Bikes to brownies, doggy daycare to documentaries, furniture to funky jewelry. Over 200 small businesses, nonprofits, and artists share space in the Bok Building, are-purposed art-deco vocational high-school located in the heart of South Philly. Built in 1936 as part of FDR’s Public Works Administration, the school was closed in 2013, and was converted into a multi-use facility. Today, businesses of all sizes are housed within the space that once instructed students in auto mechanics, welding, hair styling and cooking.
The roof is home to Bok Bar, with terrific views across South Philly to Center City and the Ben Franklin Bridge. Try to arrange your visit to coincide with sunset.
Yup, for good or bad, a trip to the bathroom will take you right back to high school!
The bar is open seasonally (ID required for access), with local chefs providing fancy bar snacks. Chefs have weekly or monthly residencies, so the type of food is always changing. These photos are from a visit in October 2020:
These from 2022 residency by the Thai chef from Kalaya:
Irwin’s, a sit down restaurant with views to the stadiums, occupies the other side of the roof. It’s popular, so reservations are definitely recommended.
To access the rooftop, you zip straight up the elevator, so to see inside the building/studios you’ll need to check out one of their periodic open studio nights or show up for a free building tour offered every Wednesday at 5:00. No reservations necessary- just go to the Dudley Street entrance. Another way to see a bit of the building is to visit the coffee shop and the amazing French boulangerie on the first floor (their onion focaccia is one of the best things I ate in 2022!).
Scenes from the October 2021 open studio night:
Local woman/black owned bakery, Second Daughter, has their bakery on the 4th floor. Their wedding cakes are AMAZING (I’m think getting re-married might be worth the hassle just to get one!). While they have no retail area, items are available for pre-order or purchase during their single day sales (check their website). Their chocolate brownies are a Best of Philly.
Nice view! Those toilets made me shudder a little though. I hate American style toilet cubicles anyway, with the massive gap under the door and the big cracks on the sides of the door (why do you want people to be able to see you sitting on the toilet? So weird), especially after becoming accustomed to the much more private British variety, and those look particularly bad!
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Yup! That lack of privacy, along with the price of the drinks should insure that no one has a few too many… Probably a good thing with the distance down to the pavement from the roof.
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