Category Archives: Philly Skyline

The Flat Earth and the Philly Skyline, Far Out

Shoutout to Atlanta rapper B.o.B for his courageous campaign against a spherical Earth. He’s doing God’s work (or perhaps not!), and in at least one case, he’s bringing the Philly Skyline into the discussion to back his claims.

As you can see in his tweet above, B.o.B uses a photo of mine to explain that the skyline is visible 40 miles away at Apple Pie Hill in the Pine Barrens because, of course, the Earth is flat, and if it was a sphere, the curvature would hide it. Never mind that the buildings visible—from atop a 200-foot fire tower—are all over 500 feet tall. Plus Apple Pie Hill is actually about 32 miles, not quite 40. Oh, and . . . well, that photo is not from the Apple Pie Hill fire tower. It’s from a helicopter in North Jersey, somewhere near Metuchen, closer to 75-80 miles.

Chopper Jerz
Chopper Jerz

This photo’s a little blurry because we were flying pretty fast, and the hatch was closed, so the curvature (of the hatch, not the Earth) made it a little difficult to shoot through. Also, I shot this with a 200mm telephoto lens at full zoom, and the edited photo is slightly cropped.

One can see the skyline from the fire tower at Apple Pie Hill in the Pine Barrens, though.

Mmm, Apple Pie
Mmm, Apple Pie

This photo was taken with the same 200mm telephoto lens, but it was panned back a bit to maximize the canopy of pygmy pitch pines in the late day light. Apple Pie Hill is about 32 miles from Center City, about the exact same distance as the Ridge Road overpass on the PA Turnpike Northeast Extension near Lansdale.

Over the years, folks have alerted me to distant skyline views in Boyertown, Holland, and other places like the Delaware Memorial Bridge near Wilmington, DE. My friend the kayaker Rob Danner once told me that you could see it from the fire tower in Reading, PA. Knowing that Reading’s a good 60 miles away, I said no way. I was wrong.

Whoomp, there it is
Whoomp, there it is

Visiting the William Penn Memorial Fire Tower requires pretty precise calculation, as it’s only open one day a month. A lot of people know about the Pagoda, a tourist attraction built in 1908 that stands on the edge of Mount Penn above Reading; it’s a symbol of the city. It was even an alternate logo of the Reading Phillies for a time.

Billy Penn goes even higher in Reading
Billy Penn goes even higher in Reading

A little farther up the ridge, the Fire Tower stands 120 feet tall and 1,015 feet above the Schuylkill River. Built in 1939 of stone and concrete, it was used by the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry until 1988, and is now cared for (along with the Pagoda) by the nonprofit organization Pagoda Skyline (no relation).

On a clear day, you can see over 60 miles in every direction, all the way to Pottsville in the north, way down past the cooling tower at Limerick facing southeast, the Philly Skyline. (This is to say nothing of the stellar view of Reading and the Schuylkill just below.) I measure it to be about 52 miles in a straight line (58 by car); you can clearly make out the tops of Comcast Center, One and Two Liberty Place, Mellon Bank Center, and the Bell Atlantic Tower. Soon, Comcast Innovation & Technology Center will join the view.

Here’s the full crop:

Hey Philly Skyline
Hey Philly Skyline

Needless to say, the view is pretty spectacular, and at the right time of year, the very distant skyline reflects the sunset. Plan ahead and make a day of it in Reading. The fire tower is open the third Saturday of each month, noon-4pm.

Click any of the thumbnails to launch a mini-gallery of the William Penn Memorial Fire Tower and Reading Pagoda.

(Thanks to Doc for the heads up, and to Nick Vadala for checking in with Derrick Pitts on the matter.)

Introducing The Turnaround

turnaround_flyer_low

Summer greetings, summer babes. Just wanted to give a little heads up that I got a thing happening, a happenin’ happenin’. It’s a photography show at Gravy Studio & Gallery in Kensington, and it opens next Friday, August 1st. For the occasion, we’re throwing a little First Friday shindig from 6-10pm, so please do come out.

I’ll have more about this next week, and I will catch everything up on One Man’s Trash in August. The project is in full force—I’m still collecting trash on weekly hikes—I just need to find the time to sort and record the items, edit the photos, make the maps, publish the reports, and maintain sanity. All a challenge, all in due time.

See you next Friday!

Drop It Like A Tetrimino

Move left, homie!
Move left, homie!

Spring greetings, yous guys! Hate to sound like one of them blogs saying “sorry I ain’t blog on the blog” but I been a hog in a bog in the fog, sloggin’ like a cog in the smog. Need to groove more. I know that’s right.

cira_tetris2

Tell you what else is right: Playing Tetris on a 29-story building is pretty right and righteous. Beaucoup props to Philly Tech Week for turning Cira Centre into an arcade game for a second straight year. Because I am aging, I suffered a serious injury to my back while scrubbing the kitchen floor on Saturday and opted to self medicate with Wild Turkey in a very hot bath rather than transport a heavy camera and tripod via SEPTA and a long walk (at least when you’re injured) up the river path to the Art Museum. Imagine my surprise on Sunday morning when I got an email with the subject “Surprise! You’ve been selected to play Tetris on Cira Centre for a surprise second night.”

