Driving Up Broad Street

Giggles rose from the backseat of the car the first time we drove past the dilapidated Beury Building on Philadelphia’s famed Broad Street. Seeing the words “Boner Forever” tattooed on the side of a 14 story building will do that to teenagers. And their father. Not so much his wife.

The once majestic Art Deco movie theater was built in 1926 but has stood vacant for more than 40 years. It was originally the home of the National Bank of North Philadelphia and later took the name of Charles Beury, the bank’s first president and former president of Temple University. My oldest daughter attends the university’s Boyer School of Music, giving us opportunities to travel down Broad Street to watch her perform. And while the Viagra mural still makes me chuckle, I’ve since learned that Boner and Forever are actually two graffiti artists who collaborated on the prominent tag.

Broad Street cuts through roughly 13 miles of the City of Brotherly Love. It was one of the earliest planned streets in the United States, designed by Thomas Holme for William Penn in 1687, and remains one of the country’s busiest and longest urban boulevards.

It’s a street paved in history. It intersects with Clearfield Street on the exact location of the 40th Parallel. It’s shared corner with West Glenwood Avenue is the former personal gym of Joe Frazier. Just up the street from my daughter’s dorm is the 50,000 square foot Uptown Theater. Built in 1929 and opened on the eve of the Great Depression, the theater played an integral role in rhythm and blues, soul and gospel music. Names like Sam Stiefel, Georgie Woods and Sid Booker produced weeks long shows on Broad Street. Daryl hall, a Temple student like my daughter, got his start at the Uptown.

Broad Street was also the flashpoint for the Philadelphia race riots in 1964, one of the first in the civil rights era.

Traveling up and down Broad Street is a reminder of the history that traveled one of America’s most storied streets.

I shot these images with my Olympus E-PL1 street camera while stopped at traffic lights heading north on Broad Street.

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