BUILDINGS Feed

Smelling Wyck's potent heritage roses

Potent Heritage Roses

A mother and daughter, Bea Weidner and Emily Linso (not shown in this photo) took time to smell the roses in the bright and fragrant heritage rose garden at  Wyck. A national landmark, Wyck, is the ancestral estate of the Wistar-Haines family located in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. Development Director Kristin Hagar (above at table) welcomed people to a "Celebration of the Roses" open house and explained that heritage roses are generally brighter and have a more potent fragrance than modern roses, but last a shorter time. She welcomes the public to nominate locations where a Wyck heritage rose might be planted for the public to enjoy. Video here.


Expectant parents take a "Waltz in the Woods"

The day before Easter Sunday, Nick Hasselback and his wife, Jenna, who was due to deliver their first child four days later, marveled at Patrick Dougherty's new stick sculpture installation at the Morris Arboretum. "A Waltz in the Woods" is  a handful of closely circled tall and leaning towers consisting of   willow branches and saplings woven together. And then left for nature to take its course as with Dougherty's previous work at the Morris. Nick and Jenna describe themselves as woodsy people and are hatching similar, likely more modest, ideas of their own. Watch video here


City implodes Queen Lane Apartments

Neighbors and former residents of the 16-story Queen Lane Apartment building in the Germantown section of Philadelphia  were happy to see the structure deliberately collapsed the morning of September 13, 2014, in a scene eerily reminiscent of the collapse of the World Trade Center towers in a terrorist attack 13 years ago, practically to the day.

Once sparkling new and desirable, over time the apartment complex became  beset by drugs, crime and disrepair and sat vacant the last few years. The remaining residents were relocated and the playground fenced off.

At 7:25 am,  a succession several large bangs from ignited caches of dynamite strategically planted on the 1st 4th and 10th floors, preceded the collapse of the building and it was over within 15 seconds

Bystanders outside the cordoned off evacuation and dust zones  cheered as a large cloud of brown dust billowed up from the rubble, paving the way for the Philadelphia Housing Authority to construct some 50 rental apartments surrounding a green space.

Watch video here.


Dollhouse size library now open

Renee Polsky of the Friends of the Chestnut Hill Library shows off the "little free library, " a dollhouse-like wooden structure mounted on a post next to the book return bin outside the Chestnut Hill Library. The public is welcome to take one book at a time and donate a booking return. The miniature honor system lending library holds about 20 books. In the three weeks since it was installed many of the books supplied by the Friends haven been taken, Polsky says, but the books donated by borrowers haven't been as good quality. The Friends purchased the pricey house from a catalog and Polsky says these little libraries are springing up in small towns around he country. She is hoping to check out similar ones that she has heard have popped up at private residences elsewhere in Chestnut Hill. Watch video here.


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.