King of K&A: Plain Sights at Wishart St. & Kensington Ave.

The Flomar Building, now home to Esperanza Health Center and the Hispanic Community and Counseling Services, in K&A (Kensington and Allegheny), serves as an example of a would-be eyesore that went from neighborhood burden to neighborhood benefit.

The building was built in 1928 for the Northeastern Title and Trust Company. While other banks in the area were building low-slung Neoclassical stone castles, Northeastern opted for a brick high-rise. While it was an ostentatious megalith that represented the company’s success, the Wall Street Crash of 1929 led to Northeastern merging with the Industrial Trust Company of Philadelphia, and taking on its name in 1930.

Read More

Up, Up and Away: Plain Sights at 34th & Girard

Long, snowy winters are nothing new to Philadelphians, but this season’s accumulation did some serious damage, counting among its victims the beloved Channel 6 ZooBalloon. The first attraction of its kind, the ZooBalloon carried riders 400 feet above the nation’s first zoo, providing for sweeping views of the Schuylkill River, Fairmount Park and the Philadelphia skyline.
Read More

What’s in a Name?

Story and Photos by Bradley MauleWilliam Allen wielded a lot of influence in colonial Pennsylvania—he was a merchant who built upon his father’s fortune, he helped finance the construction of Independence Hall, and he was a one-term Philadelphia mayor and a longtime chief justice of the Province of Pennsylvania. Mount Airy, his nine-acre estate, gave the neighborhood its name and is fronted on Germantown Avenue where the Lutheran Theological Seminary now stands. Despite Allen's prominence, his legacy isn't honored uniformly. 
Read More

Last Days of St. Bonaventure

It appears that St. Bonaventure Roman Catholic Church in North Philadelphia's Fairhill neighborhood will not be spared. The landmark church, designed by prominent church architect Edwin Forrest Durang in 1894 and completed in 1906, was issued its final fate when the City's Department of Licenses and Inspections determined it was "imminently dangerous" and beyond repair. L&I will demolish the entire church - not just the steeple, whose dilapidation caused concern for the larger structure - as well as the school building next door. The former St. Bonaventure rectory and convent, each in good shape, will remain standing.

For more on this story, visit the Hidden City Daily, hiddencityphila.org

Pi in the Sky: The aerial tram that was never built

This section of Columbus Blvd. would be capped in the new plan for Penn's Landing.Along Philadelphia's central Delaware Riverfront, where an iconic bridge connects cars, commuter trains, cyclists and pedestrians with Camden's Riverfront, there was a time when the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA)wanted to add an aerial tram. The Penn's Landing Corporation, in support of DRPA, included the tram as a requisite for a redevelopment design contest in 2003. Ten years and many millions of dollars later, that time and those ideas have passed, leaving only a massive concrete “pi,” surrounded by a sea of surface parking.
Read More

Bridge to the Past

Buried beneath a leafy canopy and camouflaged by summer shrubbery, this brick skew arch bridge has kept its integrity 116 years after its construction and 67 years after the last trolley ran through it. Originally built for the Fairmount Park Transit Company in 1897 with 15 consecutive angled brick arches, the “Chamounix Tunnel” ported trolleys that ran a loop through the park under Old Chamounix Road. That road was struck from the grid long ago and now serves as both a mountain bike trail and a footpath for travelers en route to the Chamounix youth hostel.

For more on this story, visit the Hidden City Daily, hiddencityphila.org.

Stationery Building Isn’t Going Anywhere

This six-story building at 1525 Chestnut is waiting for a new tenant and a new purpose, but thanks to the Philadelphia Historical Commission, it at least has a new designation. The A. Pomerantz & Co. building, designed by the Philadelphia firm Simon & Bassett, is one of 14 new sites on the city’s Register of Historic Places, added by the Commission in June. An early example of a reinforced concrete skeleton, the building was completed in 1917 for Pomerantz, a purveyor of stationery and office supplies. The company still exists and is now owned by former Phillies centerfielder Garry Maddox, its logo a mimic of the iconic sign on the façade of 1525 Chestnut. At present, tentative plans for a boutique hotel in the building are developing.
For more on this story, visit Hidden City Daily, hiddencityphila.org.

Clock Work

Since midnight on December 31, 1898, Philadelphia City Hall has known the time. That is when its four 26-foot diameter clocks began service, powered by compressed air. In 1947, this system was replaced by four synchronous electronic motors, a contraption that continues to power the clocks today. Housed in relatively small boxes, the motors move the clocks’ hands — the 11-foot minute hand and the nine-foot hour hand — via a long metal rod. In this photo, the rod is camouflaged amongst the perma-scaffolding inside City Hall’s tower, but if you look closely, you can see it running up the center. Right at 6 o’clock. For more on this story, visit Hidden City Daily, hiddencityphila.org.

Hidden City Festival 2013 to Kick-off Block Party

The Hidden City Festival 2013 will kick-off this year with a block party at the Goldtex Building, located at 12th & Wood Streets on May 25 from 7-11 p.m. The evening features live music and a dance party under the Reading Viaduct, starring Hank & Cupcakes, City Rain, DJ Adrian Hardy, DJ Lina Luv, and the New Sound Brass Band. Gourmet eats from local food trucks and craft beer will be sold on site.

