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Bellevue Theatre – Home of the Wonderful Echo Organ, 2210 North Front Street, March 14, 1916. In 1913, “seventy vaudeville and motion picture theatres were under construction” wrote Irvin Glazer.
By 1915, as one film trade publication put it, “in the district known as Kensington, the home of varied industries and a large, live population” film fans could visit the newly-opened, 830-seat Bellevue Theatre.
Beyond the Bellevue’s ticket booth “of marble and mahogany” and lobby lined with stone tiles, potted palms, and hung with wall-to-wall movie posters, the Bellevue accommodated nickel-and-dime-paying patrons from after noon to an hour before midnight. With a boom in venues and production burgeoning, the screen was now the place to be and be seen. In the role of the beautiful, charming, conniving Lena Despard, in an updated version of F. Motography’s writer agreed, adding a bit of pre-Hollywood snark on Gordon’s gowns, which “began late and ended early.” As it turned out, the anticipated “brilliance” of the her “‘polished shoulders’… had caused widespread halation.
Projectors at the Bellevue clicked on into the 1930s, when the place was brought back to a life, of sorts, as a car parts shop. Down in the bowels of the Bellevue-Stratford “the pantryman of the culinary department” had readied his creation: a three-and-a-half-foot model of Togo’s famous battleship, the Mikasa. Philadelphians fell all over themselves in August 1911, celebrating their 48-hours with Admiral Togo. Now, this “Conqueror of Russia’s Fleet” who represented the Japanese government at the coronation of King George V in England was headed back home. On his final evening in Philadelphia, having dined casually in his fourth-floor suite at the Bellevue-Stratford, Togo requested a “motor ride” to escape the city’s stifling humidity. In all of his comings and goings, Togo hardly had a chance to study the two large electric signs mounted in his honor over the north and south portals of City Hall. The Admiral “seemed amused” and delighted at this “real, official municipal welcome,” the likes of which he had never seen before—and probably wouldn’t again. Celebrate ten years of PhillyHistory.org at a birthday event Wednesday, October 21, at City Hall! Back in 2005, the City of Philadelphia Department of Records launched the Photo Archives Website to provide access to historic photographs from the Philadelphia City Archives. Japan had emerged as the Far East’s imperial nation and its colonial power—“the protector of Chinese territory,” according to historian Carol Christ.
Japan’s exhibition buildings were “built entirely by native carpenters,” in styles perfected hundreds of years earlier, declared one guidebook. On the eve of the temple gate’s golden anniversary in Philadelphia, in May, 1955, the City installed scaffolding to carry out another cosmetic overhaul.
Just about everyone knows that Pope Francis is scheduled to visit our area this weekend on Saturday September 26th- Sunday September 27th. This was a much quicker visit than what is being planned for Pope Francis next month, though.
Earlier, we explored the evolution of the Philadelphia rowhouse, which culminated in the two-story “Workingmen’s House,” a machine for living that lined miles of streets and set off a frenzy of envy at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Williams goes on: “The result of all this is that Philadelphia is not a city of palaces for the few, but a city of homes for the many—which is better. This post introduces a six-pack of additional architects and handful of their firehouses, as well as a spattering of their kin, police stations.
The Philadelphia’s six are not big names, but the civic design frenzy that took place at the turn of the 20th century, long before Indiana’s, occurred at the intersection of demand and indigenous talent. Might this be “an attempt to reflect the heritage of the German immigrants who worked in the neighborhood’s breweries and mills,” Saffron pondered.
What was it about firehouses at the end of the century that made them so susceptible to architectural expression?
Except that Windrim building is long gone, its site now occupied by Temple University’s mammoth Montgomery Avenue Parking Garage. Especially excited were members of the city’s newest group of firefighters, the General Taylor Hose Company, who were assigned to bring up the rear of the procession. As the parade snaked up and down the city streets, marchers attracted attention from “notorious rowdies,” gangs known as The Stingers and The Killers. Guilty or not, ready or not, the General Taylor Hose Company joined the city’s culture of street violence that day.
