The Public Ledger building, a triumph of Gilded Age Philadelphia architect Horace Trumbauer, has stood proudly at the corner of Sixth and Chestnut Streets since it was built in 1927, for a daily newspaper that, just seven years later, would be absorbed by The Inquirer.
Now, part of the building houses something that, depending on your point of view, may be equally iconic: the world’s largest Wawa, an 11,500-square-foot flagship.
But achieving that transformation came at a cost — running the building through what Inquirer architecture critic Inga Saffron called “Wawa the Destroyer’s blanderizing machine." That meant stripping away the original walnut paneling from the walls and replacing the Georgian Revival columns with white tile.
The spoils, 158 running feet of walnut paneling and eight 17-foot-tall columns, were placed on the auction block Saturday, amid the winged stone dogs, aggressive-looking garden gnomes, and ornate wrought iron benches at Kamelot Auctions’ annual home and garden sale. Combined, they fetched $35,000.
Joe Holahan, co-owner of the Port Richmond auction house, said he could not disclose the seller, though he said it was a third party who had purchased the wood from either the building owner or Wawa. (A Wawa spokesperson didn’t respond to an inquiry; Abdi Mahamedi, chief executive of the Carlyle Development Group, which owns the building, said he wasn’t aware of the sale.)
The eight walnut columns were made in two pieces and glued together around a structural support. They had to be sliced vertically to be removed, and brought in $5,000 altogether.
“You could cut them down to size; most people can’t use a column that big,” Holahan said. “I think they’d be great just as decoration. Or, you could use the halves and slap them up against the wall like you’d use a pilaster.”
If all else fails, he figures those columns could be sliced and topped with glass to make dozens of table bases.
As for the walnut paneling, the options are endless: a law library or a whole bunch of front bars. It sold for $30,000.
“I’ve been doing this 35 years, and to find that many running feet of old paneling it’s almost impossible,” Holahan said. “I could see it in a big, beautiful new house out on the Main Line.”