21 South 12th Street
It all begins with Stephen Girard. He was the great-grandpappy of super rich motherfuckers in the early 19th Century. He was literally the Bill Gates of his time, the richest man in America. Luckily for us, Girard was also a huge Philaphile. He loved the city and ended up giving over almost his entire fortune when he died to a trust dedicated to the betterment of Philadelphia and its citizens.
|Stephen Girard 1750-1831|
The skeezy group of City Councilmen who were running the estate had so much money they didn't know what to do with it. They decided to build Girard College outside of town on a much larger piece of property and commercially develop the 11th/12th/Chestnut/Market block. The commercial and retail buildings built on the block became among the most successful in the city, making the Estate grow even larger.
By the mid 1890's, the Estate had become super-gigantic despite millions of dollars already being invested. The people running it, now the Directors of City Trusts, were still working out of a dinky little office in the Girard Bank Building on 3rd Street and they wanted a huge commercial office building from which to conduct their badassery. They wanted their building to be on their successful commercial block, but didn't want to give up any commercial space to build it. They decided to have their Grand Castle of Kick Ass built at 21 South 12th Street, a small square of bounded by streets and alleys on all sides.
The Directors brought in Vice-Admiral of Roundhouse Kicks James Hamilton Windrim to design the new highrise. Windrim was famous as fuck at this point and had already designed most of 1890's Philadelphia's most badass buildings. He practically drew this thing with his eyes closed and managed to design an invincible fireproof mega-castle that would be the tallest building on 12th street (for a few years).
|The rendering. You have to remember that there weren't many other buildings this tall in 1896.|
|Dominating the skyline like a motherfucker in 1899.|
The Girard Estate block, as it has come to be known, has entirely changed a few times over since then with the exception of this kick-ass building. After the building boom of the early 1930's, the Stephen Girard Building has been in the shadows of the PSFS Building, making it go unnoticed.
Nowadays, the time has finally come when this great building has become in danger of demolition. The rest of the Girard Estate block has become something of an albatross, now consisting of a chopped up low-end retail building on Market Street, a badly aged 1940's parking garage/retail building facing Chestnut, and a former department store annex serving as the city's extra Family Court space. A developer with a 90 year lease on the block intends on building a brand new Everything. Here's an old rendering from before the economy tanked:
|Hard to tell if the Girard Building would be demolished for this or not, it's too short to show up from this view.|
|Not to be a dick or nothin' but I've been calling this Gallery III.|
|1910's or so. 12th Street sure kicked ass back then.|