According to The Philly History Blog, William Bucknell founded the Chester Gas Company in 1856, just ahead of the Industrial Revolution. His investment would make him part of a new class of wealthy industrialists inhabiting Philadelphia and clustering around Rittenhouse Square. By the 1860s, Bucknell would parlay his wealth into a massive residence at the Northeast corner of 17th & Walnut. His exploits would also earn him the nickname “The Gas King.” The image below, taken from G.M. Hopkins’ 1875 Philadelphia Atlas, shows the location of the Gas King’s home.
The Bucknell residence, 1875
During his time as a resident of Rittenhouse Square, Bucknell achieved immortality in 1881 by stepping in and saving the University of Lewisburg from financial ruin. According to the Philly History Blog, Bucknell donated $50,000 to the school’s preservation, prompting its grateful board of trustees to rechristen it as Bucknell University. Though Bucknell would live to see this honor in 1886, he would pass away a few years later in 1890. His estate remained intact for a few decades beyond, as shown below in a Bryn Mawr College photo from 1900.
The project went through several iterations before it was finally approved by the ZBA in May of 2012. Unfortunately, after it was approved, near neighbors on Rodman Street appealed the decision to the Court of Common Pleas. The appeal was struck down about a year ago, but we believe that some legal cloud still hangs over the project. Despite this, construction is taking place. When it's finished, the four-story building will have nine residential units and a large commercial space on the first floor. 7-11 has a lease on the space, which is slated to be completed over the summer. If you're interested in being the franchisee, you can click here to learn more.
For over a decade, the Boyd Theater has sat vacant and blighted on the 1900 block of Chestnut Street. Since it was last in active use in 2002, several possible plans have come and gone for this deco beauty, but all have fallen by the wayside for one reason or another. In October, we learned about a plan from iPic Theaters to maintain the building's facade and demolish the enormous one-screen theater in favor of a boutique eight-screen concept plus a restaurant.
View today of the theater
When we heard about this idea, we confess we experienced mixed emotions. On the one hand, we were very happy to hear that this long-vacant building would be coming to life again. We were also pleased as punch to learn that Center City would be getting a multi-screen first-run theater once again, something that's been sorely lacking for so many years. On the other hand, the building has so much history and it's one of the only intact downtown theaters that are left out of the dozens we once had. The demolition of the old theater's interior would absolutely be a loss.
Back in December, we passed by Walnut Square, a mixed-use historic building on the northeast corner of 22nd & Walnut, and spotted somebody power-washing the bricks.
Back in December
Going by the other day, we noticed that the power-washing was finished and its results were very apparent.
The bricks on the second story of this building now look great. We're kind of curious as to whether the power-washing will continue up the building or whether this was just a one-story job. It's easy for us to say because it's not our money, but we say keep going!
For 133 S. 18th St., it's been a rough couple of years. For quite some time, Leehe Fai called this space on the corner of 18th & Moravian home. After that business closed, plans emerged for a Dunkin Donuts to open in its old space. The community wasn't so into it, the ZBA didn't give the shop the necessary approvals, and the space sat vacant. New York based Crumbs Bake Shop appeared on the scene, and seemed interested in the space. And then they weren't. And then they were again.
In late 2012, Crumbs opened. And this week, according to Michael Klein, they closed this location for good.