Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Then and Now: 100-104 W. Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore

November 2008 - December 2008

(I realize that this entry, started way back in December, is somewhat overdue. But alas, better late than never.)

The squat, brutalist building at the corner of Lancaster and Ardmore Avenues sometimes referred to as the Smith Building (whose history I haven't yet been able to find) was unceremoniously demolished by Lower Merion Township sometime around early December. According to a Township news release from last year, the building is to be replaced by a reconfigured intersection with a widened Ardmore Avenue, and a small public seating area.

On one hand, the reasoning is perfectly understandable. The intersection is notorious for being incredibly cumbersome for drivers and pedestrians alike, due to the poor alignment between Ardmore Avenue and the driveway leading into the heavily used parking lot behind most of the north side of W. Lancaster Avenue, built long after the original intersection was. Furthermore, no one really liked the hopelessly outdated and very poorly maintained Smith Building, which probably never gave a good impression to visitors either. I don't know how far construction has progressed, but I'm guessing that work will be completed sometime this year.

The parking lot driveway is on the north side of Lancaster next to the McDonald's lot.

In the meantime, I've had some concerns floating in the back of my mind. For one, does Ardmore really need more roadway on Lancaster Avenue? The intersection, like the majority of the avenue, is already harrowing to pedestrians, and I doubt that making it part of it wider will make it any more comfortable. Furthermore, the plaza/seating area will be up against the blank side wall of the adjacent building (though this could be easily fixed with a mural).

Lastly, 30 is a bad age for any building or style of building, and the Smith Building, which I'm guessing was built in the 70s, is no exception. Buildings as ugly as this one are hard to come by on the Main Line! Yet, as inconceivable as it is to us, late 19th century Victorian architecture was in the 20s and 30s often considered to be just as hideous as brutalism is seen today. I'm also sure that the Smith Building would have looked significanly less awful had it been better maintained. Perhaps a later generation will lament its replacement by a widened road intersection, and see it as a crime against architectural preservation. Or perhaps they won't. Only time will tell.

Ardmore and Lancaster Avenues Realignment Project Moves Forward [Lower Merion Township]

Bird's eye view courtesy of Live Search Maps

No comments: