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  1. #41
    thoth's Avatar
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    Creepy, I just posted about the urban archives in another thread

    Quote Originally Posted by urbanarchives View Post
    Been enjoying the thread, use of local resources and our mention. True that the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin is one of our strongest resources. The newspaper was in operation from 1847-1982. We have the morgue in which the photo collection is strongest from 1950-1982. There are two other great photo resources that stretch a little further back. Both the Housing Association of the Delaware Valley and City Parks Association were concerned with housing and planning reform and documented it with photos going back to 1890.

    Our system is new, but just hit it's stride (we're currently getting over 1,000 images online a month.) We have our older system (Digital Diamond up as well.) Keep checking in to our Digital Collections page to see what we're up to. Also become a fan on Facebook for updates and weekly posts.

  2. #42
    nanyika is online now Senior Member
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    I do not agree with the point of view that most of the buildings on Broad St. and its vicinity that were knocked down had lost their usefulness -- or that they had been irremediably deteriorated. If anything, tearing down those buildings only hastened the deterioration of the entire street and neighborhood.

    It wasn't "market forces" that caused many of the buildings to be demolished. A vast area north of Girard, along both sides of Broad St., and east of Temple University was completely cleared by the Redevelopment Agency, according to their misguided schemes of "urban renewal."

    Many demolished houses had been large and well constructed, like the "brownstone" buildings that still stand west of Broad. After the city tore them down, a lot of the land remained vacant lots for years -- eventually replaced by project-like houses for poor people -- or parking lots. An even worse "dumbing-down" process took place on Broad St. itself. If those buildings had been allowed to stand, even empty and sealed, the area would have far better chances today of regeneration.

    As eldondre pointed out, buildings can be reused for different purposes than originally intended. That has been the history of Broad St. The Forest Mansion at Broad and Master became a restaurant, and now houses the Freedom Theater. The old Grand Opera House, which cwd22 posted a picture of, was the Wilkie auto showroom when I was a kid. The Baptist Temple, which the university wanted to tear down, is now being converted into a theater.

    It is not strictly true that a modern replacement building is cheaper than rehabbing an older building. Even though old buildings might not have the electrical, plumbing, insulation, and other qualities of modern buildings, they are often sturdier. Also, saving and reusing materials is often more efficient than hauling them away to a distant landfill, and starting fresh with new materials, which means higher costs to society as a whole.

    Certainly on Broad St. the question of rehabbing versus tearing down for a modern but otherwise equal replacement was rarely considered. Would anyone claim, for instance, that the lavish eight-story Majestic Hotel needed to be torn down in order to construct a parking lot with a one-story MacDonald's in the middle? The truth was that once the Majestic had been leveled, the land was worth far less, and fit for little more than a gas station and fast-food joint. Wouldn't it have been more cost-efficient, and more benefit to society, to keep the Majestic, and perhaps reconstruct it into an apartment house? After all, the grand mansions slightly up the street were torn down in order to build a high-rise (low-income) apartment house from scratch.
    Last edited by nanyika; 02-20-2010 at 02:57 AM.

  3. #43
    eldondre is offline Moderator
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    wow, RDA, shoulda known. you put it much more eloquently than I. They have a banner up at city hall commemorating the RDA. the only banner they should get is when it's dissolved.
    "It has shown me that everything is illuminated in the light of the past"
    Jonathan Safran Foer

  4. #44
    Hector is offline Junior Member
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    Default Broad and Chancellor

    The philly history website is a treasure to be sure; I've used it often. The picture you posted of the building at Broad and Chancellor was most evocative for me. In September, 1959, after graduating high school, I worked for the Keystone Insurance Company, part of the Keystone Automobile Club. The Club occupied that building and a grand old place it was. As a seventeen-year-old file clerk I enjoyed working, at $42.50 a week, in a place that had obviously been someone's posh residence. During heavy snowstorms all male employees were requested to come in early to answer Club members' 'phone calls to get their cars started or to tow them out of snow mounds.
    Keystone Insurance also had offices on the second floor of the adjoining building at Broad and Locust, and just around the corner was the Locust Theater. I follow with interest the back and forth comments here about about preserving or replacing old buildings; your points are well-made. I'm just so glad that I had a chance to see many of those buildings and to enter some of them (I was in the Widener Mansion at Broad and Girard when it was the home of The Kuljian Corporation, an engineering firm). I could go on and on, but I'll follow my daughter's wise advice: "Dad, you just have to edit a bit."

  5. #45
    thoth's Avatar
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    I made a conscious effort to stop looking at pictures of North Broad a while back, because they were so upsetting. The buildings are gone, and not coming back and I found that wallowing in what had been often left me feeling hopeless. All we can do is learn a lesson for the future.

    However, people were talking about the Girard area, and I thought I would add that there was also a little known, but apparently quite nice, square located behind the Majestic. Called "Ontario Park", I've scarcely found anything online about it, except a NYT clipping from the 1890s about Philadelphia's park system, and a single photo from the urban archives of the central fountain that was designed by William Elkins.



    Temple University Libraries /Paley Ref

    http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive...6F9C94649ED7CF
    Article on NYT

  6. #46
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    Quote Originally Posted by nanyika View Post
    Certainly on Broad St. the question of rehabbing versus tearing down for a modern but otherwise equal replacement was rarely considered. Would anyone claim, for instance, that the lavish eight-story Majestic Hotel needed to be torn down in order to construct a parking lot with a one-story MacDonald's in the middle? The truth was that once the Majestic had been leveled, the land was worth far less, and fit for little more than a gas station and fast-food joint. Wouldn't it have been more cost-efficient, and more benefit to society, to keep the Majestic, and perhaps reconstruct it into an apartment house? After all, the grand mansions slightly up the street were torn down in order to build a high-rise (low-income) apartment house from scratch.
    I think you're a bit closer to the real reason.


    Tearing down old Philadelphia buildings on N. Broad was a misguided attempt at redevelopment.

    The reason why the redevelopment didn't happen is mainly because of the lot size. In the 60s and 70s building designers were designing crap that had larger and larger footprints. So you tear down 3 mansions and you're left with a 2-dimensional space that can only fit a few cars. Or make room for a drive-thru or a gas station.

    The block now looks like crap because what was installed after demolition was put in as an afterthought. So property values went down even more.

    Low property values invites poor people to come in and cement the low values so they're permanent. So instead of taking a space nobody cares about and creating a new space even less people care about---you are left with urban space that no one cares about.




    This differs from O/C Society Hill, which was a redevelopment effort on a massive scale. When the demolition phase was complete the cleared blocks were so numerous it looked like a nuclear bomb went off in the city. But the rehabbing and new modern contruction was carefully done, the blocks were kept in their original configurations and property values were set so they could be affordable enough to in-fill new residents who would care about their neighborhood.


    Most new residents to Society Hill have no idea that they're living in what is basically a government project.
    Last edited by ArcticSplash; 02-20-2010 at 02:05 PM.

  7. #47
    cwd22 is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by thoth View Post
    I made a conscious effort to stop looking at pictures of North Broad a while back, because they were so upsetting. The buildings are gone, and not coming back and I found that wallowing in what had been often left me feeling hopeless. All we can do is learn a lesson for the future.

    However, people were talking about the Girard area, and I thought I would add that there was also a little known, but apparently quite nice, square located behind the Majestic. Called "Ontario Park", I've scarcely found anything online about it, except a NYT clipping from the 1890s about Philadelphia's park system, and a single photo from the urban archives of the central fountain that was designed by William Elkins.



    Temple University Libraries /Paley Ref

    http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive...6F9C94649ED7CF
    Article on NYT
    I saw another picture of the park somewhere that showed some of the buildings facing it. I'll have to try and find it again.

  8. #48
    nanyika is online now Senior Member
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    The Arcadia Publishing book, "Philadelphia's Broad Street: South and North," by Robert Morris Skaler, has a photo of Ontario Park and the fountain. I would recommend the book very highly (though it is sad to see what was lost). And somewhere on-line I remember a photo of Ontario Park in the 1940s, when a workers' demonstration was taking place there.

    I have often wondered where the Ontario Park fountain is today, and where, for that matter, all the old fountains and statuary torn from Philadelphia's parks are kept. I have heard that many of the pieces are still stored in a city warehouse. Does anyone know if that is true?

  9. #49
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    Well, the buildings are gone and it's a shame. At least City Hall is still standing. Attitudes have changed but in the 60s and 70s the buildings posted by the op were outdated heaps and as one member noted probably in awful condition.

    We have to try to save the great buildings still standing. Mark my words, the Divine Lorraine is next to meet the wrecking ball. I can feel it.

  10. #50
    raider.adam is offline Senior Member
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    By the way, anyone who uses the Broad and Girard stop on the BSL passed the picture of the mansions of the intersection every time. They are on the wall across from turnstiles. (Not the exact same pictures, but of the buildings.)

  11. #51
    eldondre is offline Moderator
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phillyurban8 View Post
    Well, the buildings are gone and it's a shame. At least City Hall is still standing. Attitudes have changed but in the 60s and 70s the buildings posted by the op were outdated heaps and as one member noted probably in awful condition.

    We have to try to save the great buildings still standing. Mark my words, the Divine Lorraine is next to meet the wrecking ball. I can feel it.
    apparently that wasn't the case but they were deliberately torn down by a misguided agency. the Lorraine is definitley a concern and should be a top priority, more important than a bike trail to bartram's garden.

    adam-I've always known about the mansion but had no idea of teh scale of what was lost.


    meat-actually, I wouldn't be surprised if some of the displaced poor from society hill were forcibly relocated to the projects by broad and girard. I think you have it backwards, the poor didn't move in, they were moved there. there are a ton of projects in that area which solidified it's state. the problem with projects like society hill, for every successful one, there are many failed ones. on the whole, the ROI on old city is higher but that's neither here nor there. hopefully we've learned something and nanyika put it best, the value of the land once they were gone was less than when they were standing.
    "It has shown me that everything is illuminated in the light of the past"
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  12. #52
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    Displaced Society Hill residents mostly went to Point Breeze and Hawthorne. They're even a quote in Al Alston's "news" blog from an ex-society hill resident talking about how his family moved to Point Breeze in the 60s. A lot of the neighborhoods in farther west phila started to destabilize as Penn/Drexel did mass demolition for the UC project around the same time. People have to go somewhere, and they usually don't stray too far from home especially with limited means.

    The NW Girard subway exit is the last remaining piece of the original Widener manse. It was incorporated into the fence that ringed the property. Look at the old photos. It's replacement with a KFC was just another obscenity on Philadelphia's landscape.

  13. #53
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    Temple originally wanted to demolish the Baptist Temple and the original college building to build this:



    But only the two southernmost components of the tower(Carnell and Conwell Halls) were built. I'm glad the University's two oldest buildings are still there, but had this full structure been built, Wachman Hall wouldn't exist.

  14. #54
    nanyika is online now Senior Member
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    I didn't mean to imply in an earlier post that the Redevelopment Authority was entirely responsible for the demolitions along N. Broad. Perhaps I put too much emphasis on it. They did, however, have a big hand in demolitions in the blocks north of Girard all the way up to Temple -- especially on the east side of Broad St.

    The RDA's "Southwest Temple" project clear cut practically all the buildings in an area covering 25 square blocks. In my copy of the Redevelopment Authority's "1962 Annual Report," the officials state: “Demolition of blighted structures had reached Broad Street, opening up vistas of the renewed area extending five blocks eastward to 9th Street, and preparing the way for the rejuvenation of Broad Street itself, once the city's handsomest thoroughfare."

    Two photos in the report show the blocks cleared in Southwest Temple before they had reached Broad Street. The Majestic Hotel and other old buildings to the north (i.e., where William Penn High School is now) are still standing in the photos. And buildings along the north side of Girard Avenue have not yet been pulled down. Ontario Square has been cleared of trees. And the high rise apartment house on the west side of Broad, on the ground where LaSalle University used to be, is already constructed.

    I can remember watching them tear down the Majestic Hotel. I think it was the following year, 1963. I thought it was a shame even then, and watching them tear down the Broad St. buildings recently for the Convention Center reminded me of that earlier demolition. But in the case of Southwest Temple, a lot of the cleared land remained vacant for decades.

    During the 1960s, the Redevelopment Authority also demolished many homes closer to Temple, so the university could use the land for new buildings and parking lots. A few low-income houses were built in that area also.

    I agree with posters who pointed out the importance of preserving the older buildings that remain on Broad Street; that can only hasten the "rejuvenation" of the neighborhood (to cite the professed goal of the RDA some 40 years ago). One example is the old Burk mansion, the landmark Beaux-Arts-style building on the northwest corner of Broad and Jefferson. Temple University owns the building, but it is boarded up, and possibly facing demolition.

  15. #55
    eldondre is offline Moderator
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    If it's the building I think it is, I always thought a boutique hotel would work there, esp now that the stretch of broad is a little less intimidating. I'd imagine there are enough visiting prof's and parents that would stay there to keep a small place in business.
    "It has shown me that everything is illuminated in the light of the past"
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  16. #56
    Phillyurban8 is offline Senior Member
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    I'm wondering if we are underestimating how people viewed these buildings when they were demolished. Did most people see those old buildings like many of us view modern architecture from the 50s and 60s? The public really doesn't bat an eye when many midcentury buildings are torn down today. They are pretty much disposable as was our own Bell Pavilion. Similarly Le Corbusier wanted to tear down a huge chunk of historic Paris, which he saw as ugly, inefficient and dirty. To him the Woolworth building in New York was a fright. Mies van der Rohe's buildings were spare whether they were a chapel or a power plant. Frank Lloyd Wright's vision of the modern city was very suburban.

    So while we see these old buildings are irreplacable and beautiful, I really do think that in the 60s and 70s they were viewed as grotesque heaps -- inefficient, overwrought wedding cakes ladened(burdened) with old ideas and the past, certainly not part of the modern metropolis that Philadelphia was trying to be.

  17. #57
    eldondre is offline Moderator
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phillyurban8 View Post
    I'm wondering if we are underestimating how people viewed these buildings when they were demolished. Did most people see those old buildings like many of us view modern architecture from the 50s and 60s? The public really doesn't bat an eye when many midcentury buildings are torn down today. They are pretty much disposable as was our own Bell Pavilion. Similarly Le Corbusier wanted to tear down a huge chunk of historic Paris, which he saw as ugly, inefficient and dirty. To him the Woolworth building in New York was a fright. Mies van der Rohe's buildings were spare whether they were a chapel or a power plant. Frank Lloyd Wright's vision of the modern city was very suburban.

    So while we see these old buildings are irreplacable and beautiful, I really do think that in the 60s and 70s they were viewed as grotesque heaps -- inefficient, overwrought wedding cakes ladened(burdened) with old ideas and the past, certainly not part of the modern metropolis that Philadelphia was trying to be.
    maybe that's true of the people making these decisions but my parents and their friends seem to be more along the lines of nanyika...sad to see them go. even to go so far as to ridicule "the garbage" they replaced them with (referring to the mid-century stuff). nonetheless, I think the end result was the absolute failure of the planners of the day to really understand what was happening. the thinking that "blight removal" in the form of notable buildings to make way for "new" was an abject failure. things like the gallery, which has been a reasonably successful mall, completely failed to keep cc relevant. I think it's likely that the people in charge of things like the RDA and city planning commission were pushing for "modernization" much harder than the people who lived there who may have seen them as "destroying our city".

    If you sift through the photos you'll see buildings were often torn down in the past. this wasn't just a mid-century thing. it's just that, esp here, they were replaced with schlock at best, nothing at worst (as many of the buildings in the thread). note that one poster said he was sad to see the old art club go, no one logged in and said they were glad it was replaced with a tacky garage. in the pre-depression days, buildings were often torn down for something different but equally useful and frequently interesting.
    "It has shown me that everything is illuminated in the light of the past"
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  18. #58
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phillyurban8 View Post
    I'm wondering if we are underestimating how people viewed these buildings when they were demolished. Did most people see those old buildings like many of us view modern architecture from the 50s and 60s? The public really doesn't bat an eye when many midcentury buildings are torn down today. They are pretty much disposable as was our own Bell Pavilion. Similarly Le Corbusier wanted to tear down a huge chunk of historic Paris, which he saw as ugly, inefficient and dirty. To him the Woolworth building in New York was a fright. Mies van der Rohe's buildings were spare whether they were a chapel or a power plant. Frank Lloyd Wright's vision of the modern city was very suburban.

    So while we see these old buildings are irreplacable and beautiful, I really do think that in the 60s and 70s they were viewed as grotesque heaps -- inefficient, overwrought wedding cakes ladened(burdened) with old ideas and the past, certainly not part of the modern metropolis that Philadelphia was trying to be.

    Mostly, it's just not cost efficient to reuse the building.

    Buildings are built for purposes.

    People love to use the word "re-purpose" but it always come down to cost.

    Looking at the remaining structures n Broad I would think that's still the case.




    Abandoned Uptown Theater in Philadelphia



    (images via: Abandoned But Not Forgotten)

    The Uptown Theatre in Philadelphia has been the setting for many memorable performances. First opened in 1928, it functioned as a movie theater and as a venue for national music acts. After closing its doors as a theater, the building was once used as a church. Current reports say that the building is vacant, though several attempts have been made (and subsequently fallen through) to restore it to its former glory.

