The Beautiful Destruction of Market East

The old Snellenburg's department store building came down to make way for the new East Market development. It's been gorgeous to watch.

Snellenburg's in 1915

Snellenburg’s in 1915 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Library of Congress)

A few years ago I bought a $10 photograph at Mostly Books. My friend told me it was too much, but I didn’t bother to haggle and now it’s on my wall. It’s of Snellenburg’s at 11th and Market. I’m not sure where it’s from, but there’s a card glued to it describing the old department store. The card says the photo is courtesy the Community College of Philadelphia. I’ve assumed it was in the lobby of a since-closed building, but that’s just a guess.

Of course, I never saw that Snellenburg’s in real life. The store closed in 1962. By the time I was a kid, it had been altered and was unrecognizable to the building today. I live nearby, and I occasionally stopped by some of the stores in the building (on the way back from The Gallery). It was your usual Center City strip: City Blue, USA Boutique, Hallmark, an eyeglasses store, a cell phone shop, a dollar store, a scrub shop, a store called “FUNKY” I never set foot in.

Now those stores are gone. Over the past few months, the building has been demolished for the East Market development, a fancy new project that’s one of the many changes coming to the neighborhood.

The demolition started from the back — the Ludlow Street side — and moved forward. It seemed like “The Destructors.” It has been beautiful. I’ve taken photos with my phone every time I pass the demolition site for the past few months. Here’s a collection of them.