Unlisted: Schlichter Jute Cordage Works

Written and drawn by Ben Leech

Unlisted is a series of portraits highlighting Philadelphia buildings not yet listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places.  To learn how to protect a building by nominating it to the Register, click here.

Address: 2155 Castor Avenue

Architect: Unknown

Built: c.1858

Buildings like the former Schlichter Jute Cordage Works (aka the Quaker Paper Products Building, aka Sterling Paper) usually
survive only in old sepia-toned photographs and doting lithographic portraits.  Built in an era of dandified industry, when picturesque clocktowers, turrets, and other architectural flourishes were as common to factories as smokestacks and water tanks, these are buildings you can almost assume are long since demolished.  Buildings like the Stetson Hat Factory and Schmidt’s Brewery. Buildings that inspire that most common of laments, “Man, it’s a shame they tore that down.”

But the Schlichter is still very much with us, inspiring an altogether different thought: “Man, how did they miss this one?”  It stands in a largely nondescript corner of Kensington, down the street from Target and Home Depot.  It is still occupied, presumably by the Sterling Paper Company, but is draped in an aura of mystery.  And graffiti.  And strange signage.  Where former tenants once
matter-of-factly painted their names along the cornice lines of the  building, the brick walls now inexplicably proclaim, “THERE IS NO CLOCK WHEN ITS TIME TO FLY” and “WE WILL NEVER FORGET YOU YOU TURN AROUND AND YOU COME BACK REMEMBER.”  This is an architectural non-sequitor of the most welcome kind.


2 responses

  1. Dear Ben Leech/ Preserve Philly/field notes,

    my name is Cody Casale, the grandson of Martin Stein, who is the president of Sterling Paper company. The other night I was randomly browsing google images and came across your article about my Grandfathers factory.

    I am pleased to read what you wrote, the illustration of the building and also the photos you shot. I would like to add some of my knowledge about what I know, to inform you:

    The paper company is still in business and my Grandfather has been struggling to keep it alive- but it is still going… union workers and all. The original signage that was on the top sides of the building said “it takes a golden effort to make a sterling product”. After a while, (about in 2001), that signage became old and the Philadelphia Mural Arts wanted to add some mystery to the building. I was getting ready to attend RISD, Rhode Island School of Design and wanted to help out with the project. Meg Saligman, one of the main artists from the philly mural arts went in and spoke with my grandfather about his past, and wrote down bold statements that he stated as he told his stories to her. She then used those statements and in a “subtle” manner (w/o runing the run down look of the building) had Tony (local graff. artist and myself) add the sayings, the paintings of my grandfather, my mother and myself, also the “1st, 2nd and 3rd” shift paintings. To this day, after the mural was finished- people would walk by the building in confusion wondering what it all means- asking my grandfather numerous questions. If it was up to him, he would of rather of had his original Sterling Paper slogan redone, in crisp black/white paint.

    I really appreciate your effort to acknowledge your awareness of the building and will be sure to pass your article on to my grandfather and aunt (president and vice president).


    Cody Casale

    January 4, 2011 at 11:46 pm

  2. Pingback: Sterling Paper Co. / The Schlicter Jute & Cordage Co. « Ghost Sign Project

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