20 December 2009

where the Internet lives: Philadelphia (part 1)

                                              Terminal Commerce Building.   photo:  Alan Wiig, 11.2009

While you can use the Internet anywhere with a connection, including, more and more, anywhere with  a cell phone signal, the data accessible online is still located in actual buildings throughout the world.  One of Philadelphia's carrier hotels is found across the street from the offices of the Philadelphia Inquirer as well as the offices of the School District of Philadelphia, in the Terminal Commerce Building at 401 North Broad Street.  According to Workshop of the World, a website dealing with Philadelphia's industrial history, this 13 million square-foot Art Deco building was completed in 1930 and housed a number of the city's industrial corporations.  There was even a railway freight station underneath the structure.  Following Philadelphia's industrial decline in the post-war years, the original utility of the building was no longer an option, and the site became a carrier hotel in the 1990s, housing at least four data centers as of 2007.  Today this historic landmark has a post-industrial use quite different from its first intent, holding servers and related hardware, likely employing only a fraction of the people it did in the 1930s, and sitting in what is today a blighted-if-slowly-improving stretch of Broad Street in North Philly.

                              Main entrance.  photo:  Alan Wiig, 11.2009

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