Walking the Eraserhood: 10th 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.

Looking northwest along Ridge Avenue provides an excellent view of the Viaduct as it switches back and forth between iron and stone supports. The now empty triangle to the north, between Ridge and 10th is traditionally held to be the spot where Benjamin Franklin engaged a blacksmith to affix an iron point on his kite, prior to his famous experiment, supposedly also performed on this site. (The kite, itself, is held to have been flying over a spot several blocks away, where Assumption Church was later built.) On the northeast corner, one can see the former bottling line of George Esslinger’s brewery, as well as the taller, older brew house behind it. Here is an excellent example of an industrial site evolving in a specific location over the years. You can look at the various structures piled together and, if you have the experience, estimate the age of each. On the southwest corner is the former site of the site of the Philadelphia Circus and Menagerie, later rebuilt in 1874 as the New National Theater. Supposedly, with some modifications, the building currently on the site is the same building that once housed the theater.

Copyright © 2009-2013, Bob Bruhin. All rights reserved.


View Walking the Eraserhood in a larger map

Walking the Eraserhood: 10th and Hamilton 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 corner offers another clear view of the Viaduct, along with the Haverford Bicycle Company on the northwest corner. Looking back to the west provides another clear view of the Lasher.

Copyright © 2009-2013, Bob Bruhin. All rights reserved.


View Walking the Eraserhood in a larger map

Walking the Eraserhood: 11th and Hamilton 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.

While we are now well outside the dedicated areas of the neighborhood, we are still surrounded by former industrial buildings, with good views of the iron Viaduct southeast down Ridge, east down Hamilton, and south, back the way we came. To the west, the spire of the Lasher is clearly visible.

Copyright © 2009-2013, Bob Bruhin. All rights reserved.


View Walking the Eraserhood in a larger map

Walking the Eraserhood: 11th 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.

Here we can stand directly under what Philadelphians call “The Trestle” as it makes the transition from stone viaduct to iron girders. In the evening, visitors can also visit the infamous inn bearing the same name.

Copyright © 2009-2013, Bob Bruhin. All rights reserved.


View Walking the Eraserhood in a larger map

Walking the Eraserhood: 1100 Block of Wood 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 and 12th and Wood we can see the former Smaltz building along the 1100 block of Wood, currently clothed in modern skin. Walking east from here, we can also pass through one of the massive stone tunnels under the Reading Viaduct. It is believed this is the tunnel David Lynch refers to in his anecdote about carrying a nail-studded board as protection while he lived in this neighborhood. The textures of the inside of the tunnel may well serve as the original model for textures Lynch used in the “man in the planet” sequence in Eraserhead. One can then continue south to stand at 11th and Wood at the foot of the Frank C. Maurone Company building, currently bearing the banner of Khmer Art Gallery. Standing here at 11th and Wood, it is also a good idea to look back to the west, to appreciate how the Reading Viaduct comes in from the crossing at 11th and Callowhill and points toward Reading Terminal.

Copyright © 2009-2013, Bob Bruhin. All rights reserved.


View Walking the Eraserhood in a larger map

Walking the Eraserhood: 12th 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.

Standing at street level here, we can get a very different perspective on the sites we just viewed from the Viaduct. The elevated portion of the City Branch comes in to the northwest, crosses 12th Street due north, and gracefully curves to the south, to meet with the main line due east of here, in the middle of the 1100 block of Callowhill. The northwest corner is occupied by the former rail yard, bordered to the north by the stone bulk of the Viaduct and to the west, across 13th street, by the Terminal Commerce Building. (Some have suggested piles of earth in this rail yard, as it appeared in the late 1960’s, provided the model for the “rough hillocks” Henry Spencer climbs in the beginning if David Lynch’s Eraserhead.) We can also appreciate the sheer bulk of the Wolf Building from here, and even look west down Callowhill to see the entrance to Underground Arts, a performance venue in a deep sub-basement of the Wolf.

Copyright © 2009-2013, Bob Bruhin. All rights reserved.


View Walking the Eraserhood in a larger map

Walking the Eraserhood: Noble Street Street Bridge

“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.

Walking west, back along the Viaduct, the visitor can return to the Noble Street bridge over 13th Street, where the view up the canyon between Rebman and the condominium building at 428 North 13th Street dramatically showcases a relatively unspoiled block, including the John Evans’ Sons spring foundry (now serving as a stable for carriage horses) and the well restored Prohibition Taproom.

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

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.


View Walking the Eraserhood in a larger map

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.