A Beer Garden, Philly-style

 

Photo: Dan Cox

The best thing about Frankford Hall, Stephen Starr’s newish biergarten in Fishtown, isn’t its pretzels or ping-pong tables but its architecture. Rather than outfit the building in faux-Bavarian style, as Brauhaus Schmitz has done, Stokes Architecture has created a hybrid space that successfully trades on Philadelphia’s industrial history.

The original two-story brick warehouse was designed by architects Baker & Dallet for the banking and traction magnet Robert A. Balfour. The building may have been used for storage by Balfour’s Union Traction Company, a trolley line operation. Stokes—which has designed a number of other spaces for Starr—fit the concept to the existing building, which by that point had become an industrial shell.

Photo by Dan Cox

This was an unusual choice. Shells are buildings in which only the exterior masonry structure is salvageable, and they are usually torn down to make way for new construction. Yet these structures possess opportunities for creative reuse that should be recognized more often, especially in Philadelphia, which has such a large stock—3,000 according to a 2010 report.

By the time River City Flats, LP acquired the 10,000 square foot shell in 2008, the building had been empty for 20 years. The roof had caved in and weeds and small trees grew inside. What was left was a ruin of Philadelphia’s industrial past.

The current incarnation honors this past, while acknowledging Philadelphia’s post-industrial present. Stokes preserved the walls of the former structure, and punched out openings for doorways and windows. New interior elements are mostly reclaimed industrial wood and steel,  thus keeping with the building’s vernacular. Though the original 100-foot long front façade was no work of great beauty, by leaving it intact they preserve the historic fabric of the block.

Photo: Dan Cox

Large pivot windows open the façade to the street. A new roof covers the front third of building, and metal garage doors open onto the open-air beer garden at the back. Light floods the space. This large courtyard is covered with gravel, and 4 large Linden trees shade simple wooden tables and benches. Surrounded by 25-foot high brick walls, one can see and feel the industrial past of the building, as well as its history of neglect and eventual ruin. The Linden trees add to this sense of inhabiting an abandoned place.

About the author

Daniel Cox is a photographer with a background in architecture. Cox received his BA in Architecture from Yale University and his MFA in Photography from the San Francisco Art Institute, where he was awarded a Graduate Artistic Merit Fellowship. His work has been shown nationally in solo and group exhibitions. He lives and works in Philadelphia.



Leave a Reply

Comment moderation is enabled, no need to resubmit any comments posted.

Recent Posts
From <em>Click</em> To Clink: A History Of Mug Shots In The Quaker City

From Click To Clink: A History Of Mug Shots In The Quaker City

September 20, 2018  |  Harry K's Encyclopedia

Harry K. gives us the backstory of Philadelphia's Rogues' Gallery, which has been tracking criminals in photographic form since the 1860s > more

Unlisted Philadelphia: Automobile Row

Unlisted Philadelphia: Automobile Row

September 18, 2018  |  Unlisted Philadelphia

Ben Leech spotlights unique and significant buildings not listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places with his architectural illustration series, Unlisted Philadelphia. In this installment, he puts the pedal to the metal on Automobile Row > more

Abandoned Navy Hangar Prepares For Final Battle

Abandoned Navy Hangar Prepares For Final Battle

September 14, 2018  |  Last Light

A demolition study for the Mustin Field Seaplane Hangar at the Navy Yard puts a structural engineering landmark on notice. Michael Bixler takes us inside > more

Twitter Bot Reveals Revenue Loss From Tax Abatement

Twitter Bot Reveals Revenue Loss From Tax Abatement

September 13, 2018  |  News

Starr Herr-Cardillo catches up with the software engineer behind Philly Tax Abatements, a new Twitter account that aggregates the cost of City money lost to the 10-year tax abatement > more

Harvey Finkle: Photographer Seeks Justice For The Other

Harvey Finkle: Photographer Seeks Justice For The Other

September 10, 2018  |  Walk the Walk

New photography exhibition explores South Philly's Jewish communities and the city's transitioning immigrant populations. Joe Brin has the story > more

New Book Gives Insight Into Uncovering Philly History

New Book Gives Insight Into Uncovering Philly History

September 6, 2018  |  Vantage

Mickey Herr sits down with author and Philly historian extraordinaire Kenneth Finkel to discuss his new book, "Insight Philadelphia" > more