Manufacturing A Good Time

 

Editor’s Note: One of the most important questions facing Philadelphia is how to repurpose the city’s still enormous collection of vintage factories and mills. There’s no single or easy answer. Moreover, the city’s history as a place of manufacturing innovation has been largely lost in the race to define Philly as a colonial sort of town. But we’ve been noticing that beyond the expected loft condo conversions, art studios, and craft manufacturing, a new wave of industrial spaces being used for shows, parties, and celebrations. We sent Theresa Stigale out to scout some of these places in Kensington and Fishtown and to uncover the history behind the venues.

Historic Barrel Factory under the El in Kensington now home to Feast Your Eyes Catering | Photo: Theresa Stigale

Historic Barrel Factory under the El in Kensington now home to Feast Your Eyes Catering | Photo: Theresa Stigale

Feast Your Eyes Catering, Front and Palmer Streets

Skip Schwartzman and Lynn Buono bought the old Siemans Brothers Barrel Factory and an adjacent pickle factory at Front and Palmer Streets in 2009 to create an event space for their company, Feast Your Eyes Catering. The current building, erected in the 1920s, replaced a late 19th century wood timber factory. With approximately 10,000 square feet, FYE has the capacity to host 250 guests for weddings and events with dancing, and up to 400 for cocktails and other occasions, the building is a case study in adaptive reuse. Old roof and floor joists were reclaimed for benches and other embellishments. Chandeliers made entirely of reclaimed materials by local multidisiplinary artists R.J. Thornburg & Warren Muller of Bahdeebahdu drop from the wood and steel beam ceilings. Solar panels, garden areas, and even active bee hives make maximum use of the rooftop.

Skip Schwarzman, Owner of Feast Your Eyes Catering in Kensington | Photo: Theresa Stigale

Skip Schwarzman, Owner of Feast Your Eyes Catering with Bahdeebahdu chandelier. | Photo: Theresa Stigale

Main event space at FYE Catering in former barrel factory | Photo: Theresa Stigale

Main event space at FYE Catering in former barrel factory | Photo: Theresa Stigale

Feast Your Eyes Catering event space in former Barrel Factory | Photo: Theresa Stigale

Feast Your Eyes Catering event space in former Barrel Factory | Photo: Theresa Stigale

* * *

The Crane Arts Building, American and Master Streets

The Crane Arts Building, 1400 N. American St. in Kensington | Photo: Theresa Stigale

The Crane Arts Building, 1400 N. American St. in Kensington | Photo: Theresa Stigale

The Crane Plumbing Company imported cast iron tubs from Trenton, NJ by train and stored them on site to be distributed throughout the greater Philadelphia area. The event space known as the Icebox was an open train shed with penetrations for train deliveries. The name Icebox came into use after the Crane company left, when the building housed a seafood company and the products were flash frozen there, in a rebuilt space for that purpose. In the 1960s Random shrimp shells could be found even on the upper floors. The space is now used for weddings, and most notably for benefit art auctions by InLiquid, the arts collective located on an upper floor of the Crane Building. An outside building was used as another distribution center in 1906. In the courtyard, Crane co-developer and Temple University art professor Nicholas Kripal uncovered a sea of Belguim blocks, and used recycled those historic stones to pave the lot.

The Ice Box Project space at the Crane Building, hosting an In-Liquid benefit | Photo: Theresa Stigale

The Ice Box Project space at the Crane Building, hosting an In-Liquid benefit | Photo: Theresa Stigale

Former horse stable building in courtyard of the Crane Arts. | Photo: Theresa Stigale

Former horse stable building in courtyard of the Crane Arts. | Photo: Theresa Stigale

St. Michael’s Church–The White Space, Second and Jefferson

* * *

The Old School on N. 2nd Street | Photo: Theresa Stigale

The Old School on N. 2nd Street | Photo: Theresa Stigale

One block to the east of the Crane Arts, the skyline is dominated by the prominent twin spires of St. Michael’s Church, founded in 1831. In 2011, a development team, including Nicholas Kripal, bought the school adjacent to the church and created art studios and a sunny, flexible open space for performances, exhibits and gatherings, known as The White Space.

