Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Streets of Philadelphia

Nowadays, if you want to see the Liberty Bell, you have to visit the shiny new visitor's center just to the right in this photo. It's okay... probably a lot more room than there was in the old place, but it's always a balance between convenience and authenticity.

I love these quirky little neighborhood shops with their creative color choices. So many neighborhoods I work with want to create 'color palettes' to control what colors people choose to paint their facades. I mean, as long as they're not painting brick, who cares? Paint can be changed, unlike some other alterations that people do to historic buildings. And a dash of color can add drama and interest to an otherwise staid and sober downtown.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Ready for Reading?

OMG, I know, the puns have got to stop.

Dr. Bodo Otto lived in what is now Reading, Pennsylvania way back in the late 1700s. When you're there, you can tell it was a gorgeous valley way back then. Nowadays, downtown Reading is bustling, youthful, multicultural and kinda cool. THEY don't think so -- the people who live there -- but since when are the natives ever a fair judge of the attributes of their cities?

Can I give a shout out to the Peanut Bar?

I love when the original windows are intact. Sometimes it's just because no one cares about replacing them, but sometimes they are maintained. Nothing looks as good in a historic building as the original windows.

There's something kinda cool about this sleek, modern store in the heart of this Victorian and Deco downtown. Not sure whether the facade is vitrolite or something else, but I like it.

 There's a lot to like about this downtown pharmacy. For one thing, they kept the original deco facade. Kudos, for that. The signage could be a bit less garish and more in keeping with the feel of the architecture, but you can't have everything. The sidewalks here are really large; they're wide enough for sidewalk pushcart vendors. Love it. But the pharmacy spoils its downtown image by pasting enormous posters over the windows. A downtown needs windows for pedestrians to gaze into. That is so basic.
I like to play, "If I won the lottery." It's a pointless game because I never PLAY. But if I did, one thing I would love to do is buy up old buildings like this and DO something with them. This one just screams "boutique hotel." Great coffee shop on the ground floor... maybe a boutique, too. My apartment would be in the penthouse where those great balconies are...

This, my friend, is a crime against architecture. No telling what is under that wood-shingled horror. Possibly, it's a gorgeous brick storefront, just waiting to be exposed. Given the wealth of Victorian and Art Deco in this downtown, it could be special. Then again, there may have been a good reason to deface it in this way. But it's obvious what it is NOT: Attractive. What era ever thought a wood-shingled awning was an improvement?

It's hard to get a good shot of this bank building because it kind of wraps around. Under that enormous portico are two giant stone lions. Relief carving decorates the upper wall, but it's hard to see. It says on the side that the bank was established in 1814, though this is a much more recent building. Maybe 1920s? Who knew that just a few short years later, the bottom would fall out of the economy.

When have you heard that before?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

So Sunbury

I've had the pleasure of visiting the lovely town of Sunbury, PA a couple of times this spring. It's rich in architectural detail and the downtown is just screaming for revitalization. It's right on the bank of the Susquehanna River with loads of opportunities for recreation.  The town is also associated with Thomas Edison. I'm not sure why, but they supposedly have one of his original generators hidden away. Somebody ought to create a museum there to house that stuff. 
Look at the detail on this porch. Sorry I didn't get a better shot...
Little pink houses? How about BIG pink houses? 
Love these old gothic-style jails. Not sure what it is nowadays.
I wish I could remember what this building was. The thing that caught my eye -- besides the fact that it's old and obviously was an important early building -- was the differing colors and textures of stone used on its facade. At least 3 or 4 different kinds of stone were used. This is kind of surprising, considering the prominence, size and importance of the structure. Why would they skimp on the stone? I suppose it was built in sections. Or perhaps it was rebuilt after a fire or flood. If anyone knows, I would love to hear the story.
Look at this beautiful stonework. I think it's late 18th or early 19th C.
It's noteworthy that several kinds of stone were used on the facade of this building. I'm not sure why. There's got to be a story behind this. 

One of the originals.