market and 8th Streets, including New Jersey Transit lines! The Jefferson Station (formerly named Market East) regional rail stop is nearby. Across the street, the Lits Building holds thousands of office workers AND is about to have a large residential building added to it! Catercorner is the old Strawbridge's Building which also hold a whole shitload of office folk and is about to open a Century 21.
         So here you get a large, high-ceiling store space, excellent access to all public transportation, and endless amounts of foot traffic. Get the right thing in here and you can't fucking lose! The space leases for 10,345/Month for the ground floor and an additional $3,332.50/Month for the mezzanine space. Its managed by Precision Realty Group. Here's the listing, now FILL THIS FRONT!

The mezzanine blueprint.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Old-Ass Building: Baum's Dancewear

106-114 South 11th Street

Photo by Michael Bixler
                  I've been trying to find the origin of this building ever since I started this shitty blog. Finally, after 3.5 years, I've finally found it. Read it all at the Hidden City Daily!