old city coffee tile mosaic
TREKKING THROUGH THE WILDS of colonial Philadelphia on a sweltering summer morning, one comes to appreciate the offering of a cool Italian soda in a chic café. Americans are inured to pleasures a quality soda-pop over ice in a clean glass may produce, but there was a time when the drinking of sugary carbonated beverages was not taken for granted. Planning and location dictated when one could “grab a Coke”, as a soda bar at the Pharmacy was the de facto sole supplier of these addictive, rejuvenating beverages.
When I tumbled through the doors of Old City Coffee one particularly hot July morning, I thought first of an iced coffee. An ultra-hip hipster, arranging bottles of flavored syrup behind the counter, had another idea. “How about an Italian soda?”, he suggested, nodding to a leaving customer. I’d never tried one, assuming factory-bottled sodas to be superior. But the look of delight on an exiting customer’s face as she tasted her fruity concoction seemed endorsement enough.
“I’ll take one of those”, I asked, pointing to Miss Red Fizzy Drink. The Hip Barristo poured a finger of raspberry syrup into a cup, added a bottle of Pellegrini, ice, and capped it. “Here you go. Two-fifteen, please”. And what did I get for two bucks?
A refreshing fruity soda made with quality seltzer water, pure cane sugar, and natural raspberry flavor. Most stimulating, I assure you! A little syrup research reveal’s a company history dating to 1912 in Bourges, France. Within years, the Monin family is shipping around the world. 1996, Tampa Florida, sees construction of a plant to supply all of the Americas. This French company producing a quality soda syrup in the USA earns an American Toolbox Five Thumbs Up recognition!
PAUL KEARSLEY, DIRECT descendant of mid-1700s builder & architect Dr. John Kearsley*, said to me a while back, “Hey, Woodman, what’s with the tile mosaic in the coffee shop bathroom?” We had just enjoyed a private tour of Christ Church, at one time the most sumptuous church in the colonies, as well as the tallest structure in North America. And now, down the street, we find ourselves in Old City Coffee, where he noted the dual tourist-friendly customer washrooms, one of which sported a cut-tile mosaic. While not exactly in the style of Isaiah Zagar, clearly there was an influence.
Zagar made a name for himself throughout the 1960s onward as the premier cracked-tile mosaic artist, covering vast areas with his images. This bathroom mosaic was different. The tile was cut and arranged into a private story, the interpretation being at the sole discretion of the viewer. The key word here is cut, as in sliced on a wet-saw. Someone put a lot of work into it.
When walking through the area years later, I noted a tasteful renovation had rendered the bathroom to an employees-only area. Thus, this mosaic qualifies for Hidden Treasure status. The creator is rumored to be a wanna-be-artist plumber.
*** Paul Kearsley’s great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-granduncle was Dr. John Kearsley, the architect/builder of Christ Church. But, disappointingly, the Doctor didn’t get the commission for Independence Hall, narrowly losing out to a design by Edmund Woolley and Andrew Hamilton. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Independence_Hall