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The shell of the Divine Lorraine hotel, North Broad Street, Philadelphia.

When I was growing up, the family business was one of  scores in the apparel industry. Our shop was on the fourth floor of a building in North Philadelphia that housed a half dozen other manufacturers and contractors. More than two decades have passed since our doors, as well as those of all the others in the city, have creaked shut.

The North Philadelphia I remember from of the 1970s and 80s was decaying, falling apart, verging on abandonment. I drove down North Broad Street with my father recently, through mile after mile of a falling apart, torn down, overgrown, weedy and trash-strewn cityscape. “It’s gotten much worse,” he said.

Boarded up house, Allegheny Ave.

House for sale, Allegheny Ave.


I won’t tell you much about it. It was sold for development when development went bust a few years ago and the inmates have taken over. God, I love it and hope they never tear it down or clean it up. It was early morning and birds flew in and out through the missing panes and I startled and flushed out a half dozen white-tailed deer.


More of this later.







Brutalism is a style of architecture. It seems to explain itself well enough in this image made recently of the AT&T switching center on 10th avenue between 53rd and 54th. The sun shone bright did not illuminate. No light enters, and no light leaves. Waves riding another frequency slip in, deposit their messages and exit with others to carry off into the ether.

It is said that on particularly dark nights and lunar eclipses a body can pass through the solid matter walls only to be absorbed by them. If you find it following you, walk slowly until you find help. Never look it in the eye. Image

There’s the desecrated truck at rest on East 66th Street as gravity begins pulling it slowly into the asphalt. Perverse, elegant accidental street sculpture. A patron of the arts looks on.

The door was ripped from its hinges and shoved into the gaping maw of the cab like a dismembered tongue stuffed into the mouth of a decomissioned stoolie.

Danger, we are warned. Danger.

Every day a half dozen cruise ships visit Ketchikan, Alaska and tourists on shore excursions board float planes, tour buses and amphibious vehicles in the hopes of seeing whales, eagles, bear, moose, salmon and enormous slugs. We came across this excellent abandoned house in Ketchikan along the banks of a salmon stream.

According to our impromptu guide, there was a fire years ago, and things being what they are, the house abandoned.




In the front yard, instead of rusting cars…



OK, one slug.


What defines a truly ugly building in a city with hundreds of thousands of buildings? A pristine modern structure with reflective surfaces and smooth edges can be decidedly ugly while a run down building layered with graffiti sprouting plants from cracks can be, in the context of the city, excruciatingly beautiful.

I offer the following as examples of ugly. You may disagree, but then, you’ve always been needlessly argumentative. This first one, with its exposed electrical components and bland circa cold era eastern bloc windowless walls….


…and this with its rusting screened-in terrace-cum-gangway, without which, the building would remain unremarkable…


…and what of this one? A monolith, is pure oddness distinguishes it. Its smudged white graffiti, cloying vines and peculiar miniature iron fence create an effect just crying to be marked by bar patrons too disoriented to find indoor plumbing.


Maybe you’d like to enter a NYC ugly building into our contest. Send a photo submission (nothing larger than 200K please) to

And to view updated blogs in real-time, go to or

First place, upper west side-ish division including Broadway from 57th to 76th St. Is there an uglier building on the Upper West Side than this one at Broadway and 76th? This building will be entered into the Manhattan regionals with a winner to be announced some time after I get around to photographing all the buildings in the borough.


This stretch of buildings on West 57th St. finished last.


December 2019
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