Over the weekend, we got a tip from a reader about 2028-34 Rittenhouse Sq., which is currently used as a parking garage.
The three story building looks like it was once a warehouse of some kind, though we couldn't tell you exactly what it was originally built for. Over the past several years, as we mentioned, it's been used as a parking garage. But people who use this property to store their cars recently got notice that the garage is closing down at the end of the year.
Signs on the building
The garage's closure is, according to signs in the window, due to an upcoming development at the property. But we don't know what's going on. Permits have been pulled for minor masonry work and the removal of an underground tank, but that's no indication of whether the building will be renovated to accommodate residential uses for example, or demolished and replaced with something new. Has anyone in the neighborhood heard about what's planned for this property?
The intersection of Broad and Wood Streets, just north of the Vine Street Expressway, has seen a tremendous amount of change over the course of two centuries. As the neighborhood around North Broad Street has transformed, the building at the southwest corner of the intersection has shifted constantly to reflect this transformation. Hexamer & Locher’s Philadelphia Atlas shows that the corner in question was occupied by a Commission & Storage Depot in 1858.
Commission & Storage Depot connected to adjacent Coal Yard, 1858
Just a few years later, Samuel L. Smedley’s 1862 Atlas shows that the Coal Yard had come to occupy this entire stretch of the industrially-focused Broad Street.
Coal Yard, 1862
By 1875, the primary commodity stored at the corner had changed from coal to lumber. The Lumber Yard is attributed to one R.H. Dobbins.
The best twenty bucks we spend every year is on our residential parking permit. Annually, we've religiously trekked to the Philadelphia Parking Authority offices at 30th & Market to renew our permit, fulfilling the annual program of forgetting to send the renewal back in the mail in a timely fashion. This year, as the clock struck June, we once again found ourselves needing to visit the PPA, in an effort to avoid the dreaded ticket for overtime parking with an expired residential permit.
So off we went to those familiar PPA offices, license, registration, utility bill, and checkbook in hand, eager to get this thing over with for another year. Imagine our surprise when the person at the building's front desk told us that the PPA had moved out two weeks earlier, to a new customer service office on the other side of town! And then we remembered a post from last month, when we told you that a retail space underneath a dank garage on 8th Street between Arch and Filbert, was getting renovated. And we remembered that a couple of commenters suggested that the PPA customer service office would be moving there. And then we realized that we weren't going to make it across town before the office closed. And then we were sad.
A few days ago, we told you about a lovely garden on the 1700 block of Kater Street that almost forgives the monstrously ugly parking garage that sits in front of it. In response to that post, a reader shot us an email with some info about possible improvements on the horizon for said garage. Well, at least at for the corner of 17th & South.
As is the case in every city, parking is a concern in Philadelphia. With that in mind, we accept parking lots as a necessary evil, giving residents and visitors alike a place to put their vehicles while they're not behind the wheel. The lowest form of parking lot, in our estimation, is the surface lot, which takes only a limited number of cars off the road and only offers passersby a view of an ocean of cars at street level. Parking garages are certainly more efficient, though they are quite often architectural horrors, making little to no effort to fit in with their surroundings.
Such is the case for the parking garage located at 1700 South Street, which is used primarily by employees and patients of Penn Medicine Rittenhouse, a facility that occupies several former Graduate Hospital buildings. No one would make the argument that this building is anything but ugly- but it does offer one unusual and unexpected feature that stands out as a redeeming quality. Directly behind the building is a block-long green space on the 1700 block of Kater Street.
If you've ever travelled over the Ben Franklin Bridge and headed through town via 8th Street, you've surely noticed the terrible PPA parking garage that "arches over" 8th Street between Arch and Filbert. Its miserable aesthetic comes off even worse when you consider what it replaced when it was built in the mid-1960s.
8th and Arch in 1959
Philaphilia tells us that the construction of this monstrosity was actually celebrated in its time, as it made it much easier for suburban shoppers to park when visiting the adjacent Strawbridge's or Lit Bros. department stores. Somehow, it looked a little less scary during the Johnson administration.
According to Men’s Fitness Magazine, Philadelphia is the 14th most obese city in America. Hah! Take that Indianapolis (13th)! Granted, there are still hundreds of other metropolitan areas where people have an easier time shimmying through turnstiles than we do. But before you go blaming the cheesesteak, consult an open letter written in 1860, “To Philadelphians on Behalf of the Natatorium and Physical Institute.” The Natatorium, identified as a Swimming School in this image taken from G.M. Hopkins 1875 Philadelphia Atlas, opened in 1858 at 219 South Broad St. with the mission of improving fitness in Philly.