And “virtually all of them were open by the fall,” providing Philadelphia with about 350 venues theatres that excluded downtown “legitimate theatres.” Each and every one screened silent films. In addition to the Victoria at 913 Market (open since in 1909) was the Ruby Theatre at 618 Market, the Arcadia, at 1529 Chestnut, and the Palace Theatre at 1214 Market. They filed past brass railings and opal fixtures, down crimson carpeted aisles to upholstered seats to hear the tones of the echo organ and a five-piece orchestra.
He stood before the Liberty Bell and took a long, deep bow at the portrait of George Washington. His driver navigated into the cool recesses of Fairmount Park, presumably allowing a glimpse of the ancient Japanese Temple Gate, recently purchased, installed and landscaped at the expense of two Baldwin executives.
Neither did his aide, nor did his secretary, or the Secret Service agent, or the chauffeur.
Louis’ Louisiana Purchase Exposition was a gigantic affair: nearly twice the size of Chicago’s Columbian Exposition in 1893 and quadruple Philadelphia’s Centennial in 1876. As the heir of Asian culture and the “sole guardians of the art inheritance,” Japan positioned itself as keeper of the “museum of Asiatic civilization.” When Russia backed out of their commitment to exhibit in St.
Set in landscapes with gardens, hills, waterfalls, lakes and bridges, accented with imported, centuries old, “beautifully trained dwarf trees…drooping wisteria…peony, scented lily and blushing maple”—it all added up to a “harmonized…artistic” whole. By the fair’s main entrance, millions were lured onto the Pike, a mile-long, carnival-like collection of attractions open late into the evenings. Entering through a massive, 150-foot  gateway –a “replica of the famous portal in Nekko, Japan” visitors strolled “a Street of Tokyo,” brought alive by 80 actors in traditional costume.
From the start, the City and the Fairmount Park Art Association (where Converse and Morris served on the board) took protective measures.
Security will be tight, bridges will be closed, as will major highways and public transportation via SEPTA will be severely limited as well.

He arrived mid-day on October 3, 1979 and left at 11 AM the next morning for Des Moines, IA.
Then, The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia walked us through the centuries-long evolution of our rowhouse genre. The entire 1000, in 1889, were paying out $33,000,000 to be used in buying houses; and of this about $22,000,000 was being paid in Philadelphia. As we’ve seen in more than one post, architect John Windrim stepped in and supplied an array of new and eclectic designs for the expanded municipal footprint, making up for lost time. In all, the city put an estimated 50 or so fire houses and police stations on the streets between 1890 and the 1910, a prodigious display of design finesse. Where Columbus lured starchitects from far and wide and funded their arrival with philanthropy, Philadelphia’s homegrown creative burst took place in its own space, on its own time—on its own terms. Oelschlager’s listed projects include churches, theatres (both moving picture and vaudeville) and even early gas stations. Huston (1866-1940) generated more impressive projects, like the Pennsylvania State Capitol, but that job proved to be a show stopper. Philadelphia’s “Boom in Building” of 1889 had more structures going up than during any other year in the entire history of the city. After all, open land in the vicinity of 29th and Susquehanna that had been selling for $1,000 per acre. Stuart to the mayor’s office in 1891 allowed him to extend his construction campaign citywide. How, in the 1890s, did firehouses become places for expressions of opulence, eclecticism, and outright design rowdyism? Did the culture of rowdyism, which played out so vividly in firefighting’s earlier years, somehow become channeled into its architecture? It would be a rough ride for the next two decades, until the volunteer fire companies were replaced by a professional fire department. Henry Haverkemps, on Monday afternoon, broke his windows and assaulted several citizen residing in the vicinity. About one o’clock on Sunday morning, the quiet of the Eighteenth Ward was disturbed by the Globe Engine and Taylor Hose Companies engaging in a desperate riot, in which horns, spanners and stones were freely used.
2+ car attached garage, first floor laundry, first floor den or fourth bedroom, fenced backyard, and light filled partially finished basement with half bath. The massive, new, 1400-seat Stanton had opened at 16th and Market, not far from the Regent, a block to the west.
They’d take in the latest films—advertised in circulars, the daily papers, on billboards and posters mounted on a wagon that paraded the streets. Philips’ As in a Looking Glass, Gordon did manage to make “an especially striking and attention-compelling photo drama.” The bar had been set high by stars in the stage versions of the role.
