Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Beauty Amid The Ruins

26th District Police and Patrol Station, Door
When I walk through the old industrial neighborhoods of Philadelphia, I often get this notion of being in Rome. So much of the vast Kensington area, once the brick and mortar of our nation's industrial economy, still lay in ruins from the great exodus of manufacturing jobs. It's an unforgettable sight when riding the elevated blue line train to the Northeast - seemingly endless miles of abandoned factory buildings mottle the landscape. In all, the hellish demise left 25 percent of our city below the poverty line, and Kensington seems like an urban wasteland equal only to parts of Detroit.

I lived in west Kensington when I first moved to Philly. I needed a space for a custom lamp design business, and leased a 2500 square foot warehouse loft on Allegheny and D street, once home to the Pine Tree Silk Mills Company, a prodigious textile maker, circa 1900. The building was architecturally stunning, and one of the largest factories I'd ever seen. Outside the giant rows of windows was a view of the famous Stetson hat factory, now an empty hull, but its copper peaked bell tower stood noble nonetheless.

I soon learned that Philadelphia was not like my previous Chicago domain, where hedging on artist loft spaces in slightly dicey areas was of minimal risk. The area surrounding the Allegheny spot was downright scary. In fact, after a shooting occurred just outside our building, the Philadelphia Weekly labeled my street corner one of the most murderous in the city.

It was certainly dangerous, but it was no wasteland, least not in this designer's eye. I was amazed at the multitude of architectural masterpieces still standing, despite their dilapidated condition. It was beauty amid the ruins, and I spent many days researching and photographing these remarkable phantoms. I imagined them in their bustling era of glory, and the trials and tribulations of America's great industrial age...If only those buildings could speak, such stories they could tell.

Below is a small sampling of  the pictures I have taken, many them include buildings in the Fishtown area where we now live.


Enhanced by Zemanta

No comments:

Post a Comment