Walking the Eraserhood: Reading Viaduct

“Walking the Eraserhood” represents an ongoing street-level exploration of the Callowhill district and surrounding environs, a sort of virtual walking tour of the neighborhood.

The spot just outside the Viaduct Gate is an excellent site to just stop and look around. To the north stands Ballinger & Perot’s Rebman building. With luck, twin spires of the endangered historical Church of the Assumption are still visible to the northeast. Due east, in the distance, the three smokestacks of the Willow Street Steam Generation Plant are just visible. Southeast from here one can appreciate the graceful sweep of the final siding of the City Branch as it joins the main line of the Reading Viaduct, pointing toward – but no longer reaching – the Reading Terminal. An abandoned cluster of electrical services for the former railroad still stands at the intersection of the two lines, dominating the 1100 block of Callowhill Street. Beyond this massive ruin, one can just see a bit of the former Frank C. Maurone Company building. Originally this building housed a wholesale distributor of Bazaar and Carnival Supplies. Currently the site is filled with art studios and galleries of many sizes and descriptions.
Directly to the south of the gate, the stone face of the Viaduct drops straight down to the former rail yard and coal depot for the Reading Railroad. Currently this site is occupied by parking, a yard filled with diesel generators and electrical transformers (presumably associated with the Sungard facility in Terminal Commerce) and a single historical coal shed, currently shuttered. Beyond this site one can see the historical Wolf Building on the east end of the 1200 block of Callowhilll Street, currently filled with a creative mix of art studios, performance venues, residences, and even high tech companies. The west end of the same block is occupied by the 1909 Ballinger & Perot designed Goodman Brothers & Hinlein Company Building, currently filled with residences.
Peering further to the south, just to the left of the Wolf Building, a visitor can view the shiny façade of the former Smaltz Bulding, designed in 1912 also by Ballinger & Perot. Currently this building is known as Goldtex Apartments, and sports a modern skin that unmistakably differentiates it from neighboring sites of the same era. While standing here, one might also to look to the southwest, between Goodman Brothers and Terminal Commerce, just above the white bulk of Packard Motor, to get a clear view of more modern structures closer to Market Street, such as the Comcast Building.

Copyright © 2010-2013, Bob Bruhin. All rights reserved.


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Walking the Eraserhood: 1309 Noble Street

“Walking the Eraserhood” represents an ongoing street-level exploration of the Callowhill district and surrounding environs, a sort of virtual walking tour of the neighborhood.

Standing on this site, the pedestrian is between the incredible bulk of the Terminal Commerce Building to the south and Philip Tyre’s astonishing spire and Art Deco designs on the former Lasher Printing Company to the north. This spot exhibits many of the key characteristics that make the Eraserhood unique. The canyon between these two buildings manages to be simultaneously foreboding and radiant; displaying some of the best Philadelphia’s industrial history has to offer. Looking west along the side of the Terminal Commerce Building, the visitor can look directly under Broad Street at the recently cinder blocked base of the Elverson Building, where originally trains passed on their way to the elevated portion of the Reading Viaduct. To the east, one can see the beginning of the upward sweep of the Viaduct. In fact, it is possible to walk a short, grassy portion of the Viaduct, over the 13th Street Bridge, and all the way up to the locked gate that restricts access to the remainder of the Viaduct. Currently plans are underway to convert both these spaces, the underground space to the west and the elevated space to the east into a large rail park. At this point, the park should break ground sometime in 2014.

Copyright © 2010-2013, Bob Bruhin. All rights reserved.

Walking the Eraserhood: Broad and Callowhill Streets

“Walking the Eraserhood” represents an ongoing street-level exploration of the Callowhill district and surrounding environs, a sort of virtual walking tour of the neighborhood.

The architecture on this corner masks the trench known as the Reading Viaduct City Branch, the remains of a former freight rail line that delivered goods to the neighborhood until the early nineties. To the northwest stands the majestic white tower of the 1889 James Elverson Building, the former home of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, also known at the time as Philadelphia Newspapers Incorporated (PNI). Originally trains traveling directly under this building delivered boxcars filled with rolls of newsprint for producing newspapers. This practice continued into the early nineties, when PNI moved their printing plant to a newer facility in Conshohocken. (Currently Elverson is owned by developer Tower Investments. Potential uses include a casino, a hotel, or apartments, depending on approvals.) Rails originally continued under Broad Street Bridge, here, and into the basement of the William Steele & Sons designed Terminal Commerce Building on the northeast corner. Terminal Commerce used to house the headquarters of the Reading Railroad. It was so large and busy that, to this day, it occupies its own 5-digit Zip Code. Currently it houses Sunguard, a computer server co-location service.

Copyright © 2010-2013, Bob Bruhin. All rights reserved.

Walking the Eraserhood: Broad and Wood Streets

“Walking the Eraserhood” represents an ongoing street-level exploration of the Callowhill district and surrounding environs, a sort of virtual walking tour of the neighborhood.

On the northeast corner of this intersection is the former site of the Colonial Revival style Willys-Overland Company building, demolished in 2012, after only two years dedicated as part of CIHD, to make way for a center for the Pennsylvania Ballet. Attached to this lot, just to the north of the Willys-Overland site, stands the 1911 US. Tire Company Building, slated to be occupied by Pennsylvania Ballet as part of the same complex. The southeast corner still contains the Albert Kahn designed Packard Motor Company Building, currently filled with luxury apartments.

Copyright © 2010-2013, Bob Bruhin. All rights reserved.

Walking the Eraserhood: 13th and Wood Streets

“Walking the Eraserhood” represents an ongoing street-level exploration of the Callowhill district and surrounding environs, a sort of virtual walking tour of the neighborhood. This is the first installment in the series.

This is the corner colorfully referred to as “The Heart of the Eraserhood.” On the southeast corner of this intersection is the site where David Lynch first lived when he studied at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA). Lynch reports he lived, “right kitty-corner from the morgue,” which still stands on the northwest corner of the intersection, now serving an annex to the main building of Roman Catholic High School, around the block at Broad and Vine streets. On the northeast corner of this intersection stands the historic Heid building, a pivotal site in the formation of the Callowhill Industrial Historic District (CIHD).

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Via Flickr:
The Demolition of a Landmark
Willys-Overland Motor Company Building
1300 Block of Wood Street
Philadelphia, PA
Copyright © 2012, Bob Bruhin. All rights reserved.
(via ehood.us/177uWxY)