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Spring Garden School Abandoned

Spring Garden School was a walk-in. No climbing, no crawling, no squeezing. You just opened the unlocked door and walked in. On my first visit early on a Sunday morning in 2009, it was the basement door at the rear of the school.

Graffiti artists and taggers hadn't done much work in the place, but scrappers had. The guerilla recyclers had removed or were uninstalling wiring and pipes. They were particular tough on the bathrooms that were essentially pulverized in the process. When the school's most profitable materials were gone, scrappers pulled up flooring and even removed electrical fixtures. The city eventually took notice and secured the  basement door. So someone broke the lock on the back door and that was the entrance until it was padlocked.

The highly visible front door on North 12th Street was already padlocked. But the same treatment didn't work on the back door. That's because you could barely see it from the street; a one-story auxiliary building blocked the view. Scrappers could use power tools and probably even explosives back there and not be noticed. A padlock was no challenge at all.

Soon, the city's first padlock had to be replaced by chains and a heavier padlock. They in turn were replaced by even heavier chains and massive padlocks. Then the city blocked the door with metal barricade bars. Finally, in 2011 or thereabouts, the city got serious. They welded heavy steel beams across the door, closing it for good. The city had won the Battle of the Back Door. The Battle of the Windows was about to begin.

Through the early 2010s, it was a game of cat and mouse -- or plywood vs. crowbar -- along the south side of the school. You could clearly see from Parrish Street which window was serving as the main entrance on any given day. Besides gaping open, the grand entry window would have a pallet leaning on the wall beneath it. An industrial pallet, of course, is an urban swashbuckler's impromptu ladder. For a while, a truck tire served the same purpose. Then the city brought out the welders and installed heavy metal screening.

In November of 2015, someone sawed through the chains holding the front door closed. So for a while in late 2015 getting into Spring Garden School was as easy as walking through the front door..

Early in 2016, though, the adventures came to an end. The building was secured by the construction crews. The old school was on its way to becoming tlow-cost housing for the elderly and veterans.

According to Wikipedia, "Spring Garden School No. 1 is a historic school building located in the Poplar neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was designed by Irwin T. Catharine and built in 1927-1928. It is a three-story, three bay brick building in the Moderne-style. It features a limestone entrance surround, a limestone parapet, and decorative tile. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986." The Wikipedia entry includes this public domain photograph from 2010.

Spring Garden School No. 2, three blocks south, remains active serving neighborhood children.

-John Bendel