Author Archives: Ken Finkel

A Story of Stewardship

The 1904 St. 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.  For Japan, the increasing scale of America’s world’s fairs turned out to be just about the perfect platform to demonstrate its expanded ambitions for the world stage. The […]
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Philadelphia Rowhouse: American Dream Revisited

The American Dream? Data collected last year, and presented in the chart below from The Washington Post’s WongBlog, identifies a decisive answer: the single, detached house. It’s the way Americans live in half of the nation’s 40 largest cities—with two prominent exceptions. The majority of New Yorkers live in buildings with 20 or more units. […]
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Philadelphia Architects on Fire(houses)

As the city heated up, pushing outward in all directions, so did its fire department. 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. As director of Public Works Windrim had a natural […]
Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

John Windrim and the Eclectic Engine House Boom

The newspaper headline confirmed what everyone already suspected. Philadelphia’s “Boom in Building” of 1889 had more structures going up than during any other year in the entire history of the city. On the streets, that translated into the city pushing noisily in every possible direction. On the books, that meant 70 new factories, 65 additional […]
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Firehouses Acting Out: An Exuberant, Stylistic Storm in the 1890s

“The most intriguing element” on the façade of Engine #29 on 4th Street near Girard,” Inga Saffron wonders, is “the vaguely Pennsylvania Dutch hex signs embedded between the handsome truck doors and the German-style pattern in the ribbon of flowery tiles just below the cornice. Why those motifs?” Yes, we agree: What the hex? Might this […]
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Taming the Fight in Philadelphia Firefighting

Philadelphia endured six riots in the 1840s. The city’s streets were seething and dangerous. But they also could be glorious. “Grand beyond description,” is how the Inquirer described the May Day display put on by the city’s sixty-six volunteer fire companies in 1849. “The gorgeous banners of every hue and shade, the beautifully decorated engines and hose […]
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Vanna Venturi House: Inspirations from Philadelphia of the 1930s

“The city is the place of availabilities,” declared Louis Kahn. “It is the place where a small boy, as he walks through it, may see something that will tell him what he wants to do his whole life.” If the small boy was Robert Venturi and the city was Philadelphia in the 1930s, that something […]
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Seafood Scandal in Society Hill

All Don and Peggy Kleinschmidt wanted was a nice family dinner. The last thing they wanted was for their three-year-old son, Dale, to become the poster child in a frenzied food-tainting scandal. On Tuesday March 24, 1959 Peggy went shopping at her local supermarket in Haddon Heights, New Jersey and arrived home with two pounds […]
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Gorilla in the Gallery

There’s a lovely little installation about the German Society of Pennsylvania at the Philadelphia History Museum. In addition to books and manuscripts and steins and photographs and Revolutionary War pistols and Civil War swords, there’s an 800-pound gorilla. Unlike the other artifacts, the giant gorilla has no label. The German Society of Pennsylvania has been […]
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Monumental Complications in Germantown

German-Americans found 1933 to be a very tricky year. An elaborate 250th anniversary celebration of Philadelphia’s Germantown settlement would again converge at the Pastorius monument. And just as Philadelphians with German ties had done ever October since the 1880s, they celebrated German Day with marches, speeches and song. But for the 15,000 paying respects in […]
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment