Named after literary figure Edward William Bok, the imposing BOK was initially created as a vocational high school, where city youth could prepare for jobs in modern technology. Designed by Irwin T. Catharine, the notable Philadelphia public school architect, the now renovated structure houses over 130 tenants and a roof top bar with stunning views of the city. Primarily known in the community for its affordable work spaces and busy social calendar, the incredible building also hosts spectacular Candlelight concerts at two of its many spaces.
Located in the culturally diverse South Philly, BOK is only a 15-minute walk from Dickinson Square Park. If you want to check out the businesses and tenants, the main entrance is the one on 9th Street. Nevertheless, BOK is a massive building with several entrances, so check your invite for specifications if you’re attending an event. The 45, 47, 47M and 79 buses pass nearby and the nearest subway station is Snyder Station, so you can easily reach it by public transport. What’s more, if you’re an avid biker, there’s plenty bike parking available next to the entrance on 9th Street.
Facts, Curiosities and Interesting Things about BOK
1. The building was designed by Irwin T. Catharine for FDR’s Public Works Administration.
Constructed in 1936 to accommodate 3,000 students from across the city, the institution would offer courses on technical subjects like wallpapering, auto mechanics and cosmetology. It was designed by Irwin T. Catherine, the chief architect of Philadelphia public schools from 1920 until 1937. The school was named the Bok Vocational High School after celebrated editor, Edward William Bok, and the building finally opened its doors to students in 1938.
2. Lack of enrolled students and local authority negligence lead to the school being closed.
The school continued its operations for many decades. Unfortunately, deferred maintenance and decreased enrollment resulted in closure in 2013. The school was put up for public auction and eventually in 2014, it was bought by Scout, a multi-disciplinary design and development firm that found new ways to utilize the space.
3. Today, it’s so much more than just BOK Bar.
You might have heard of the sensational rooftop bar atop the building, namely BOK Bar. Offering panoramic views of the city, it’s understandable why the cool bar is so popular in Philly. However, the 340,000 square foot structure houses today over 250 businesses, artists, entrepreneurs and non-profits, from fashion and jewelry designers to filmmakers and glassblowers.
The popular Candlelight concert series selects historic and culturally significant buildings and landmarks to host its many tributes. BOK is one of the chosen spots, where classically trained musicians reinterpret timeless compositions and popular contemporary tunes. This season, Candlelight is bringing its trademark sea of candles to BOK’s auditorium and its rooftop bar, offering unique tributes to some of your favorite Halloween and holiday songs.
What else can you do at BOK?
BOK is home to a tattoo parlor, a daycare, a hair salon, a plant shop, ESL classes, woodworkers, small restaurants and even a wholesale bakery. So, whatever you can think of, BOK probably has it.
Whether you want to shop from the amazing artists and artisans that make hand-made ceramics, jewelry and custom-designed clothing, or you want to stop by Irwin’s and sample a Sicilian dish, there’s always something to explore at the building’s eight floors. In case you’re interested in their weekly events, take a peek at their online calendar for more up-to-date information on the exhibitions and community events happening each month.
With a host of tenants that encompass a myriad of small businesses and vocations, BOK is an incredibly versatile space that has many uses. From small business ventures and community events to a rooftop bar and mesmerizing tributes to popular artists by candlelight, you will never get bored in the 340,000 sq ft space. If you’d like to see other Candlelight concerts in Philly, there are several other culturally significant venues across the city currently hosting such shows.