You don’t have to go to a museum to see artifacts and ruins of old Philadelphia. You see them every day! Here’s a list of common pieces of Philadelphia antiquity:

1) Belgian Blocks

We’re not talking about those faux-historical spots where brand new Belgian blocks are installed, we’re talking about old Belgian blocks on major streets- remnants of what used to cover the whole city. If you look carefully, you can sometimes spot potholes at certain times of the year that reveal small patches of the original Belgian block streets. Some small alleys are still rocking their original Belgian block pavers but most of the ones you see were redone in the 1950’s and 60’s when the sewers were re-installed on those small streets.

Belgian pavers revealed on Quince St.


2) Super-Mega Adaptive Re-use.

Check out this old picture of the Philadelphia Circus.

You might remember this DeLorean Moment from a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, at the time, we sourced information from Robert F. Looney’s flawed book, which provided slightly inaccurate information. That building. at the corner of 10th and Callowhill Sts., opened as the Philadelphia Circus in 1870 (when the first picture was taken, not in 1890 like Looney says) and became the New National Theatre in 1874 until its end in 1918. It later became the American Ice Company, which expanded the building up and back. The building still stands as some kind of shady distribution warehouse front, an historical building mangled beyond recognition in plain view.

Catercorner from it is the remains of the Esslinger Brewery’s Philadelphia branch. The primary brewery was in Wilkes-Barre. It is now in use as National Chemical Laboratories Inc., a shell of its former self. Also, it’s producing products that are significantly less exciting.

3) Old Stone Walls

At the Acme shopping center at 10th and Reed Streets, you can find piece of a of the wall that once surrounded the Moyamensing Prison, demolished in 1968.

At the intersection of Washington Ave. and Grays Ferry Ave. is the wall of the Schuylkill Arsenal, which was destroyed in 1963. It is now used an extremely over-the-top fence for the large, terrible power station behind it.

We have plenty more everyday history coming up in Part 2. Stay tuned.