Nicholas Kripal and Jamie Jastrzemski in the event space | Photo: Theresa Stigale

Nicholas Kripal and Jamie Jastrzemski in The White Space | Photo: Theresa Stigale

Nicholas Kripal in the Old School Building | Photo: Theresa Stigale

Nicholas Kripal in the Old School Building | Photo: Theresa Stigale

Art Studio in former classroom | Photo: Theresa Stigale

Art Studio in former classroom | Photo: Theresa Stigale

* * *

The Maas Building, Randolph Street

Catherine Birdsall and Ben Reisman, developers of the Maas Building in Kensington | Photo: Theresa Stigale

Catherine Birdsall and Ben Reisman, developers of the Maas Building in Kensington | Photo: Theresa Stigale

When Catherine Birdsall and Ben Reisman bought the Maas Building in 2008, they were prepared for a major renovation of the building that was boarded up and used as storage for an architectural salvage business. Located in Kensington at 1325 N. Randolph Street, between Fifth and Sixth, Master and Thompson Streets, this 1859 brick and heavy wood timber building is named after brewer Charles Maas who operated his brewery there. In later years it was used as a repair shop for Girard Avenue trolleys. Today, the building houses a few studios and features an event space a on the second floor that can be rented out by the hour, day or per event. Guests enjoy the flexibility of the open span space with abundant light. One the first floor, an additional bi-level space is being prepared for a music studio and event space, leading to the adjacent garden.

Maas Building industrial detail | Photo: Theresa Stigale

Maas Building industrial detail | Photo: Theresa Stigale

Future event and performance space leading to garden | Photo: Theresa Stigale

Future event and performance space leading to garden | Photo: Theresa Stigale

* * *

Skybox, York and Cedar Streets

The Skybox event space in the center of 2424 Studios | Photo | Theresa Stigale

The Skybox event space in the center of 2424 Studios | Photo | Theresa Stigale

In 2008, a Philadelphia development partnership, 2424 E. York Partners, bought the 80,000 square foot Jacob C. Holtz Company, an active manufacturer of metal stampings and furniture casters. With the scale and ambiance of a cathedral, and born of industrial America, the Skybox was created out of an enormous 7,000 SF manufacturing space with overhead cranes and pulleys. Today the Skybox hosts events ranging from weddings to art exhibits and performances and is a great example of former industrial space adaptively and creatively repurposed. In addition to the Skybox, there are 100 artist and work studios, offices and showrooms, ranging from 350 to over 5,000 square feet.

Ceiling detail of the Skybox at 2424 Studios | Photo: Theresa Stigale

Ceiling detail of the Skybox at 2424 Studios | Photo: Theresa Stigale

Philly Photo Studio space inside 2424 Studios | Photo: Theresa Stigale

Philly Photo Studio space inside 2424 Studios | Photo: Theresa Stigale

Original details: overhead crane and pulley system | Photo: Theresa Stigale

Original details: overhead crane and pulley system | Photo: Theresa Stigale

About the author

Theresa Stigale was born and raised in Southwest Philly. She earned a B.B.A. from Temple University in 1983. Theresa is a photographer as well as a licensed Pennsylvania Real Estate Broker, developer and instructor. In the past ten years, she has documented the loft conversion projects that she and her partners have completed in Philadelphia, from stately old abandoned warehouses covered with graffiti to vintage factories, some still active with manufacturing. Visit her web site at TheresaStigalePhotography.com.

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3 Comments


  1. Insightful photo essay from Theresa Stigale, once again!

  2. The scope of this piece is mind-blowing. If one is interested at all in connnecting with Philadelphia’s industrial, producing-everything-the-country-used past, no better, easier, more fun way to do it.

    Great shots, great stuff. Thanks.

  3. Awesome coverage – thanks for this!

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