Tour guides bring back ‘Lost Philadelphia’ in new book

Tenderloin District Philadelphia 1931 North 8th street
This picture of Philadelphia’s Tenderloin District circa 1931 is featured in “Lost Philadelphia,” by Ed Mauger and Bob Skiba. Courtesy of Pavilion Books

Two aficionados of Philadelphia’s unique style recently teamed up for a book project that showcases invisible pieces of the past.

“San Francisco had an earthquake and Chicago had a fire. We on the other hand, more than any other city in America, preserved and repurposed lots of 18th and 19th century-style buildings,” said Ed Mauger, 70, co-author of “Lost Philadelphia” and a Philly tour guide for more than 10 years.

“They’re lost in that they’re lost to their original purpose,” Mauger said of buildings such as Eastern State Penitentiary and the Curtis Center at 6th and Walnut streets.

“Lost Philadelphia” features about 150 photographs of Philadelphia’s former great architectural standouts accompanied by detailed historical information, with an emphasis on institutions that failed to stand the test of time.

That includes the historic Dunbar Theatre, a black-owned theater on Lombard and Broad streets. It was a gem in the historic corridor along Lombard and South Streets that “was like Philadephia’s very own Harlem,” as co-author Bob Skiba, 63, put it.

“Social history doesn’t really leave a visible footprint,” acknowledged Skiba, a Philly tour guide for 14 years, who also offers tours of the Gayborhood.

The book includes the grittier side of Philly history, with information about the historic Tenderloin district.

“Today we have 1200 legal [alcohol] licenses in Philadelphia. But it was estimated in any year during Prohibition that there were 12,000 speakeasies in Philadelphia,” Skiba said.

After reading up on the history of the city, walking around Philadelphia may feel like traveling into the past.

“I just see layers and layers of history and stories,” Skiba said. “That’s why I love giving tours, I get to tell these stories.”

Meet the authors

Skiba and Mauger will host a conversation on “Lost Philadelphia” at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 4, at the Philadelphia History Museum, 15 S. 7th St. The event is free.


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