69th Street - Yesterday & Today

69th Street - Yesterday & Today 26" x 36" acrylic on canvas
From the age of 14 to 25, I lived on Richfield Road, a street just west of 69th Street in Upper Darby. When I moved there with my mother, the stteet was the prime shopping district of the Philadelphia suburbs and was the home to the Lit Brothers, J.C. Penney and Gimbels departments stores, Horn & Hardart’s’s, Kresge’s, Sun Ray Drugstore and three movie theaters – the  69th Street, the Terminal and the Tower, and many many shops.

The 69th Street Terminal was the transportation hub that connected the inner city with the suburbs, housing the subway/elevated trains, buses, trolleys and a high speed line that led to Norristown in Montgomery County.

On the corner of 69th and Market Streets stood an imposing and decorative building encrusted with hundreds of thousands of glazed yellow and cream terra cotta tiles in an array of shapes and motifs. We, who lived there, knew it only as the McClatchy Building, built by real estate developer John H. McClatchy and opened in 1928, featuring a variety of Byzantine Revival motifs including Mayan, Heraldic, and Egyptian. Backlit pilasters of architectural brass and colorful stained glass punctuated the facade that featured a 10-minute light show that would repeat after six times an hour an hour.

By the 1960s, the elaborate plans for the building that McClatchy dreamed had faded, but the structure continues to remain a magnificent example of the art deco period architecture only otherwise seen in the area in glimpses on Garrett Road nearby, and Lancaster Avenue in Ardmore.

In recent years, a girded walkway was built from the corner of 69th and Market to the Terminal. The
Richfield Road facing the side of what used to be Lit Brothers
 16" x 20"acrylic on canvas
Old Mother Hubbard’s Shoe, and free tickets to Connie Mack Stadium made available by a lottery at Lit Brothers, are part of my memories, along with the many movies I went to, sometimes twice a week, roller skating at  Chez Vous on West Garrett Road,  the daily trips I made to Temple University and then to various jobs in later years on the El and trolley line from Springfield and Media to Philly.

On the return from a photo reference trip to West Philadelphia in 2009, I shot the scene shown in the painting from a moving car. After looking at the photo I realized the detail it would require to paint the tiled facade, but with patience, I managed to capture enough of the spirit of both the signage and the building to make this one of my favorite works.

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