Hole in the Clouds
Dec 19, 2014
The twentieth-century stone carvers who worked on the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., enriched the building with their own personal flourishes. The gargoyle above, for example, is a self-portrait with tools by carver Roger Morigi.
As the project neared completion in the 1980s, National Geographic World sponsored a competition for children to design the final few embellishments. Below is the Darth Vader grotesque, proposed for the competition by Christopher Rader of Kearney, Nebraska; it was sculpted by Jay Hall Carpenter and carved from limestone by Patrick Plunkett. Other sculptures from the contest include a raccoon, a girl with pigtails and braces, and a man with large teeth and an umbrella.
Feb 3, 2018
When Philadelphia's Northeast Manual Training School opened its doors in 1905, the idea of a public high school to prepare poor boys to work in modern industrial trades was progressive, even radical. But Philly was booming with industry--in fact, just a block over from the new school building was the Quaker Lace factory, with over a hundred clattering power looms that could be heard in every classroom.
The building itself was collegiate Gothic in style, with gargoyles all around and a crenellated turret in the middle.
The school changed its name and mission several times; it became a comprehensive high school, originally for boys only, named Northeast, until 1957, when a new Northeast High School was built in the new residential district closer to the edge of the city.
Then the building became Edison High, which achieved a particularly sad notoriety: no other high school in America outdid Edison in graduating young menwho were killed in the Vietnam War. Sixty-four Edison alumni are memorialized on a bronze plaque outside the school.
But since 1992, Edison High School has operated in a different building a few blocks away, and that's where the bronze memorial sits today. The original school site was used briefly for a bilingual middle school and then abandoned altogether, like almost all the mills, factories, and foundries that surround it.
In 2010, the lace factory burned to the ground, in an eight-alarm blaze attributed to arson; it is said that drug dealers in the neighborhood burned the long-abandoned structure because they believed police were using it as an observation post.
In 2011, the old Manual Training School building also burned, in a fire also deemed suspicious in origin. The site was under contract to a developer who wanted to put a shopping center there.
Remains of the school were demolished a few months later, but the gargoyles, it was said, were carefully preserved for use somewhere else. Where? We have not been able to find out.
Northeast Manual Training School
Edison High School