Letters

Posted: October 24, 1993

FUROR OVER DEMOLITION OF WEBB CHANDLERY GROWS

After years of "demolition by neglect," Old Original Bookbinders has demolished yet another unit of Philadelphia's most historic area: the former Elisha Webb Chandlery on Front Street.

This was one of the very few early maritime properties that remained. It included the old cartway going west from Front Street. Parts of the demolished building went back to the 18th century.

The cartways in question were typical of the historic waterfront properties. But only a scant few survive. From the point of view of architectural history or, to be more pragmatic, from the point of view of tourism, it was all-important that Old Original Bookbinders not be allowed to remove yet another historic building from the scene.

Not to be confused with the Bookbinder family's 15th Street Bookbinders, the Taxins' Old Original Bookbinders trades on being "historic." However, the Taxins have a long, inglorious record of tearing down historic structures.

Years ago, Old Original Bookbinders tore down the historic gun shop at the corner of Second and Walnut Streets. This was where the first European child was born in Philadelphia. As a result of a public outcry, Bookbinders replaced the historic building with a facade imitation - an inaccurate one - of the demolished structure.

Several years ago, Bookbinders said it would go out of business if it didn't get the two small, historic McCrea houses down. It contended it needed the site for parking customers' cars.

The McCrea houses were two of the most exceptional 18th-century houses in America - one of them encompassed the oldest biscuit bakery in the country. Old Original Bookbinders demolished the houses, paved the site and added it to the large adjoining parking lot that it owned. And then they sold the whole parking lot.

Aside from the fact that 136 South Front Street was an important piece of early Philadelphia history, it had economic importance to the city. Now that most manufacturing has left the city, tourism becomes ever more important for the city's economy.

Of course, Independence Hall is protected, but if we allow more and more of our history to disappear, tourism will be affected.

Henry J. Magaziner

Philadelphia

CITY'S COMMITMENT DOUBTED

The day I read in The Inquirer of the demolition of the Elisha Webb Chandlery, I and others attended a meeting of the city Zoning Board.

We were there to support a neighbor who was appealing a citation by the city for a supposed lack of historical accuracy in the exact depth and design of the overhang on a new roof. He had constructed it for his formerly ruined house with loving care and excellent craftsmanship.

To my amazement, the very same pair who had just facilitated the demolition of an important part of Philadelphia's heritage engaged in a courtroom duet reminiscent of a bad TV drama.

No expense had been spared by the city as Assistant City Solicitor E. Jane Hix led the Historical Commission director, Richard Tyler, through his testimony, and dramatically produced large color photographs of the offending details.

The scene there would have been comic were it not for the potentially serious financial consequences for my neighbor as Mr. Tyler simultaneously argued for "sensitivity to a building's change over time" and absolute adherence to the fuzzy details on an undated photograph from his archives.

The same Mr. Tyler who had procrastinated on alerting local conservationists to the impending arrival of the bulldozers at the Elisha Webb Chandlery argued that my neighbor should be forced to a quicker work schedule.

The Zoning Board had the sense to overrule the city, but the discrepancy between its role in these two cases is stark. Mayor Rendell seems totally insensitive to the blatant disregard of the city's heritage by such speculators as Sam Rappaport and Old Original Bookbinders restaurant.

These have both recently succeeded in replacing historic buildings, which belonged in a large sense to all Philadelphia's citizens, with parking lots.

My conclusion is that, at present, the right to destroy our historical heritage is for sale if the price is right.

Roger M. Burnett

THANKS TO THE PHILLIES

Thank you Phillies.

Thank you for giving us this feeling again.

Thank you for your abundant confidence in yourselves.

Thank you for showing us that everyone on a team is a valuable player.

Thank you for believing in one another and demonstrating the value of mutual encouragement.

Thank you for reminding us that even "regular" guys can be stars.

And most of all: Thank you for making it easier for us to teach a kid growing up in Philadelphia that when fans support their team and have faith in its members, we are all champions!

Susan Griffin

Glen Mills

BASEBALL IS JUST A GAME

Like millions of other baseball fans, I watched the 15-to-14 fourth game of the World Series and will remember it as one of the most exciting moments in baseball history. I congratulate the Philadelphia Phillies for their truly excellent season and thank them for giving us some outstanding role models.

I listened to some of the commentators and fans react to that game and I was saddened to see how some had taken the fun out of it by condemning the players. Sure, it's part of the fun to argue certain umpire calls, but insulting players is disgraceful and only serves to display one's ignorance and unprofessionalism.

