Bringing Baseball Back To North Philly

 

Photo: Hidden City Daily

The unusual white building that dominates the intersection of Sixth and Girard generates little activity, but this will change if Fishtown resident David Gavigan gets his way. Last night, Gavigan, a 2009 graduate of Penn State University, went before the South Kensington Community Partners to present his plan to convert a 5,000 square foot portion of 527-529 Girard Avenue into an indoor batting cage facility.

In what one SKCP member called the “world’s shortest” review, the group unanimously agreed to recommend that the city grant necessary approval. All of the members agreed that Gavigan’s business, Everybody Hits, will breathe new life into the area and into a building with a surprisingly multifaceted history.

Erected during the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the building first housed an indoor farmers’ market. Because the market was small in comparison to the nearby Girard Avenue Farmers Market and located just one block above the northern terminus of the Marshall Street corridor, the market did not endure as long as these competitors. Both the Girard Avenue Farmers Market and the Jewish-run Marshall Street corridor survived until the 1960s.

Movie screen from when the building was a theater, and faded signs on either side of the screen from when it was a farmer’s market | Photo: Hidden City Daily

After a short stint as the Sixth Street Farmers’ Market, the building was converted into a movie theater. The Mammoth Theater, located on the first floor, was modest in scale and design. Little is known about the Mammoth, except that it showed feature films and maintained a last run policy. It persisted until 1936.

Over the course of the last sixty years, the building has served as a bowling alley, pool hall, nightclub, scratch and dent appliance showroom, and makeshift porn film studio. This last use came as an unwelcome surprise to longtime owner Franklin Berger. Berger’s family has owned the building since 1958.

In the space that Gavigan occupies, just east of the small dollar store, reminders of the farmers’ market and movie theater remain. Legible ghost signs from the market era and a framed screen from the theater era still grace the walls. Gavigan plans to retain and somehow highlight these elements, but first and foremost, he hopes to bring baseball back to the area in which it took root locally. “I want to see kids learning the game and full grown adults remembering it,” he says.

“Wholesale Dealer Lobsters/Oysters Crabs.” Ghost sign from when the building was a farmer’s market | Photo: Hidden City Daily

Ghost sign from when the building was a farmer’s market | Photo: Hidden City Daily

“Dressed Beef” ghost sign from when the building was a farmer’s market | Photo: Hidden City Daily

6th Street side of the former Mammoth Theater building in 1992 | Photo: Susan Babbitt

“Dance Entrance” | Photo: Hidden City Daily

About the author

Rachel Hildebrandt, a recent graduate of PennDesign, is a native Philadelphian who is passionate about the changing city she inhabits. Before beginning her graduate studies in historic preservation with a focus on policy, Rachel obtained a B.A. in Psychology from Chestnut Hill College and co-authored two books, The Philadelphia Area Architecture of Horace Trumbauer (2009) and Oak Lane, Olney, and Logan (2011). She currently works as a program associate at Partners for Sacred Places.



3 Comments


  1. Whoa, awesome!

  2. Super excited for this! It’s going to be a big HIT 🙂

    Gooo David!

Trackbacks

  1. Phillies Links of the Day For September 20, 2012 | Philadelphia Phillies Dugout Online | Philadelphia Phillies Blog

Leave a Reply

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

Recent Posts
Lost In The Shuffle: Finding Philly's Displaced Soldiers

Lost In The Shuffle: Finding Philly’s Displaced Soldiers

May 25, 2018  |  Vantage

In honor of Memorial Day, Mickey Herr tracks the reinterred remains of soldiers who fought in the American Revolution and Civil War from Washington Square to Palumbo Recreation Center to Old Swedes' Church in South Philly > more

<em>Ours To Lose</em> Captures West Philly Landmarks In Decline

Ours To Lose Captures West Philly Landmarks In Decline

May 23, 2018  |  Vantage

Photographer Vincent Feldman delivers a eulogy for neglected neighborhood anchors in his new exhibition. Michael Bixler has this interview > more

PA Ballet Swings Wrecking Ball At North Broad Landmark

PA Ballet Swings Wrecking Ball At North Broad Landmark

May 21, 2018  |  News

A 107-year-old terra cotta treasure on Automobile Row will be demolished for a vacant lot. Michael Bixler has the story > more

Kensington Workshop Keeps Neighborhood Clocking In

Kensington Workshop Keeps Neighborhood Clocking In

May 16, 2018  |  Last Light

Inside a 124-year-old mill in Kensington, World Manufacturing Inc. is buzzing with work orders. Theresa Stigale puts us on the production line with this photo essay > more

Take Me Up To the Ball Game! Rediscovering The Bleacher Houses Of North Philly

Take Me Up To the Ball Game! Rediscovering The Bleacher Houses Of North Philly

May 15, 2018  |  Vantage

Dave Coyne gives us a rooftop view of old Shibe Park and the backstory behind Swampoodle's little-known "bleacher houses" > more

On Motherhood & The Circle Of Life At City Hall

On Motherhood & The Circle Of Life At City Hall

May 11, 2018  |  Soapbox

For Mother's Day, Stacey Meadows takes us inside the Register of Wills office at City Hall with this moving personal essay > more