Friday, March 5, 2010

Then and Now: The Philadelphia Art Club, southwest corner of Broad and Chancellor Streets, Philadelphia


When the Philadelphia Art Club formed in 1887, it purchased a former residence at 220 South Broad Street (at $100,000) for the establishment of its club house. Finding the existing building unsuitable for its needs, the Art Club organized an architectural competition, ultimately won by the 27-year-old Frank Miles Day. The renovated and expanded building opened in late 1889 sporting a new Italian Renaissance Revival facade. At the time, the New York Times described it in glowing praise as "one of the most beautiful and artistic clubhouses to be found in the country." In addition to the requisite galleries and parlors, the 5-story building also included for its members a billiard room, cafe, and library, as well as apartment suites and servants quarters. The club house was expanded with a rear "tower" addition in 1907.

I have not been able to track down what happened to the Philadelphia Art Club, but suffice it to say, it ceased to reside in its former club house. Both the 1942 and 1962 Philadelphia Land Use Maps list the property as vacant during those years. The Art Club building was demolished by 1976.


During the 1980s, the firm of Richard I. Rubin & Co. took control of the redevelopment of the entire 200 block of South Broad Street, leading substantial interior renovations to the Broad & Locust tower and the struggling Bellevue Hotel. As part of their efforts, six-story parking garage was built in 1983 on the combined site of the former Art Club and the gothic revival Locust Street Theater. At the time, the development team also gave assurances that the garage would blend in with its neighbors and "not look like a garage." I will leave the final verdict to the reader's discretion.

In 1988, the Bellevue opened its new luxury sports club facilities in a new structure built on top of the parking garage. Interestingly, this pink vertical addition is a little-known work by the very well-known postmodern architect Michael Graves, and his first work in the city of Philadelphia.

1. Philadelphia Architects and Buildings
2. "Philadelphia's Art Club - First Meeting in its New Quarters." The New York Times. 8 Dec. 1889: 6.
3. Byrnes, Gregory R. "Owners See Garage as a Boost for Bellevue." The Philadelphia Inquirer. 31 Oct. 1982: C08.
4. Hine, Thomas. "Graves Hired for Bellevue Project atop Garage - is the Architect's First in Philadelphia." The Philadelphia Inquirer. 11 Aug. 1986: E01.
5. "Philadelphia Land Use Map, 1942." Library Company of Philadelphia. Philadelphia Geohistory Network. Athenaeum of Philadelphia. 3 Mar. 2010.
6. "Philadelphia Land Use Map, 1962." Free Library of Philadelphia Map Collection. Philadelphia Geohistory Network. Athenaeum of Philadelphia. 3 Mar. 2010.

Original photos:
1. Boucher, Jack B. "PA-1528-1: East (Front) Elevation." 1972. Historic American Buildings Survey. American Memory. The Library of Congress. 25 Feb. 2010.
2. Boucher, Jack B. "PA-1528-2: East (Front) Elevation, from northeast." 1972. Historic American Buildings Survey. American Memory. The Library of Congress. 25 Feb. 2010.

1 comment:

Shawn Kailian said...

Hello! This is a great post detailing the rise and fall of Philadelphian architecture! My blood boils knowing the unique Art Club building was seemingly demolished and then replaced by such a hideous eyesore! You say it well when "discretion" to the architecture itself! Such a disgrace!