    Abandoned Theaters, Parks, Schools & Pools | Design + Ideas on WU


    So if you owned this land and you could sell it to say Temple for 3x more than you would ever get for it "as-is"

    Why wouldn't you.

    The cost to renovate such a structure may never produce a return.
    I'm not seeing all these supposed bikes in all these million dollar bike lanes.

  19. #59
    eldondre is offline Moderator
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    Quote Originally Posted by desolate View Post
    Mostly, it's just not cost efficient to reuse the building.

    Buildings are built for purposes.

    People love to use the word "re-purpose" but it always come down to cost.

    Looking at the remaining structures n Broad I would think that's still the case.

    as it's been pointed out multiple times you are talking out of your butt. people love to use the word repurpose because it's true. anyone who goes out saying "all x is true" doesn't know what they're talking about. the idea that demolishing the majestic and rebuilding a nice hotel was cheaper is lying. fact is, as nanyika said, demolition was actually destruction of value. the problem wasn't that it was too expensive to renovate, that's a pure lie, but that there wasn't enough demand to renovate it. However, the long run costs of having demolished it are far greater than any savings reaped by not keeping it. now we have a gas station and mcdonald's serving projects which is only better in your world.



    Quote Originally Posted by desolate View Post
    So if you owned this land and you could sell it to say Temple for 3x more than you would ever get for it "as-is"

    Why wouldn't you.

    The cost to renovate such a structure may never produce a return.
    seems unlikely. renovating the structure as an apartment build will likely yield a positive return to the owner (depending n what they paid) and the community. renovating is as a theater, which I believe is what is wanted here, will never produce a return...well, maybe a live music stage. I wouldn't be opposed to temple bringing in landmark theaters to run a small arthouse screen with apartments on top. seems like such a thing would do alright on a college campus. of course, that might be gentrification.

    obviously the largest problem, and hwy NTI was such a failure, is lack of demand. lack of demand is, in part, because the city spends so much time and money demolishing itself that it can't "afford" to lower taxes or invest in quality of life improvements to raise demand.

    and the last point being that even if the bolded sentence were true, it's in teh city's best interest to provide a grant.
    Last edited by eldondre; 02-23-2010 at 12:51 PM.
    "It has shown me that everything is illuminated in the light of the past"
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  20. #60
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    Quote Originally Posted by eldondre View Post
    as it's been pointed out multiple times you are talking out of your butt. people love to use the word repurpose because it's true. anyone who goes out saying "all x is true" doesn't know what they're talking about. the idea that demolishing the majestic and rebuilding a nice hotel was cheaper is lying. fact is, as nanyika said, demolition was actually destruction of value. the problem wasn't that it was too expensive to renovate, that's a pure lie, but that there wasn't enough demand to renovate it. However, the long run costs of having demolished it are far greater than any savings reaped by not keeping it. now we have a gas station and mcdonald's serving projects which is only better in your world.





    seems unlikely. renovating the structure as an apartment build will likely yield a positive return to the owner (depending n what they paid) and the community. renovating is as a theater, which I believe is what is wanted here, will never produce a return...well, maybe a live music stage. I wouldn't be opposed to temple bringing in landmark theaters to run a small arthouse screen with apartments on top. seems like such a thing would do alright on a college campus. of course, that might be gentrification.

    obviously the largest problem, and hwy NTI was such a failure, is lack of demand. lack of demand is, in part, because the city spends so much time and money demolishing itself that it can't "afford" to lower taxes or invest in quality of life improvements to raise demand.
    You know something--this morning we drove south on 12th St, from Glenwood. It's the first time in a few years that we've had that opportunity because of moving. There were a couple of properties on 12th, just north of Lehigh, that I always looked at and admired, and thought they had held up well enough over the years, and thought all they needed was just a little more TLC. Well surprise! This morning I noticed "Danger" signs in the windows--the orange stickers that signify a real problem. First, I was shocked, and secondly I was reminded of why so many of the grand buildings and houses on N. Broad were demolished. They need C-A-R-E and maintenance. If you don't at least keep up with roofs over the years, it's just a recipe for disaster.

    Those grand mansions on N. Broad were just that. Too grand. Too big for the average person to maintain after the wealthy industrialists that built them, left. It's sad, yes, but really, neglect is a terrible thing to do to a building, and it really does become difficult to save absent a great deal of money. It is easier and cheaper to take them down and put something more useful in their places. Even if the idea of what's "useful" changes over the years.
    Competition is indispensable to progress. John Stuart Mills.

 

 

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