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Modern makers: Lots worth a second look inside The Hatchatory in East Kensington

From the outside, the Hatchatory looks like just another vacant warehouse, blocking views of the river in this once-bustling hub of East Kensington. You might not notice its shining gates, upcycled from steel that formerly covered each window; or the fresh coat of paint upon its windowsills. The bright orange door might catch your attention—a dazzling point against bricks and mortar. However, even if you did notice the door, you probably wouldn’t realize the weight of its symbolism—a happy meeting of old and new—or imagine the incredibly creative things happening behind it.
Billed as a “unique workspace for interesting small businesses and interesting people, the building at 2628 Martha St. houses 26 workspaces and dozens of maker-types who bring an artisan approach to manufacturing of all kinds.
Just a few weeks ago, Flying Kite took a peek inside at one of the Hatchatory’s tenants, the custom denim and leather goods makers at Norman Porter Company.
Fancy Time Studio is one of the Hatchatory’s other interesting makers. The recording studio is owned and operated by producer Kyle "Slick" Johnson, who has worked with bands such as Cymbals Eat Guitars, Rogue Wave, Wavves, Modest Mouse and Philly's own Creepoid. Beth Beverly uses her space at the Hatchatory to create alternative millinery and sculpture with natural fibers and ethically sourced fur and feathers. Another creative business that has set up shop there is Great Graphics, a screen printing business started by two Tyler School of Art graduates 30 years ago. It provides service to artists and commercial clients on fabrics, metal, wood, plastic and glass.
Built in 1895, the Hatchatory’s walls first housed a soap and a caulk factory. After about a century, the plant closed, ending its manufacturing days. But six years later, in 2003, Gerard Galster Jr. bought the property. Instead of demolishing the building, he asked his friend Russell Mahoney, a recent grad with a master’s degree from Taliesin, the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, to make it useful once again.
“When you knock down a perfectly good old building to put in a new ‘green’ one, all of its static carbon is released into the atmosphere. That’s a true crime in sustainable design,” Mahoney says.
The superintendant l’extraordinaire also operates his own design collective and workshop, Broken Arrow, at the Hatchatory. He admits that it is less expensive to replace old with new, but his team at Broken Arrow is dedicated to making it cheaper and more practical. They apply this practice to everything, including old desks from the soap factory days, which they refurbished for the Hatchatory’s workspaces.
Mahoney’s team has adapted those workspaces to modern loft units with original exposed brick, beams and hardwood floors. Each is equipped with state-of-the-art ductless heating and cooling systems and floor-to-ceiling windows that bathe the rooms in natural light.
Common areas in the Hatchatory are also repurposed for maximum use. Recently its garage space hosted WAMB, a Fringe Festival performance that took advantage of the wide-open space by draping circus rings and hoops from ropes on the rafters. The third floor open area provides a perfect space for tenants to exhibit art and sell products, and down the hall Mahoney is working on a communal area with couches and a kitchen.
Source: Russell Mahoney, The Hatchatory
Writer: Nicole Woods
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