Editor’s Note: The last remaining building at Tasty Baking Company’s former baking complex on West Hunting Park Avenue will soon join the ranks of the city’s growing handful of uniquely historic industrial sites reused as self storage facilities. U-Haul International purchased the building back in April for $3,600,000. The conversion of the snack food factory into public storage is currently underway. Tastykake’s fading, landmark sign on the roof of the five-story plant was covered with the storage company’s orange and black logo in May.
Built in 1922, the building vastly increased baking output for the growing company, leading to Tastykake’s expansion, notoriety, and distribution reach outside of the city and, eventually, across the country. Inside the facility, the company began to experiment with new products like the Junior and the Butterscotch Krimpet.
Most of Tastykake’s campus was leveled in 2011 to make way for the sprawling 220,000 square-foot shopping complex, Bakers Centre. The cornerstone building at 2801 W. Hunting Park Avenue was left to sit abandoned and derelict since 2010 after the 101 year old company moved into its current, 345,000 square foot headquarters and baking facility at the Navy Yard. The old plant was gutted for scrap in 2011, and the interior has been deteriorating ever since.
U-Haul has a pretty impressive track record of reusing Philadelphia’s heritage industrial buildings. The company’s two storage facilities in South Philadelphia–at 11th and 12th Streets and Washington Avenue–were the former factories of the American Cigar Company and J. Wyeth Bros, a pharmaceutical company. The Brockway Motor Company sales center at 747 West Allegheny, a historic commercial building that we featured in January, now wears the U-Haul logo as well. While not quite preservation, U-Haul’s conversions do aid in retaining visible stitches of the city’s historic, built fabric that would otherwise be lost to irreversible decay or new development. The company’s reuse of old industrial structures could additionally be seen as a form of incidental place holding should the buildings ever find a third life as apartments, offices, artist studios, or retail space.
Photographer Chandra Lampreich offers a glimpse inside the barren bones of Tastykake’s original North Philadelphia plant before U-Haul’s renovation began.
Great pictures Chandra. Love your work. I knew two people associated with Tasty-Kake. There was a couple who owned a small motel in Brigantine and I use to stop there every time I came to the shore from my assignment with the Coast Guard in Washington DC. Mary and John always had some Tasty-Kakes for snacks with the morning coffee. Another was a girl I supervised in the Coast Guard. She was from Philly and her father worked (with John) at Tasty-Kake. (Yes …. small world isn’t it?) When I was very young my mom use to buy Tasty-Kakes for my brother and I. She had to get rid of the wrappers before my father came home! Father was a strong union man and Tasty was a non-union place.
I worked there for 36 years I started in September 1969. Had to stop because my body give up. went out on disability. We baked cake the old way everything was weigh off. back then that was was a good bake product. I’m going to stop before I say something wrong about today’s product
Please tell me what’s different from the cakes now versus when you worked there…. I remember growing up and they were 2/$1.00 and they tasted so different from the ones made today.
I feel a little above meh about this U-Haul news. When Baker’s Center redevelopment first started there was lots and lots of talk of adaptive re-use. (Maybe in 30 more years?) Per a NewsWorks article from 2011: “Elsewhere on the site, the 460,000 square-foot Tasty Baking Production Factory building will be preserved, and redeveloped with retail, educational and institutional offices, and possibly a parking structure to hold about 350 cars….” This is definitely not that. U-Haul is of course way better than a giant vacant factory and it’s good the building will see some action and won’t be a burden on the community.
On the other side of the factory, the Baker’s Center shopping center is really bridging the gap between neighborhoods. It’s actually because of the shopping center’s success that I am more disappointed in what’s happening with the buildings along W Hunting Park Ave; that and what’s happening isn’t what I heard was happening for the last 4+ years. There’s tons of residential tucked alongside Hunting Park Ave. I see more people walking and waiting for transit around there. There’s also the Share Food Program of Pennsylvania and the Nicetown Boys & Girls Club isn’t that far away either. On the other side by Fox Ave is Abbottsford Homes, which is entirely sequestered. Baker’s Center by design is turned entirely inwards and it didn’t have to be, but that’s another conversation. All in all, a good development fulfilling a lot of community needs.
Good point about Bakers being turned inward. For that matter, they couldn’t even be bothered to put a sidewalk up the access road to Roberts. I always see people walking along the side of the road either to Abbotsford or the corner of Henry and it’s frustrating.
As far as U-Haul taking the building, I’m happy about it, but only because it means the building will be buttoned-up and maintained until a better use comes along. A self-storage facility isn’t really hard to undo later when there may be more demand for higher uses.