Welcome to Lapstone & Hammer, Philadelphia's newest and finest premium menswear boutique. While we are new to the city, the building that houses us is certainly not. It has a history as rich and detailed as the finely crafted goods contained within its storied walls today, a fact evinced by its inclusion in the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places.
Though the exact date the building was constructed is unknown, we do know that in 1887 it was the flagship location of Evans Drug Stores, owned by George B. Evans, who opened his original location next door at 1104 Chestnut in 1884. At the height of his success in 1904, Evans had five stores throughout the city, a laboratory at 8th and Arch St and over 500 employees. Their slogan, "Get it at Evans", was as ubiquitous as "Gotta go to Mo's" is today.
The 1106 Chestnut location was almost more of a department store than a drug store, featuring four floors filled with pictures and frames, cut glass curios, bronze statues, silver platters, lamps, candles, clocks, soaps, perfumes, toiletries, stationary, and almost any other household helper you can think of to go along with the 3,500 patent medicines and 15,000 different drugs and potions offered from the pharmacy. Perhaps the jewel of the store was the 49 foot long counter made of onyx, mahogany, and Italian marble that featured one of the first commercial refrigeration units used to produce cold sodas, of which they sold over 2000 glasses a day.
In 1888 a scientist employed by Evans, Edna Murphy, invented the very first deodorant, which she called MUM after the nickname of her nurse. The upper floors at 1106 became the world's first commercial deodorant factory, producing a waxy antiperspirant that was marketed to women with the famous slogan, "MUM is the word". MUM would continue to be produced here until the company was sold to Bristol-Myers in 1931.
In 1933 the building was redesigned by a Chicago architect named Markham Ashberry, and reopened as a Dr. Scholl's Foot Comfort Shoes store. Along with re-fitting the interior from a drug store and deodorant factory into a shoe and foot care store, Markham drastically redesigned the front of the building. Using Vitrolite, an opaque and lustrous brand of industrial glass, Markham mixed individual panels of dazzling greens and golds set amongst a sea of black panels in a representation of Streamline Moderne - a late Art Deco style emanating from Germany's Bauhaus school. This was the main reason the building was added to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places in 1986, with the commission citing the "outstanding example of a glass commercial facade rendered in the Art Deco Style".
The property changed hands again in the 1960's, becoming Pauline's Bridal Shoppe, the premier outfitter of wedding parties in the Philadelphia area. The two large display windows filled with gleaming white gowns acted as a beacon to prospective brides, drawing them to Chestnut street in a sort of matrimonial trance-like state.
Not long after the site was designated as an Historic Place it was sold to local retail institution City Blue, which it has remained until now. In 2014 one of the Vitrolite panels fell from the front of the building and crashed onto the sidewalk below, necessitating a complete removal of the entire facade in order to properly repair the glass and secure the fittings that attach the iconic panels to the brick beneath. During this process the building underwent a transformation inside as well, from a typical retail space selling urban fashions into something much more special: a destination for connoisseurs of craftsmanship. While the work on the exterior is still ongoing, the interior is finally complete and Lapstone & Hammer is ready to be shared with the rest of the world.
Bringing the past and the future into the present, Lapstone & Hammer is an amalgam of all 1106 Chestnut was and will be. From the prototypical drug store of the late 19th and early 20th centuries to the 21st century vision of boutique menswear, no stone has been unturned, no lesson left unlearned. The various products on sale, from shoes to clothes to books, with beard oils, soaps, candles, whiskey tumblers, and more in between, evokes the eclectic inventory of George B. Evans' old store. Shoes will be displayed on antique stands found in the basement of the store that were actually used by Dr. Scholl's. The design innovation seen in the store combining the classical elements of wood, marble, and copper with the retro-futurist styling of the mid-century leather sofas, frosted glass light walls, and the custom made chandeliers is a nod to the innovation present when a brand new concept in hygiene was developed here. The elegance and artistry that goes into the creation of a wedding dress can be found in Lapstone & Hammer's dedicated gallery space called Pauline's Bridal Shoppe, which will host periodic exhibitions and events. And finally, the collection of the hottest styles in footwear and apparel from the most coveted brands on the market that customers of City Blue have come to expect for over 30 years will be taken to the next level by Lapstone & Hammer.
With a focus on craftsmanship and attention to detail in the merchandise being sold as well as the design and construction of the store itself, Lapstone & Hammer is applying the knowledge contained in this house full of history to set the template for the retail experience of the future. And let me tell you friends, the future is looking mighty bright.