A weekly series of foul-mouthed investigations into empty lots, dead-ass proposals and other design phenomena in Philadelphia. Find more stories like this at Philaphilia.blogspot.com.
2046 Chestnut Street
Goddammit, I hate this shitbird lot. It's only one address wide but pisses me off way more than the much larger one a couple of doors to the east. This craptonious strip of asphalt with its ostentatious-ass 800 square-foot advertising wall has been stuck in this configuration for at least 79 fucking years. Yeah, you read that right. SEVENTY-NINE FUCKING YEARS. How the hell has this been allowed to happen?
In the early days of this lot, back in the early to mid 19th Century when this was the southeast corner of Schuylkill Second and Chestnut, the entire western half of the south side of the 2000 block of Chestnut Street was, like many other blocks in the vicinity, a stone and/or marble yard that would frequently change hands. Back then, this area, known as "West Chestnut", was a massive stone/marble district. As a rare treat, there is an actual surviving photograph of the site of this lot in that era:
The lot in 1858, as seen from 22nd Street between Chestnut and George (Sansom), looking west (from what I can tell). At this time, it was the marble yard of J. Struthers & Son. Source: Library Company of Philadelphia via PhillyHistory.org
Around the 1870s, a set of large rowmansions were built on the 2000 block of Chestnut and the site of the lot, 2046 Chestnut, had the corner home, no doubt the most desirable of the bunch. By the turn of the 20th Century, that rowmansion's first floor was converted into a commercial storefront space that spent most of its life as doctor's offices. Usually, the doctor lived on the floors above and practiced out of that first floor space.
Since this neighborhood was a rich man's playground by that time, the doctor that was using the house was usually a pretty badass one. For an example, we can look at this one: Edward Adams Shumway, MD.
This guy was born in Philadelphia in 1870, attended Central High (which back then meant he had a verified IQ well above the 85th percentile), and went on to obtain what they used to call a "Doctor's degree" at the University of Pennsylvania while running the UPenn Glee Club on the side. He then worked as a Resident Physician at three area hospitals before saying "fuck it" and going off to France and Germany to attend even MORE medical school. Finally, at the ripe old age of 28, he decided to settle down and become a General Practitioner in Philadelphia. The location of his first home/office? 2046 Chestnut, the site of this empty lot.
"Stop talking about me"- E. A. Shumway
Of course, Shumway was a lazy shitbird in comparison to a doctor that later lived/worked at the house, Frank H. McFarland. McFarland not only practiced medicine out of 2046 Chestnut, but ran the Atlantic Product Company out of the home as well. The Atlantic Product Company had nothing to do with products but everything to do with garbage. They were the garbage disposal company in charge of waste removal in Atlantic City, NJ. The company was pretty infamous because their dump/plant was located in a populated part of Atlantic City and caused a lot of stress for that city's early 20th Century residents. McFarland was also married to the daughter of B.F. Shibe of Shibe Park fame. B.F. Shibe died at 2046 Chestnut, the site of this empty lot, while visiting his daughter in 1922.
There he is on the left. This guy had two ballparks named after him, was part owner of the A's, and invented sports equipment we still used today. Nonetheless, this shitty empty lot took him out.
In 1924, the house was converted entirely into offices and became the home of the Philadelphia County Medical Society. This Society is a professional membership organization that works on behalf of doctors that live or work in Philadelphia. They are still around today, headquartered at a decidedly ugly 1964-built structure at 2100 Spring Garden Street.
Though its unclear exactly when the house/office on this lot was demolished, the property appears empty in a map from 1934, making this piece of shit at least 79 years old. In 1985, the lot was purchased for $138,000 by the infamous blightlord Samuel Rappaport and is still owned by his descendants, who are no doubt making tons of dough from the big-ass billboard and the leasing of all the parking spots by Zipcar.
The lot in 1986. Sheeit, there's an ad for the Riverfront Dinner Theater, which I told you about in another Empty Lot rambling. Source: Philadelphia Architects and Buildings Project.
Though there's been a giant wall of advertising on this lot since at least the 1950s, the current iteration of the ad space, an 800 square foot behemoth of bullshit, has been there since 2003. Before you ask yourself "How the FUCK is that thing considered legal!?", I'll tell you now -- it is. The Center City Residents Association, anti-billboarders SCRUB, AND Licenses & Inspections all once tried to get the billboard killed, but were mysteriously unsuccessful every time. There seems to be more to the story here. The real question is: who's palm got greased enough to allow this big-ass advertising wall that needed like 8 million zoning variances? Unfortunately, if you ever find out you'll probably get rolled up in a carpet and thrown off a bridge. The billboard is part of the 2046 Chestnut property by the way-- the stucco on the party wall of 2044 Chestnut extends 4 inches into 2046's property line.
Stupid fucking empty lot. Even though there's plenty of new developments going on in this area, I don't see any way this surface lot won't be staying exactly the same for another 79 goddamn years. Do me a favor -- the next time you walk by this bitch-bastard, take a shit in your hand and throw it right into the middle of whatever shitty Apple ad has been placed on that billboard.
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