I was in fact surprised, and considering I ruled at Tetris as a teen with a Nintendo, I chose to play through the pain and not pass up this awesome second chance. The old Philly Skyline in me thinks it’s ridiculous that they STILL don’t turn out all the lights in Cira Centre overnight. I just can’t fathom that there are that many people across multiple floors at all hours inside that building. The LED dots are the nighttime half of the building’s design—how are there still blocks of several floors with the lights left on after almost ten years of this building, particularly when there are events programmed using the building’s exterior? But then the older me is all “who cares, we all die anyway.”

At any rate, the experience was rad, even if it only lasted like 30 seconds. As I was at Eakins Oval, I played Tetris against someone on the south side of the building. As my Tetriminos fell, the height of my opponent’s Tetriminos were measured in a stack of white dots on the far right of my board. Having gauged actual play by watching the first couple dozen players in front of me, I knew it unwise to wait around for a full, four-line Tetris. I just wanted to jam a few lines while I had the chance. So I did, and I beat whatever chump faced me!

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Once upon a time this web site documented the construction of Cira Centre, photos you can still find in the old version HERE.

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I would like to thank Delicias food truck for a simply delightful Philly Tech Week beef arepa, and also the dude who pulled up the old Tetris theme on his phone while his buddy played. Which reminds me, man, this is one excellent Youtube video:

Once upon a PSFS Sunset

What light through yonder window breaks
What light through yonder window breaks

Leaving the studio of History Making Productions last night, producer Andrew Ferrett and I walked south down 12th Street toward Center City. It had been dark and cloudy and rainy for most of the day, to a point we even lost power in the studio for 15 minutes or so. But at about 5pm, things stabilized and started showing a hint of the spring-like Saturday ahead.

Waiting for the light at Vine Street, I could see a break in the clouds to the west, the direction from which our weather patterns originate, with a small but growing line of clear sky coming our way. At Race Street, it looked even better; at Arch and Filbert, the same line was already reflecting in the buildings of Penn Center. By Market Street, going to the 33rd floor of the Loews Hotel inside my favorite building in the city seemed a foregone conclusion.

This set of photos might illustrate why I did. In chronological order from the last of the rain through the breaking of the clouds to the setting of the sun …

1818 Market & The Other Ones

Skyline signs: 1818 Market
Skyline signs: 1818 Market

Since 1987, the Philly Skyline has grown in several periods of spurts, none of which will stack up against the current boom we’re experiencing. In just a few years, the additions of the Comcast Innovation & Technology Center, two Cira South towers, SLS International, Mormon tower, and a slew of others will go a long way toward making any gentleman’s agreements a trivial relic.

But before One Liberty Place’s spire broke through William Penn’s glass hat ceiling, the game for big time developers often meant getting as close to the actual Quaker height without going over—The Height Is Right. In 1974, 1818 Market Street opened as the tallest of the second-tallest buildings of the William Penn era, at exactly 500′.

Bathed in Beneficial
Bathed in Beneficial

Designed by Ewing Cole Cherry Brott (now EwingCole, the longtime Philly-based firm responsible for the designs of Citizens Bank Park, Camden’s Cooper University Hospital, and MetLife Stadium, which just hosted the Northeast’s first Super Bowl), 1818 opened as a plain, 40-story, proto-brutalist tower whose unpolished concrete was The Thing. Yellowed late-70s/early-80s postcards of the flat-top Philly Skyline really accentuate this feature. It’s still the tallest reinforced concrete building in the city.

When One Liberty Place ushered in the polished flare of the 80s, bringing with it its sibling Two Liberty, Mellon Bank Center, the Blue Cross Tower, the Commerce Square twin towers, and the Bell Atlantic Tower, 1818 cleaned up its act with a coat of white paint.

Last year, the 160-year-old Beneficial Bank signed a lease in the building to move its headquarters there, relocating from Independence Square to 1818 Market, leaping past the magnificent-but-empty giant building at 12th & Chestnut Horace Trumbauer designed for the same bank in 1916—which has been empty since 2001. As part of the lease agreement, 1818 has been renamed the really-catchy 1818 Beneficial Bank Place.

In addition to Beneficial, Booz Allen Hamilton’s Philadelphia operations, the American College of Radiology, Merrill Lynch, and Philadelphia magazine keep offices in 1818 Market. The following bird’s eye phone pics were taken from Philly Mag’s perch. Shame I didn’t cover up the office glare in the shot of the Blue Cross tower, innit?