Archive for October, 2010

Tube Tuesday: WPVI

WPVI, we hardly knew you.  Demolished earlier this year, Vincent Kling’s donut-shaped television studio on City Line Avenue sure looks like a keeper in this mod-tastic 1963 glimpse into its design and construction, featuring a star turn by Kling himself.   Click on the screenshot above for a link to the video, and apologies in advance for the pre-clip commercial.

News & Notes: 10/16-10/22

New life for landmark church in South Philadelphia (Plan Philly, 10/18/10)

While the struggle continues over the future of the Church of the Assumption in Callowhill, another distinctive religious building appears to have a much brighter horizon. The Emanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church in South Philadelphia is in the midst of growing from its German roots into a Vietnamese Buddhist temple.  Continue reading….

Kimpton plans to turn historic, 5th and Chestnut building into Monaco hotel (Inquirer, 10/20/10)

Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants of San Francisco plans a second outpost in Philadelphia: a Monaco hotel at the historic Lafayette Building at Fifth and Chestnut Streets.  Continue reading….

Theophilus the Architect (Brownstoner, 10/21/10)

A goodly number of the 176 buildings designed by gilded-age architect Theophilus Parsons Chandler, Jr. are no longer with us. But in its Chandler Collection, The Athenaeum of Philadelphia has 177 drawings, 1,400 photographs, 255 books and a shelf groaning under the weight of manuscripts. Does having a great archive mean you don’t really need to worry about preservation? Does knowledge somehow forgive a missing urge to preserve? Or does documentation make losses all the more painful? Continue reading….

Twentieth-Century High-Rises (Brownstoner, 10/20/10)

That people on van Pelt are willing to give up space to bump elbows with the rich and famous should not be surprising: after all, that’s the premise behind Rittenhouse high-rises. Beginning in the 1920s, apartment towers rose all around Rittenhouse Square, blotting out the spires of the Church of the Holy Trinity from the skyline completely. Continue reading….

Brownstoner’s Buildings of the Day (10/18-10/21)

Drexel Main Hall, Bishop White House, Shiloh Baptist Church, Overbrook Gardens Court.  Click here to view….

Tube Tuesday: A Place to Live

Part John Steinbeck, part Lewis Mumford, part Alfred Hitchcock, all Philadelphia. The more things change….

Unlisted: Saint Rita of Cascia

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: 1154-62 South Broad Street

Architect: George Lovatt

Built: 1907

Of the thousands of historic church buildings in Philadelphia, only a small fraction are listed on the Philadelphia Register. St Rita’s is just one of the hundreds that could be but isn’t. A gleaming, swirling terra cotta temple that looks plucked from an opera stage, the church is an apt face for these masses of undocumented landmarks yearning to stay standing.   Though it’s not the largest or oldest or grandest, it was built as a shrine to Rita of Cascia, the patron saint of lost and impossible causes.  And while the future of this particular church, thanks to a healthy and well-funded congregation, seems forseeably safe in spite of its unlisted status, the future of hundreds of others is far more troubling.

Big old churches citywide are fighting against time, gravity, leaky roofs, and dwindling congregations.  And mostly they are losing.  The recent plight of the Church of the Assumption drives the point home– landmark status alone cannot ensure the future of these buildings that so define the skylines and streetscapes of our neighborhoods.  “Saving” these churches just by landmarking them is like trying to pound a nail with a screwdriver.  Unlike factories, another increasingly obsolescent building type we have in spades, churches are usually easier to demolish than repurpose, and even “protected” churches like Assumption are no match for the wrecker’s backhoe when the economics of preservation are not immediately, blatantly, even obscenely, obvious to those left holding the keys.

But if a screwdriver is all you have, swinging it is better than doing nothing. The Church of the Assumption would already be a surface lot if it hadn’t been listed on the Philadelphia Register in 2009. Plenty of others are now landfill because there was no legal mechanism to postpone or prevent their demolition. Along with a good roof and a little patience, listing on the Philadelphia Register can help today’s Assumption or Bonaventure or Boniface or Saint Peter be tomorrow’s Baptist Temple.

But back to Rita.  In addition to being the patron saint of lost causes, she’s also the patron saint of baseball.  So if you happen to be heading south on the orange line for any reason, especially, say, on your way to Citizens Bank Park, you may want to tip your cap at the Ellsworth-Federal stop. You’ll be sitting under a shrine that’s been keeping its end of the bargain in the good architecture department and the good baseball department.  A little recognition is in order.

News and Notes: 10/9-10/15

Neighborhood preservation, commercial corridors and a conference audience that looks like Philadelphia (Urban Prospects, 10/9/10)

The Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia hosted the second annual Neighborhood Preservation Conference at Temple University yesterday.  PAGP  unveiled their Neighborhood Initiative programs and grant opportunities, and presented some terrific seminars focusing on how residents and organizations can help preserve and enhance “middle market” neighborhoods in Philadelphia. Continue reading…..

Fundraising plan intended to keep the Olympia from sinking (Plan Philly, 10/11/10)

The plan to reef the historic Cruiser Olympia off the coast of Cape May calls for a party – a giant party! Thirty ships on review, 21-gun salutes, international dignitaries, fireworks and 4 million people on the waterfront. Continue reading….

Sites to Save in Philadelphia (Weekly Press, 10/13/10)

Save Our Sites (SOS), a city preservation group, has issued its 2010 list of endangered buildings, streets, and other sites in Philadelphia that face destruction, neglect, or possible demolition. Continue reading….

Music To Our Eyes (Brownstoner, 10/14/10)

What’s the most Philadelphia of all things Philadelphian? Once upon a time, it came down to a contest between the Mummers and the Orchestra. And a very brief contest it was. Continue reading….

Renovation of Independence Hall underway (Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/15/10)

The scaffolding is up, girdling the familiar tower of Independence Hall. A decorative scrim, donated by the Friends of Independence and sporting an image of the tower, will soon itself be girdling the scaffolding – a reminder of what lies within and a cover for unsightly construction. Continue reading….

Brownstoner’s Buildings of the Day (10/12/10 – 10/15/10)

Bache School, 717-19 S. 4th Street, Saint Anthony Club. Click here to view….

Variations on a Theme II: Hands Across Philadelphia

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Tube Tuesday: Octoberfest Edition

Don’t miss the incomparable beer historian Rich Wagner TONIGHT at 7:30 at the Center for Northeast Philadelphia History (1507 Orthodox St.) as he presents “The Breweries of Frankford, Kensington and Bridesburg.”  Sponsored by the Historical Society of Frankford, $5 general public (free for HSF members). CLICK HERE for more information.  Special thanks to Stephen Metzger for his great documentary.