Join Hidden City in previewing this year's exciting lineup of Festival sites and artists, purchase your Festival passes, and learn more about Hidden City Philadelphia.

Tickets are $10 for advanced purchase and $15 at the door. All proceeds benefit the Hidden City Philadelphia Festival 2013. To purchase tickets visit hiddencityphila.ticketleap.com/kickoff or learn more about the Festival at festival.hiddencityphila.org.

Our 50th Issue, featuring Judy Wicks, Is Out Now!

We are very excited that our 50th issue is out, and even more excited that it features Judy Wicks on the cover. Judy is local icon and a pioneer in the local food and sustainability movements. We'd call her inimitable, but luckily many have imitated her, and the world is a better place because of it.

This issue also features our 24-page guide to the Hidden City Festival 2013, a six-week celebration of some of Philadelphia's least-known gems. With great photos and fascinating facts from our friends at Hidden City, we know you're going to enjoy the guide, and we hope it helps inspire you to take advantage of this unique — and uniquely Philadelphian — event.

We have a few hidden gems of our own in this issue, including stories on an innovative workplace CSA, the return of native wildflowers through forest restoration efforts, money-saving energy efficiency grant programs, and more, including features on forager David Siller and artist Meei Ling Ng.  

So be sure to pick up a copy at one of our more than 450 pickup locations, or, if you can't wait, click HERE to read it on line. And don't forget, you can meet some of the people who are in this issue and who helped put it together, at Grid Alive, Friday, May 10. Hope we see you there!

The Birthplace of the Barnes Collection?

modern photo by Peter Woodall | archival photo courtesy of the Athenaeum of Philadelphia

In partnership with Hidden City, Plain Sights highlights historic buildings with compelling stories hiding in our midst.

This building at 40th and Filbert Streets in West Philadelphia is where Dr. Albert Barnes manufactured the wildly successful (read: lucrative) antiseptic Argyrol. It is also where he hung his paintings, which would become part of the regular seminars Barnes held for his employees on his theories of art and learning. For more on this story, visit Hidden City Daily, hiddencityphila.org.

 

Grid Alive brings sustainability and musical guests to the stage

Thanks to everyone who came out last night for the return of Grid Alive. We had a great evening with our guests and hope you enjoyed the discussion.

From this month’s cover story, we had Bob Fishman from the Resources for Human Development and Denenne Brockington from Equal Dollars. The pair talked about their work with Equal Dollars and how the alternative currency is an “equalizer” among community members, eliminating the competition associated with U.S. currency. We also had Nathaniel Popkin and Peter Woodall from Hidden City reflect on last month’s preservation issue. They talked about revitalizing Philadelphia’s urban fabric, as well as the work of Hidden City Daily and the importance of robust, local journalism.

Other guests included the Philadelphia Seed Exchange, which hosted a seed share, and Sean Hoots who treated the audience to a special acoustic performance.   

For those who missed the event don’t worry, we’ll have a podcast of the evening up shortly where you’ll be able to hear the full interviews with our guests.

Do Historic Districts Add Up?

story by Stefan Kamph

With the Overbrook Farms district designation still in dispute and other potential Philadelphia districts, including Washington Square West, in bureaucratic limbo, Stefan Kamph weighs the economic evidence. This article is a follow up to yesterday's Overbook Farms' piece (also written by Kamph), which is part of a special editorial partnership with Hidden City Daily on preservation in Philadelphia. Like what you read? Check out the full March 2013 issue and visit Hidden City for more stories on the inspiring preservation work being done in Philadelphia. 

The 5900 block of Drexel Road in the Overbrook Farms neighborhood. | Photo by Peter WoodallFor years, advocates of historic preservation have been working to get the far West Philly turn-of-the-century neighborhood of Overbrook Farms designated a “historic district” on the City’s Register of Historic Places. This would complement the neighborhood’s place on the National Register, and impose restrictions on renovation and demolition. The city would review and approve any structural or cosmetic changes that residents wanted to make to their homes.

The effort has been at a standstill since September 2011, when a group of residents began to protest what they saw as too much government intervention on private property. The strongest complaint was economic: not everybody in the area, these opponents said, would be able to afford the financial burden of maintaining a circa-1900 home.

Read More

Historical Dispute: Will the stalled designation of Overbrook Farms be resolved?

story by Stefan Kamph  photos by Albert Yee

This article is part of a special editorial partnership with Hidden City Daily on preservation in Philadelphia. Like what you read? Check out the full March 2013 issue and visit Hidden City for more stories on the inspiring preservation work being done in Philadelphia. And for more about Overbook Farms, come back tomorrow to read a new article from Stefan Kamph on measuring the economic impact of historic districts.

Nearly every detail—interior and exterior—of Larry and Jean Andreozzi’s 10-bedroom house is precisely restored, as if time hadn’t touched the home since it was built in 1894. Actually much of Overbrook Farms, the West Philadelphia neighborhood tucked along the city’s border with Montgomery County, feels a lot like it did when tycoons, politicians and industrialists built it as the first Main Line suburb in the late 19th century. Stone houses with gables and manicured lawns sit on quiet, tree-lined streets. “The houses had their own individual architects, marvelous craftsmanship, and marvelous building materials,” says Andreozzi, standing near a door frame of quarter-sawn oak that he’s lovingly restored. Andreozzi is a master woodworker, and for the past 15 years this house has been his hobby.

Read More