Sunday, July 13, 2014

Big Brothers Big Sisters: A Win for Preservationists?

The historic Big Brothers Big Sisters Building near 13th and Race may get an addition. In a sign that changes at the Pennsylvania Convention Center are resonating within the exhibition industry, we might start seeing all those hotels the center's expansion once promised.

The building that was home to a Warner Brothers film distribution center is more commonly known for its most recent tenant, the national headquarters for Big Brothers Big Sisters, was historically designated as the first home of NFL Films, a motion picture association founded in 1962 affiliated with the National Football League.

The Philadelphia Historical Commission approved the addition of a modest hotel tower much to the dismay of Friends of the Boyd, who've aired frustration with the commission comparing it to the loss of the Boyd's most lavish asset, its auditorium.

But unlike the Boyd, Center City's last historic movie theater, the most significant architectural elements of 238 North 13th Street are its Art Deco facade and lobby. While the addition of a high-rise will require the demolition of much of the building's interior, the facade will be saved and perhaps even its lobby.

Although dismayed by the decision, preservationists have won a compromise, a decision could have easily led to the demolition of a building perceived to be insignificant, even ugly, to many. 

Images of the proposed tower are hard to find, but rumors imply that it may echo the PSFS Building, an odd choice given the clash Art Deco and International Style may pose. A simple glass tower would allow the two floors of history to shine on their own merit without gunking up the building's gears with something so retro.

1 comment:

  1. Historical Commission designated it because it was a film exchange. PHMC put a marker because of NFL Films. The renderings resemble PSFS tower but with less lavish exterior façade. The loss including that of the lobby is not comparable to the loss of the Boyd but does show a lack of respect for historic buildings.