From the windows of the Bellevue-Stratford fluttered the flags of the United States,” that of Japan and the admiral’s, which the resourceful hotel staff had finished stitching together only minutes before. Togo toured the Philadelphia Navy Yard and inspected a new style of “fighting mast” on the battleship Minnesota.
Togo read the words aloud “as the car approached the big, electric ‘Welcome to Togo’” sign. Ten years later, we’re excited to have over 130,000 historic photographs and maps from five organizations available that are viewed and searched by thousands of visitors each month. Please follow the RSVP directions at the event announcement if you’re interested in attending. Louis, Japan the imperial power and cultural ambassador stepped in with purpose and commandeered the Russian space.
For visitors from around the world, Japan curated a one-of a kind experience that sent a powerful message: Asian power had arrived. Everything was new, though constructed to appear ancient and venerable, except for one artifact that didn’t need to feign authenticity, a 45-foot tall temple gate that, for the previous three centuries, had graced the Hitachi Provence, about 120 miles northeast of Tokyo. The culprit, according to the Philadelphia Fire Department, wasn’t vandalism, but the “carelessly discarded cigarette” from the repair crew. Two years after the fire, Shofuso, another cultural treasure from Japan, found its way to Fairmount Park.
During the time that he was here, he visited two churches and led a mass at the old Civic Center site and the day before, he led a large mass that attracted 1.5 to 2 million visitors at Logan Circle.
It’s the way Americans live in half of the nation’s 40 largest cities—with two prominent exceptions.
Now, with up-to-date housing typology data, we can see just how aberrant Philadelphia may have been, and apparently still is today.
Director of Public Works Windrim had a natural advantage getting commissions, but there was more work, and a broader appetite for design diversity, than any one office could handle.
His “new three story fire house…at 31st and Grays Ferry Road,” from 1899 (illustrated here) didn’t survive. Seeler (1867-1929) is known for 65 projects including Curtis Publishing Company on Washington Square, the nearby Penn Mutual Life Insurance Building and the Philadelphia Bulletin Building on Filbert Street, once just to the northeast of City Hall. As the Bureau of City Property looked ahead, they allocated more than half of their next annual budget for “new stations and new engine houses” specifically earmarking $25,000 for a new station house at Twentieth and Berks Streets.
Not only did Windrim draw from the German vernacular, he dipped into all kinds of historical and contemporary design sources that added up to a wild ride in architectural design. Amweg had turned Engine #29, his project in “terra cotta and Pompeian brick,” costing $39,611, over to the City Department of Public Safety. Philadelphia had added yet one more creative interpretation in the firehouse genre to its ever-more exuberant, ever-growing collection. The very same feature also appears in another, documented example of Windrim’s work: Fire House #2, which opened in 1894 at the southwest corner Warnock and Berks Streets. Each of the 34 members in this Kensington-based brigade were dressed in their new uniforms with gaudily painted hats—standard firefighter processional regalia of the day.
And at 8th and Catherine, just as the Good Will Hose Company passed, they initiated “a brutal attack” with stones. But movie goers didn’t have to come to town; they could stay in their own neighborhoods and enjoy films at The Tioga, near 17th Venango or The Apollo at 52nd and Girard, or many, many others theatres—and more were on the way. He plied the Delaware port in a tugboat, and visited the yards of Camden’s New York Shipbuilding Corporation, which saluted Togo with large cannon booming a nineteen-gun salute.

Visitors went “deep sea” diving, scaled miniature replicas of the Tyrolean Alps, rode burros along constructed cliff dwellings and toured “Blarney Castle.” Especially popular were rides inspired by the biblical version of “Creation” and another ride with the “Hereafter” as its theme.
They bought it, paid for its transportation, reconstruction and landscaping—completed with tons of boulders worn smooth in the nearby Darby Creek. Thing is, the Philadelphia rowhouse wasn’t presented as an aberration during a massive period of growth at the end of the 19th century. Since then, the associations have lent money to about 50,000 persons who were buying houses. This means that with only two-thirds as many people, it had twice as many houses as New York.
