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Thread: Center City Philly->Chinatown

  1. #1
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    Center City Philly->Chinatown

    The last time I took pictures in Center City I was in Old City which is everything east of 6th St. I decided this time to concentrate on the chunk of city between 7th and Broad and from Vine St. to Market. I’m in the area on a daily basis but it’s never seemed so uninspiring so I found myself snapping more pictures of the things that really turned me off about the “neighborhood”. Of course, the blocks of Chinatown are a little rough around the edges but very intimate at street level. Unfortunately the scene at street level is hard to photograph on such narrow streets with a lens like mine. This first post is from 7th to 11th Streets – Chinatown and Market St. The follow up will be from 11th to 14th – The Convention Center.

    I got off the bus in front of the Wawa . . .with the cop parked in the bus stop (he was eating lunch). The monstrosity covering the street is the parking garage for the attached Hilton hotel. Note the trolley wire worked into the construction. This line has been “temporarily suspended" since 1992. Awesome.


    The “front” of the Hilton as seen from Filbert St. The brown building spanning this street is the former Reading Terminal Station. That train station is now called Market East and is below street level. The street level part of the old Reading Terminal is now the Reading Terminal Market and the upper levels are now part of the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Got that?


    Chinatown as a community often complains that they’re boxed in and have no room to expand yet the neighborhood has a few such empty buildings and more than its fair share of parking lots.




    The Trocadero Theatre. It’s just as nice on the inside as it is out. It used to be burlesque back in the day when Chinatown, populated by mostly Chinese men, served as the de facto red light district for the rest of the city. Now it’s rock 6 nights a week. Monday night they show a movie. Admission price on mondays is a $3 drink voucher J














    Bell built some really nice buildings back in its day but unfortunately they all house a lot of switches and not a lot of employees. It doesn’t make much sense to me that you’d use what’s obviously incredibly valuable real estate for what could easily be done in an inudstrial area.






    Cherry St. from 10th St. looking west towards 11th. The wall of the convention center serves as a lovely terminus.






    When I went back for a few follow up pictures this banner had been hung.






    The only independent hotel in Chinatown.




    Next to the fortune cookie factory a new house with ground floor retail goes up. I guess it’s what you do if you don’t have much space to work with but the design struck me as very odd given the context.










    1010 Arch. A recent loft conversion. Needless to say it wasn't targeting the immigrants in the neighborhood. Tensions are already high but as developers beat the chinese community to the punch over and over again they'll only get worse.


    Looking east down Race St. with the Ben Franklin Bridge in the distance. The loading docks of the Convention Center stretch for two blocks.


    There’s no room to build in Chinatown. Of course not. On the edge of the lot is what used to be Hawthorne Suites. The hospitality market was a little too soft for another hotel on the fringes of the convention center so it was quickly converted to lofts.






    Suburban design. Cut & Paste.


    Across the street something a bit more inviting. The French and their lasting impression on many things Vietnamese.


    The Chinatown stop on the Ridge Ave. Subway. Surrounded by parking. Awesome.


    Across the street an old hospital to loft conversion.




    Behind the lofts, Franklin Square, the most abused of Penn’s 5 original squares. First the Ben Franklin Bridge turned it into an inconvenience. Then 676 took a chunk and now roars behind the retaining wall that serves as the park’s northern boundary.


    PATCO closed and sealed its Franklin Square Station because of low ridership and subsequent safety concerns. That was 40 years ago.


    Across the street from his park is Ben Franklin’s key being hit by lightning. Behind it the west pier of his Bridge.


    Indeed the park isn’t much more than the center of a big traffic circle – even the National Constitution Center turns its back on Franklin Square.


    The park lost the rest of its neighborhood to urban renewal and was surrounded by hospitals and office buildings. This is a much more common site nowadays.


    Two weeks ago my friend drove into the city from Merchantville (next to Camden) to pick up some art supplies. On her way back to the bridge her car broke down on the south side of the park. A man with a knife wrapped in a newspaper approached her. As he pulled out the knife she bolted running right past the police HQ two more blocks towards some smokin’ & jokin’ Temple Med students outside of their Chinatown campus. He chased her the whole way. A smart-ass cop arrived on the scene 15 minutes later and asked “are you familiar with the area?” She said, “yeah” (she’s lived in the area her whole life). The cop said, “ . . . but you didn’t know the police department (pointing)was right there?” . . .