Some people have forgotten that America's favorite pastime is a game - and not just an excuse to overcharge advertisers for air time. I am far too young to remember what some fans would call the "golden age" of baseball, although I count among my heroes the great New York Yankees of the '40s and '50s. It would be cliche to say those days are long gone, but it would be absolutely true.

Anthony N. Verrecchia

Glenolden

ENFORCE THE HAITI EMBARGO

Jean-Bertrand Aristide is the first freely elected president of Haiti in nearly 40 years, and would be the first deposed president ever to return to Haiti to resume his duties. This will be an accomplishment if and when it happens. He is returning to Haiti, where life has never been worse in all of the country's painful history.

An embargo was reimposed on Haiti, and will last until President Aristide's return can be guaranteed. The embargo will make the current harsh conditions on the island even worse. Most Haitians have resigned themselves to endure these sanctions. (They don't have much choice.) There's hope that this new embargo, if enforced properly, will make the Haitian military change its ways.

After all, close to 70 percent of Haitian citizens, many of them poor and illiterate, voted for the first time in their life and made a common decision to change their future and their children's future. That was two years ago; and today, they are still pursuing the same ideal, armed only with the conviction that change will happen. Far too many Haitians have died in Haiti, in the sea and in exile.

President Aristide symbolizes the end of an era, and the first steps in the life of a democratic society. Although he is allowed constitutionally to preside for one term only, his role is crucial. He is the spark that will start the democratic process. Therefore, he must return to Haiti to resume his presidential duties.

However, for the embargo to succeed, it must be enforced properly. It must include an efficient air-interception component, to cease the profitable drug trafficking that affords the Haitian armed forces its criminal tactics. Anything short of this will cheat the Haitians out of the opportunity for taking a chance on change.

Hebert Peck Jr.

DEFENDING THE LIQUOR-CONTROL SYSTEM

I'm responding to the Sept. 14 column by B.J. Phillips in which she demonstrates an obvious lack of knowledge about Pennsylvania's liquor-control system.

In her column, Ms. Phillips asserts we'd all be better off without the liquor-control system, which forces people to cross the border and break the law. To suggest that readers should cross the border to buy alcohol is simply irresponsible.

Further, there is no reason to. The average Pennsylvania wine and spirits shop stocks 1,500 product codes with larger stores carrying as many as 4,000 codes. Most private liquor stores only dream of that kind of selection. If by chance a store doesn't stock a customer's brand and it is commercially available, we'll get it.

Ms. Phillips' column also takes a cheap shot at Pennsylvania's wine selection. Taste in wine is subjective. Some people are knowledgeable about wine and have a sophisticated palate, while others, perhaps the majority of wine consumers, are simply looking for a red or white wine in their price range. The PLCB caters to both types of consumer. Product selection in any given store is based on the buying habits of those who shop there.

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In 1987, the PLCB established a Bureau of Wine to concentrate more attention on wine selection and education. The bureau continually evaluates wines from all over the world for their quality and value. It also conducts regular training sessions for employees, often engaging noted wine experts to share their knowledge and perform tastings. The PLCB has opened a number of specialty stores that carry an extensive selection of wine.

As for price, a study by the bipartisan Legislative Budget and Finance Committee found that, despite Pennsylvania's high tax rate on alcohol, its prices are lower than - or at least competitive with - neighboring states. Taxation, of course, is a legislative matter and does not fall under the authority of the PLCB.

The PLCB is a licensing and regulatory agency that also operates a system of about 670 of the wine and spirits shops across the state. It employs approximately 3,500 Pennsylvanians, and while the agency is not involved in enforcement, its proceeds cover the cost of Pennsylvania State Police liquor law enforcement.

In addition, the agency generates over $200 million annually in profit and taxes, which goes directly into the state's general fund, helping to relieve the burden on taxpayers.

Conspicuously omitted from Ms. Phillips' column were arguments against the social benefits of Pennsylvania's control system.

Who can argue with statistics that demonstrate Pennsylvania is a safer state and is more socially conscious than neighboring states and the national

average? The PLCB exists for the benefit of all citizens of Pennsylvania, both consumers and non-consumers.

I would suggest that if Ms. Phillips has indeed ever visited a Pennsylvania wine and spirits shop that she take another look and decide whether promoting the "finer points of rum running" is really in anyone's best interest.

James A. Goodman

Chairman

Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board

Harrisburg

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