What did is still in use: his three-bay-wide firehouse from 1900 on Cambria east of Broad (also illustrated). Before all that, in 1899 and 1900, Huston designed several firehouses that have yet to be documented and none of which survive.  In addition, his stationhouse for the Sixth Police District at 11th and Winter Streets was a lovely, long gone, Georgian Revival design. His breakthrough took place with the First Baptist Church in 1901, at the corner of 17th and Sansom Streets. Their combination police station, patrol station and fire house stood at the northwest corner of Seventh and Carpenter Streets until it was demolished in 1962. He also turned out a police station at 19th and Oxford that later served as the first Opportunities Industrialization Center.
Through some skill and sheer connectedness he landed a lifetime contract with the City Health Department that earned his office more than $2 million in fees over three decades. On the books, that meant 70 new factories, 65 additional shops and foundries, 65 stores, 30 warehouses, five freight stations, three market houses, and as many hospitals. Dancing in their heads were visions of something new, not the same old kinds of firehouses and police stations, those had been outgrown in so many ways.
Two of the major causalities in North Philadelphia, Engine Companies # 2 and #45, are illustrated with the only things that remain: rare archival images from the City Archives. We see something similar at Windrim’s Engine #37, on Highland Avenue in Chestnut Hill, completed about the same time. That building had a similar hex pattern, applied in a similar way, as does the Engine #29 on 4th Street. The top hats featured portraits of Zachary Taylor, whose battlefield prowess in the Mexican-American War had won him the White House. Back in Philadelphia, Togo visited Baldwin Locomotive Works (which he noted was “well known in our faraway country”). The Pike also staged military reenactments: the Boer War, the Spanish-American War and, the Russo-Japanese War, still in progress. And in Philadelphia, about 60% live in “single attached residences,” or what we know as rowhouses.
Pei, Eero and Eliel Saarinen, Cesar Pelli, Richard Meier, Harry Weese, and Philadelphia’s Robert Venturi (who, in 1967, created Fire Station No. It’s not far from the extant fire house at 1528- 1530 Sansom, which he completed two years before that. Johnson’s projects include the Philadelphia General Hospital, Philadelphia Hospital for Contagious Diseases and buildings at the Philadelphia Hospital for Mental Diseases aka Byberry.
The spires of 18 new churches reached heavenward between the factories, punctuating more than eleven miles of new brick rowhouses. Here was the chance to fix the problem while crafting a newer image for the expanding metropolis. Over the next several years, the younger Windrim expanded the city’s footprint in a string of gem-like fire stations.
Only a few months before, Taylor had been inaugurated as the 12th President of the United States.
Morris, transformed the grove between Memorial Hall and Horticultural Hall into a picturesque and peaceful destination.
Keeping in mind that New York is always the outlier, we ask: is Philadelphia’s habit of rowhouse living an un-American dream?
Talcott Williams, and others, pitched it as nothing less than a manifestation of the American Dream. Of the 200,000 families in Philadelphia, seven out of eight had separate houses, and three-quarters of its families, or 150,000, owned the houses they lived in. In North Philadelphia alone, just west of Broad Street, more than 1,800 homes extended the city’s grid monotonously to the north.
And who could disagree with more and better services based in newer, more and better facilities?
Stokley praised the new, “elegant” 3-story, “Roman” design as “the ideal station house of the city” regretting only that “it was not in a more central position, as nobody but people from the Neck” might see it for inspiration.
And he would dine at Oyster Bay with former President Theodore Roosevelt, who had presided over the negotiations between the Japanese and the Russians that resulted in the Portsmouth Treaty. But August heat crimped Togo stamina, and he passed on a scheduled visit to William Cramp & Sons Shipbuilding Company, where the Kasagi, his battleship and original flagship in the Japanese-Russian War, first took to water.
You cannot know, until years and life have taught you more than any boy or girl should know of this hard and bitter world, how much of comfort, peace, and happiness is summed up in that statement.
And in West Philadelphia, developers obtained building permits for no less than 1,500 additional houses.
It means that each family can have its own bath-tub, its own yard, its own staircase, and its own door step. These are simple daily blessings for most of us; but for tens and hundreds of thousands in all large cities, they are absent.

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