    . . . anyone who is intimately familiar with the area knows that the entrance to the PD is always closed and the only way in is through a fenced in and locked parking lot then through a locked door.


    Moving along, next to a lovely cast iron building sits the local branch of the Federal Prison. Most people don’t realize that it’s a jail thinking that the narrow windows were some architects twisted way of torturing office workers


    Filbert St. that runs between Market and Arch is an abomination. Why in the world is the bus terminal still here? It takes up a full city block and belches diesel fumes 24/7. Move it out to 30th St. already.






    The Gallery. Rouses mistake on Market. Sure it did well financially but it ruined the street and to this day the area is still struggling


    As eastern Walnut and even Chestnut St. stage a strong comeback what is now known as the Disney Hole plagues ¾ of this block between Market and Chestnut & 8th and 9th.


    The city was in negotiations with Disney to build Disney Quest here. They condemened buildings and demolished them leaving a 30 ft. deep hole in the ground. Disney pulled out. It sat for 2 years before they gave up, filled in the hole, and leased it to a parking company.


    ohh! ohh! let’s park here - they have grass!


    Across the street, on the corner of 8th & Market, the Market-Frankford El, the Ridge Ave. Subway, and PATCO all converge.


    The best we can do is friggin’ Rite Aid and a Burger King. But hey, at least that BK is two floors . . . and they did have a concourse level entrance but I guess it became too much of a concourse level urinal so they closed it.


    It’s not like we don’t have good examples to learn from.








    This was Rouse Co.’s idea of a good time.


    Hey, I have an idea, let’s build crap with no windows 4 stories high on the A+ prime street in the city.


    . . . and let’s run with it


    for 3 blocks.
    Last edited by jresta; 20 Sep 2004 at 1:41 PM.
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Trail Nazi's avatar
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    Great pictures. Sorry to hear about the incident with your friend? Have you done a series of photos of all of the murals yet? I always thought they were so awesome and fun to discover throughout Philly.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Rumpy Tunanator's avatar
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    Nice pictures. We have one of those windowless malls too that covers a few blocks. Seemed like a way to compete with the suburbs back in the '70s The same goes with the off street parking lots. Buildings destroyed for no good reason other than to appeal to the suburbanites impression that there is no parking downtown.
    A guy once told me, "Do not have any attachments, do not have anything in your life you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you spot the heat around the corner."


    Neil McCauley (Robert DeNiro): Heat 1995

  4. #4
    (for now) Frozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    great picture essay.

    Are you slightly bitter about some things?
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mendelman
    Are you slightly bitter about some things?
    What gave it away? Yeah, I'm very bitter about demolition of salvageable bldgs. for SURFACE parking and these street spanning pieces of crap. The parking moguls pull some serious weight in center city and unfortunately they're wrecking this neighborhood brick-by-brick. If people in Rittenhouse didn't have so much money they'd be tearing that place apart too because everyone knows they're trying.
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  6. #6
    maudit anglais
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    Excellent pics jresta. Philly definitely looks like an interesting place to visit.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Trail Nazi
    Great pictures. Sorry to hear about the incident with your friend? Have you done a series of photos of all of the murals yet? I always thought they were so awesome and fun to discover throughout Philly.
    I haven't done the murals yet. Mostly because there are over a thousand but also because they're so spread out. Since every neighborhood can be traversed on foot in a matter of minutes i've been trying to do it that way.

    Karen was a little shaken up at the time but she new it was a sketchy area and had her eye on the guy the whole time. It's more than a little ironic that the dodgiest part of Center City is the two blocks north of the police headquarters. But what would one expect, the place is a fortress that police only leave from in their cars, a relic from the Rizzo days.
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  8. #8

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    Nice photo essay, jresta. Are you channelling ablarc a bit?

    Your post confirms my opinion: why are we so respectful of the "legacy" of Rouse (or John Portman, either)?

  9. #9
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by BKM
    Nice photo essay, jresta. Are you channelling ablarc a bit?
    The power of ablarc is with me

    I really didn't intend to say more than i normally do. I set out to document Chinatown but as i was along the fringes I was thinking, "wow, this is really awful" and then when i was trying to organize the pics into something coherent i got really annoyed with all of it.

    If you want some ablarc wait 'til the next one.
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

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