17 June 2011

Lost City: Philadelphia Edition: National China Store

The beautiful Art Deco building is on 2nd Street in the Old City section of Philadelphia. It's just down the block from Trenton China, which I posted about earlier. A reader then commented that the business was perhaps part of an area formerly called "Restaurant Supply Row." I have to think he's right.

I don't think the building is still in use. It certainly wasn't open in the middle of a workday.

As the sign (partly) shows, the business was founded in 1929. Love the lettering above and below the line.


atomicheart. said...

i can tell you A LOT about this building. it is in fact my FAVOURITE building in my hometown of philadelphia, and i have always wanted to see something awesome done with it.

the inside is GORGEOUS. if you think the outside is phenomenal, the inside will make your jaw drop (well... it would have, in its heyday). it is a giant showroom, with classic 1920s fixtures. there's a whole back warehouse area that is (or at least was, the last time i was in there back in 2005 or so) still full of old merchandise, like dishes and etc.

how do i know this? i volunteered with the philly live arts & fringe festival (then just called the philly fringe, more here: http://www.livearts-fringe.org), which used the national as both it's box office AND as a venue for the first few years of its existence.

in fact, i am the proud owner of about 5 National China pint glasses, which feature a picture of the building in red & white, along with info about what it sold. for a long time, they were sort of part of the festival's brand, and were being used in the festival's annual pop up bar at least up until 5 years ago or so, which was way after they were using it as one of their main buildings.

i spent a lot of awesome days & nights hanging out in there, and i saw two of my fav festival shows there: the 24 hour bald soprano (which was a constant live performance loop of Ionescco's classic absurdist one-act), and Black Palace, Pink Party (a 'walk-through' play about a satanic party hosted by Jayne Mansfield built right into the National's warehouse).

i no longer live in philly, so i dont know whats happening with that building now, but iirc, back in 04-05, when i was last working with the festival, they were still using it as a venue, but the actual showroom part in the front was the offices of a real estate venture that was looking to turn the national into condos. my heart broke when i peeked into the big windows and thought about the fact that this amazing building that had been such a huge part of my high school & college years wouldnt be there anymore.

so i am delighted to know that it still stands, and it is probably still being used as a temporary home for awesome experimental theatre.

thanks for posting these pics, & i hope this info is of at least some help to you in alleviating some mystery!

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Well, Jeez, now I want to see the inside!

karen said...

I'm not sure what the inside looks like these days but last I heard the stalled condo development was about to move forward again. From what I understand, they are essentially going to perform a facade-ectomy, demolishing everything except the front, but that may just be a rumor. The earlier development certainly used the facade as a selling point, it seems. I adore this building and walk by it on my way to work.

I'm happy to see some Philadelphia pictures on this blog! There are some amazing buildings in this city, especially in this area.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Indeed. I paid Philly a short visit recently. I must return soon. Please recommend old buildings or neighborhoods I should visit.

Anonymous said...

This is the National Products Building, formerly a large supplier of restaurant equipment. This style is actually called "googie" architecture, which started around the 50's.

The National Product Company closed down in the early 2000s after the owner died. Karen is correct, the condo development will rebuild the facade and have a 5-6 story condo above it. What you may not know is that The National Products' Property even extends to a 19th century on Elfreth's Alley. (It's the industrial style looking building with a cast iron front)

upstate Johnny G said...

Brooks, next time you're in Philly get down to the South St nabe and look for this cat called Isaiah Zagar. He does these enormous mosaics (some of which cover entire two story buildings) and has about 35 pieces or so in the area. IIRC the deal is that if you own a wall that is where the public can see it, he'll do a mosaic on it for free. He uses students from his "making enormous mosaics class" for these projects. I've done two with him and had a blast. Of course he's putting a new layer atop an existing building surface, but the thing is that he's been at it so long that his pieces have become part of the historic fabric of the neighborhood. Joe Bob says check it out.