Thursday, February 25, 2010

Then and Now: Second and Dock Streets looking east, Philadelphia


The first of a series of posts:

There is too much that can be written on the heritage of Philadelphia's Dock Street, which, like its snaking path through the city's rigid grid, defies a simple explanation. Originally a natural creek along the banks of the Delaware, it was settled by industrial activity during the early 18th century, which quickly reduced the waterway to a hazardous pool of pollution and filth. Eventually, the city legislature took action, and Dock Creek became the first of the city's many streams to be converted to a sewer. By 1784, most of its winding route had been paved over and replaced by the new Dock Street.

Dock Street remained at the heart of Philadelphia's working riverfront throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. Thanks to its easy access to the Delaware river, and a generously wide roadbed, it became home to the city's primary wholesale food market and distribution center. By the post-war era, however, the aging and dilapidated Dock Street Market was long past its prime, just as planners had begun to assemble massive urban renewal schemes for the city's depressed historic core. In the mid-50s, the food distributors had been relocated to a new facility in South Philadelphia, and the street's warehouses between Front and Third Streets were completely razed several years later. The original photograph was taken between the market's closing and its demolition - note the many cars parked in spaces once used as loading docks.

An amazing view of Dock Street in its heyday [Shorpy]

1. Garvin, Alexander. "The Architect of Society Hill." Next American City. Apr. 2005. 24 Feb. 2010.
2. Levine, Adam. "Dock Creek Sewer in 1849." Philly H2O. 24 Feb. 2010.

Original image: Cuneo. "Department of Public Property-38861-0." 1959. Philadelphia City Archives. Philadelphia Department of Records. 24 Feb. 2010.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Then and Now: 8-16 West Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore

c. 1910-2010

The Palace Theater seems to be Ardmore's oldest 20th-century theater, first built between 1913-1919, and later remodeled in Art Deco style. At one point, it also housed the town's Woolworth's store. Next door, 12 West Lancaster Avenue certainly takes the cake for Ardmore's most hideously altered building façade, an example of low-brow postmodernist design at its very worst.

Source: Searchable HR Database. Lower Merion Township. 20 Feb. 2010.
Original photo: "Palace Movie Theatre, Ardmore (c. 1910)." Lower Merion Historical Society Archives. Lower Merion Historical Society. 20 Feb. 2010.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Then and Now: The Ardmore Theater, Ardmore


The Ardmore Theater, one of the Main Line's grandest historic cinemas, opened in 1926 on W. Lancaster Avenue. With over 1200 seats, the single-screen theater reigned as Ardmore's largest for over seven decades, and in 2000 also became its last one to close. In a surprisingly fast turnover, the Beaux-Arts style building was almost immediately purchased by Town Sports International, which then gutted the interior and reopened the building in 2002 as a Philadelphia Sports Club.

Though its original interiors have been removed, the facade remains quite well preserved, including its glazed transom windows. PSC can also take some credit for restoring the large fanlight over the marquee. Unfortunately, of the four retail spaces which once flanked the main entrance, two have been completely removed, and those on the opposite side have sat dark and vacant for nearly a decade.

Source: Quirk, George. "Ardmore Theater." Cinema Treasures. 13 Feb. 2010.
Original photo: Leatherberry, Earl. "Pennsylvania, Ardmore, Eric (The Ardmore Theater) (14,006)" Online photo. Flickr. 30 Apr. 2009. 13 Feb. 2010.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Groundbreaking imminent at the Shops at Schmidts

Photo taken August 7, 2009

Get ready to say goodbye to Northern Liberties' largest vacant lot. Tower Investments intends to break ground next tuesday at 2nd and Girard on the first phase of the long-awaited Shops at Schmidts development. Half of the 100,000 square feet of retail space will be dedicated to a Pathmark supermarket, reputedly to be more upscale than its other stores. This development is key to filling in the gaps between Northern Liberties and Fishtown, while also aiding the resurgence of Girard Avenue itself.

Corner of 2nd and Girard. Rendering from Philebrity by way of Tower Investments

Some previous coverage, as well as more renderings, can be found in an earlier post.

Tower Investments erecting shopping center [Philadelphia Business Journal]

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Then and Now: 1316-1318 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia


Chestnut Street, before and after the proliferation of roll-down security gates.

Bender, Charles J. and John McWhorter. "Public Works-43013-11." 1955. Philadelphia City Archives. Philadelphia Department of Records. 31 Jan. 2010.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

After the snow: Hannum Drive, Ardmore

February 5, 2010 - February 6, 2010

This montage is not exactly of historical interest, but it gives a pretty good idea of the magnitude of the massive snowstorm that slammed the Mid-Atlantic this weekend. Philadelphia officially recorded 28.5 inches of snow, with Ardmore probably a few inches behind, making this one of the greatest snowfalls in the area's recorded history.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Then and Now: 1324 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia


Here's a shot of the former Barricini Candy shop at 1324 Chestnut Street, several doors down from the Bartons Bonbonniere shown in a recent post. Barricini's signage demonstrates that neon commercial lighting can be rather tasteful if done properly. The former Barricini and Famous Maid spaces are now occupied by the Greenhouse market and deli.

Bender, Charles J. and John McWhorter. "Public Works-43013-13." Philadelphia City Archives. Philadelphia Department of Records. 1 Feb. 2010.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Then and Now: Southeast corner of Broad and Walnut Streets, Philadelphia


The 17-story tower that stands at the southeast corner of Broad and Walnut was completed in 1911 as a Ritz-Carlton Hotel, designed by Horace Trumbauer. The first five floors of the tower's façade were remodeled in a Modernist style in the mid-1950s (pictured above), and the interior was also presumably also converted into offices at that time.

211 S. Broad Street was hit hard by the office market recession of the early 90s. By 1993, all but the ground floor spaces of the building had been vacated. Fortunately, it was purchased in 1997 by the University of the Arts, which initiated a complete renovation of its interior into classroom and studio spaces. The University also undertook a faithful reproduction of the building's original façade on the second through fifth floors, using fiber-reinforced cast stone. The roof cornice however, has yet to be rebuilt, if ever. Now renamed as the Daniel J. Terra Building, its Broad Street façade is illuminated nightly by LED lights as part the Avenue of the Arts lighting initiative led by the Center City District.

A quick recap of the Terra Building renovations [Philadelphia Weekly]

1. Adamu, Fatima. "A brief history of the illuminated buildings along the Avenue of the Arts." Center City District.
2. Gorenstein, Nathan. "U. of Arts to purchase Broad Street building." Philadelphia Inquirer. 10 Jun. 1997.
Original photo: Mallis, Atheniasis T. "Public Works-44385-8." 1956. Philadelphia City Archives. Philadelphia Department of Records. 29 Jan. 2010.