A young girl carrying a 19th century model of what an airplane might look like leads a procession of people carrying models of more common forms of transportation. The girl is dangling the airship, a hybrid of blimp and boat, and is followed by a miniature locomotive, a sailing ship, a horse-drawn carriage and, ultimately, a shepherd with his flock. The images are etched in a stone mural in the north wing of Philadelphia's 30th Street Station, the city's main railway station. The mural, titled "Spirit of Transportation," was sculpted in 1895 by Karl Bitter and has remained in its current site since January 1933. The spirit which the mural projects is reflected in the detailed architecture of the recently-restored station, and, appropriately, is linked to the progress which led to the station's current form. 30th Street Station, as it exists today, first opened its doors in September 1930, according to an exhibit in the station's north wing, which chronicles the building's architectural history. The building, designed by the firm of Graham, Anderson, Probst & White, was completed in 1934, but was fully functional by December 15, 1933. At the time, there were plans to create a rail loop through the city running through the Broad Street Station at 15th and Market streets. The Broad Street Station, which opened in 1881, was demolished in 1952 along with the Chinese Wall, which was used to transport railroad tracks between the two stations. The current structure of 30th Street Station is not the original one at the West Philadelphia site. In 1864, the first 30th Street Station opened its doors and was replaced by the Centennial Station on the same site in 1876, as part of the centennial celebration of the Declaration of Independence. The Centennial station was destroyed by a fire in 1896. · In 1988, Amtrak convened a $75 million project to renovate the main portion of 30th Street Station, according to the exhibit. "This project will transform Amtrak's second busiest station in the nation into the urban jewel of Philadelphia," Tony DeAngelo, Amtrak's vice president of real estate, said at the beginning of the project. Amtrak secured the funding for the project from multiple sources, including a $62 million construction loan from Equitable Life Assurance Society of the U.S. and Banque Paribas, a $13 million Urban Development Action Grant, $30 million in tax exempt revenue bonds and around $20 million through from a group organized under the name 30th Street Limited, L.P. The restoration included cleaning and repairing nearly every inch of the building, inside and out. No details were overlooked. The Roman travertine stone columns with their marble bases and the ornamental ceiling work were returned to their original condition. Some 324 bronze and glass light fixtures were restored, and the bronze doors were refinished, according to the exhibit. The renovations also returned services to their rightful place in the station. For example, the ticketing office in the lobby of the concourse now reflects its original purpose. Reflecting progress made in electronics, central air-conditioning was installed and passenger information boards were modernized. Also, a 415-space employee parking garage was constructed beneath the station. · According to Amtrak's General Supervisor of Building Management Kevin Dant, the renovations are nearly finished. Dant said that if it were not for a December 23 fire which damaged the station's north wing, the only phase not yet completed would be adding retail stores in the South wing. The fire damaged the old bowling alley at the extreme north end of the terminal. The alley, which opened in the 1970s, was closed about 10 years ago, Dant said. He added that the fire-damaged area has now been cleaned up, and that restoration will start "in the next few months." According to the city's Deputy Commissioner of Public Property Louis Einhorn, SEPTA has received federal money, channelled through the city, to complete the renovations. Many of the renovations were finished last December 19. According to Anthony DiJulio, a construction engineer who supervised the project, renovations included improving the area's lighting and rebuilding platforms A, B and C. DiJulio said the canopies and skylights were also restored to reflect their original appearance. The ticket office was also revamped. According to Einhorn the next phase of the renovations will shift the focus to escalators and elevators. · Further grandiose plans are sitting on the horizon for 30th Street Station. Amtrak and other corporate sponsors have planned a major development project for the land between Center City and 30th Street Station. The project, entitled Center City West, involves more than 30 million square feet of architecture on 100 acres from 20th Street to the banks of the Schuylkill. Penn Center West Associates, one of the corporate sponsors for the project, will develop eight acres of land north of John F. Kennedy Boulevard. Another sponsor is Hines Interests Limited Partnership, which oversaw the 30th Street Station renovations, and Maguire Thomas Partners, one of the country's largest investment builders, is another sponsor. The plan proposes converting JFK Boulevard and Market Street into "a pair of directional tree-lined boulevards," according to plan literature. Other highlights of the plan include a new subway station at 22nd and Market streets, and walkways connecting Chestnut Street to JFK Boulevard to Spring Garden Street. The proposed walkway would cross the Schuylkill as an enclosed esplanade.Comments powered by Disqus
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