BUILDINGS Feed

Stagecrafters: barn to theater

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Watch video interview here At the next to last performance of “The Importance of Being Earnest” by Oscar Wilde at the Stagecrafters Theater in Chestnut Hill, 78 year old __________ fondly recalled how, as a child, she used to chased chickens, play hide and seek and jump rope with her many cousins in the theater auditorium back when it was her grandparents’ barn. (Aiman family)


Collapse attorney's tire collapsed by pothole

Driving my daughter from Chestnut Hill to her job in Roxborough Saturday morning, we passed a man making his way on foot down the steep and treacherously narrow, icy shoulder of Bells Mill Road. When I again passed him on my return trip twenty minutes later, now on his ascent from Forbidden Drive, I had to offer him a lift. Robert Mongeluzzi’s car tire had been flattened by a pothole the day before and, after spending the night in Chestnut Hill, he was hoping to somehow connect with a bus and make it to his home in Merion Station. He offered to top off my gas tank as thanks but I settled for the story of his work as a trial attorney representing victims and families of the Market Street Salvation Army building collapse and other, similarly notorious and catastrophic incidents.

Watch video interview here.


Goodwill donation center opens in Mount Airy

Saleece came smiling and protectively gloved out of the brand new Goodwill Donation Center in Mount Airy as soon as I pulled up in my car. Located on Lincoln Drive below the CVS Pharmacy at Mount Pleasant where a gas station used to be, the facility caught my eye with a large “NOW OPEN” banner.

Saleece was happy to accept the jigsaw puzzles and books I had stored in my trunk for a planned drop-off either at the Whosoever Gospel Mission store in Germantown or the Salvation Army store in Roxborough. She says the Goodwill facility has seen a lot of traffic in the short week and some days it’s been open and credits advertisements in the Mt Airy Times with sparking anticipation in the community in advance of the opening. 

Already, large cardboard bins in the garage staging area were nearly full of clothes and toys. The items get sorted here and then will be shipped to Goodwill’s retail outlets in South Philadelphia and the Northeast. 

Saleece knows of no plans for the current, and relatively small building, to serve as a retail outlet.

Donations benefit Goodwill’s training and assistance programs for youth, seniors, disabled and those with a criminal background in getting jobs. See www.goodwill.org

Watch video interview here.


How Lego conquered the toy industry brick by brick

Legos - it's about the brick

The Lego Company has been fantastically successful. In each of the last 5 years sales have risen 24% and profits, 40%. But it was not always so. For most of its 80-year existence, its reach did not extend so far beyond Billun, Denmark, where Ole Kirk Christiansen, a carpenter unable to secure enough wood to build furniture during the 1930s depression, began experimenting building wooden toys.

The company under Christiansen’s progeny soared in the last couple decades but tie-in products to the Star Wars and Harry Potter movies nearly doomed the company in 2003; sales of those products crashed when the movie franchises hadn’t yet come out with new films.

This, according to Wharton Professor Dave Robertson and former LEGO Professor of Innovation and Technology Management at Switzerland's Institute for Management. Robertson, a Chestnut Hill resident, discussed his new book, “Brick by Brick: How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry” at the William Jeannes Library in Lafayette Hill this past Thursday evening.

He began his slide talk by distributing baggies, each packed with the identical same six logo pieces, and instructed the audience to “Build a duck” and gave us only a minute or two. Participants then brought their “ducks” up to the front table. At the end of the talk, Robertson pointed to the wide variation of these Lego “ducks” as evidence that incredible creativity is possible even when severe constraints are imposed, a major thesis of his book.

He credits Lego Company’s resurgence to its imposition of key constraints: drastically reducing the number of parts (about 14000 different ones at peak) that had made the manufacturing process unwieldy, getting back to products that are more “Lego-y” and subjecting product proposals to the approval a committee of 3 seasoned Lego designers. And, ultimately, insisting that projected profitability be a constant constraint.

What Lego pioneered was not just a toy, Robertson maintains, but a system of play. And that system “is about the brick.”

Watch video here.


Installing the new RF smart electric meter

Installs smart RF electric meter

PECO is replacing the existing electric meters in the neighborhood with new remote controlled smart meters using Radio Frequency (RF) transmission. Installer Peter Paige stopped by one morning, as scheduled, to make the 15 to 20 minute switch-out.

This is the process: Wearing fire resistant clothing, Paige first dons personal protective equipment: a hood, helmet and goggles to guard against a flash which might occur should he touch a live spot inside the box. He credits the protective gear with saving him on more than one occasion!

Paige then records the old meter number and reading and the new meter number and reading on a multifunctional, handheld electronic device. Then pulling off the old meter, the lights in our utility room and house go out. With a helmet-mounted lamp lighting the box, he tests the voltage. Trilling sounds indicate it’s OK. He snaps in the new meter and attaches a seal; its thin gauge wire can be cut but if it is discovered so, will indicate tampering.

With the handheld, Paige then takes photos of the old meter. Melting, burning or char on the plastic back of the old meter will indicate an electrical problem that a special PECO team will follow up on. And lastly he beams a red light at the meter to activate it. And it’s on to the next job. Paige says his appointment team can do up to 15 or 20 or more on a good day.

