Billy Penn’s Michaela Winberg successfully navigated the path from the just opened Fashion District all the way to the glistening Comcast Technology Center. There were some missteps along the way but in the end she made it.
It’s a trek I’ve made numerous times in my youth and wanted to do myself since the Gallery reopened (lets face it, it’ll always be the Gallery). So I’m a bit jealous Winberg beat me to it. But if I cannot be first to document the journey, I’m happy to share some history of the path.
The underground passageways date back to the opening of the Market Street Subway in 1903. Back in those early days (and even much later), Market Street stores utilized the concourses with display windows and entrances to their shops. Into the 1960s, Gimbels promoted Tuesday sales in its “Gimbels Subway Store.”
As a hoarder of Philadelphia transit maps and photographs I have some items to share from a 1908 book on the Market Frankford Line. Unfortunately, I haven’t always been great about documenting where I found these images. So if anyone knows where the source material was, I’d appreciate the insight.
Further along the concourse, John Wanamaker’s approach to concourse was just as welcoming.
Winberg also mentions the three metal tunnels with the low headroom at 11th Street. I’ve always wondered about that configuration. Unfortunately, this photo from 1908 doesn’t really explain the peculiar configuration.
Though the term bargain basement began at the base of department stores, postcards of the time prove it wasn’t solely a place for bargain shoppers.
The concourses may feel like an undocumented space but maps do exist. The most recent versions designed by the Center City District but others date back to at least 1936.
As the above maps show, at one time you could make your way north, all the way to Race Street, but those passageways, once accessible via Suburban Station have been closed off.
I’ll be on the lookout for a comprehensive map that illustrates just how one could walk from 8th and Chestnut to the Four Seasons atop the Comcast Technology Center without crossing a single intersection. From underground to above the clouds. Sounds like a good walk.