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The Old Bakery – New Art Center in Philadelphia

In Philadelphia, just over Washington St, in the ’arty’ older area of town, hidden behind inconspicuous doors, you meet a group of artisans and artists working independently in interconnected workshops – an art center – formed from an old bakery – art studios, craft studios, artisans, artists, craftsmen and craftswomen.

In times of yore, before the days of the massive ’chemical’ bakeries, when service meant that you were served, each bakery in Philadelphia would deliver the fresh bread to your home within hours of its baking. And, even after the onset of the petrol driven vans, horse drawn wagons survived for this stop-start service.

This Pennsylvanian bakery in Philadelphia is now just a shell of its former role of providing sustenance for the people. Now it is reborn as a centre for sustainable creation. Downstairs, where now operates a traditional artisanal printing and box making works founded by Bridget Morris, http://www.bellafortebooks.com, producing beautiful presentation boxes and card, you find the shell of the bakers oven at the back. This is where the wood was burnt to create the heat necessary for baking on the next level above the oven.

Next door and connected to the bakery were the stables. On the ground floor the carts and wagons were stored. This area is now the precept of an artist wood carving with native timbers. He recites that each cart may have been driven by a four-in-hand (four giant Clydesdale horses) that, each day, were patiently traipsed up and down a dog-leg ramp with serrations to prevent them from slipping on the winter ice. The hay for the stalls and food and water were winched up from the street by a crane installed in the top-most circular window. And the manure returned the same way to find a new home in Philadelphia.

This apparent dichotomy actually makes sense when you calculate the turning circle of the carts and realise that a building twice the floor area would be necessary if the carts were to be stored upstairs. Instead, we have close-placed large beams to provide the supporting strength necessary for the Clydesdale mass perhaps spread over just one or two hooves.

The story is told of an occasional typsy gentleman getting a ‘hell of a shock’, as he walked home through the winter snow, to see, in the faint light, the head of a Clydesale poking out from a window over 5 metres above him, neighing with a deep throaty draft and its fumes swirling into the night air – in Philadelphia.