The smart meter allows PECO to turn it off in case of either emergency or delinquency. The new meter also has a sensor that detects overheating, surges or other improper conditions, can signal PECO and can shut itself down. Soon, a website will be available for customers to monitor and analyze their electric usage and achieve savings.

A “New Metering Technology” handout Paige provides explains that the new meters are being installed in accordance with the requirements of Pennsylvania Act 129 of 2008. In addition to the quick detection and correction of problems, the new technology is expected to provide the basis for new products and services. The handout also addresses consumer concerns about the level of Radio Frequency (RF) emitted by the meter and potential concerns about the privacy and security of the information captured.

Watch video of interview and installation here.


Travelers Aid Kiosk offers some help

travelers aid kiosk 30th street station philly

Chris Levey, a saturnine looking yet pleasant 3-day a week volunteer at the barren- looking Travelers Aide kiosk at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia says that Travelers Aide doesn’t offer all that much.  The most common question is where the bathroom is followed by where the BOLT bus location is.  People also ask about tourist destinations and Levey directs them to the Independence Hall area and offers a map.

Not infrequently Levey gets approached by people who don’t have money and need a place to stay. Men he sends to the Roosevelt Darby Center, women to the House of Passage, emergency housing shelters. They relate all kinds of stories, he says. A guy the week before said he had come for a job interview, didn’t get the job and had no money to get home.  Levey supplies these down-on-their-luckers with a token to get to the shelter.

Watch video interview here.


Philly Film Society Renovates Roxy

Philly Flim Society renovates Roxy

The Philadelphia Film Society is renovating the venerable Roxy Theater on Sansom Street downtown, installing new seats and screens and converting to a digital projection system. Marketing Director Katie Powell is excited that the Roxy could become a cultural, film epicenter for the year-round showing of art house, independent and foreign films. In partnership with the Philadelphia Film Office, the Roxy will mount “Filmadelphia,” a once-a-month showing of a film created and produced in Philadelphia. At her booth at the Inliquid “Art for the Cash Poor” arts show at the Crane Building, Powell was encouraging visitors to enter a raffle for the chance to win two free tickets to PFS’s “biggest, baddest” event, opening night at the Society’s premier project, the fall Philadelphia Film Festival. watch video interview here.


Installing replacement windows

Installing replacement windows

As he goes about his work of installing replacement windows in an old house, Paul Piccone, an installer with  Matus Windows of Glenside, PA describes the process.

After carefully prying apart the wooden trim holding in the old window, he chisels away the blind stops on the window opening. Then he test runs or dry fits the new window to see if it’s necessary to further chisel the rabbet (a recessed cut that matches with a “tongue”) for the screen rail to go in.

Meanwhile, on a machine outside, partner Jim Caroll forms bends in a sheet of flat metal into the shape of the sill which will be attached to the exterior. 

The men then put the frame and window in and finish up by capping and sealing it all.

Piccone likes what he does, getting to see inside different homes, some very grand, but especially enjoys working with his crewmates.

Watch video here.


Living in Princeton U's 1860s President McCosh's House

Living in the house of 1860s Princeton University President James McCosh

David Meadow leads a short tour through his home, known to the Princeton NJ community as “the McCosh house” because it was the residence of the James   McCosh, president of Princeton University from 1868 -1888.  

In recent years, the mansion had been divided into two large condominium units and last year, Meadow and his wife Lisa Mirin have taken up residence in the larger side.

Meadow relates that McCosh had built the structure in 1887 as his retirement home. Before it was moved to its present location on Princeton’s main street, Nassau Street, in 1906, it was originally situated on Prospect street, where it had housed a student eating club [the “Quadrangle” of which novelist and Princetonian F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote about in “This Side of Paradise.”] 

On Nassau it sat on a large tract of land and its owner in 1980, Architect Robert Hillier sought to tear it down for a townhouse development. The Historical Society and the community waged a battle in the local newspapers to preserve the historical house. Hillier relented, and was able to comply with regulations concerning the housing development by moving the house once again, but this time only 20 feet closer to the street.

Meadow points out the elaborate, original stained glass work, woodwork, and scrollwork in the main entrance area and along the grand stairway to the second floor. 

When the house was moved in 1980, some of the original stucco was uncovered a curious feature was revealed: The year “1888” and McCosh’s initials where McCosh presumably had scratched them into the wet stucco.

Watch video interview and tour here.


Jyoti Indian Foods to open in Mount Airy

Builder finishes Jyoti store

Kevin Belmonte, a builder, was applying finishing touches to the about-to-open eat in-/take out Indian restaurant, Jyoti, pronounced “joy tea’ in Mount Airy. Belmonte has been acquainted with the husband and wife owners for 10 to 15 years and worked on moving them from Sharon Hill, PA into their new larger processing facility near the airport. Jyoti, which had been doing trays for the airlines, expanded to canned and then to plastic packaged foods. Now they are branching out through their son with a retail operation in Mount Airy. Belmonte says the vegetarian fare will reflect the culinary skills of Jyoti who, Belmonte says has a “PhD in healthy food.” Watch video here.