CC’s Nightclub

CC’s nightclub was located in the Hotel Powelton. Vivienne Tang of Hidden City Philadelphia reported:

It’s a rare sunny winter day and a young woman and two men are sitting outside an ordinary West Philadelphia apartment building.

“Hey, do you guys live here?” I ask them.

“Yeah,” says one of the men.

“Do you know anything about its history?”

“Man, you have no idea how many people stop me and say they used to come here when it was called CC’s nightclub. People say it was really cool, a real jazzy kind of place.”

“Have you guys heard of the Barnes Foundation?”

“Yeah, never been though.”

“You know, he had a factory in this building? And he used to hang paintings here.”

“No way, seriously?”

Despite all the attention paid to the Barnes Foundation’s move into Philadelphia, there is in fact no blue plaque here, no mention in any guidebook. But this corner a half block from the 40th Street El station is the source, so to speak, of Dr. Barnes’ magic potent, the antiseptic Argyrol. And Argyrol is the source of his extraordinary art collection, the first home of the Barnes Foundation.


In 1902 Barnes and his partner Herman Hille rented eight rooms of what was the Hotel Powelton to produce Argyrol. Used to prevent infant blindness and to treat infections like gonorrhea, Barnes found markets for Argyrol worldwide. Indeed, venereal disease made Barnes a very rich man.


Here, Barnes created an integrated factory more than half a century before the Civil Rights movement. With just 20 workers at its peak, Barnes’ factory was a small, well-oiled machine. It was so efficient that two hours could be cut from the eight hour business day. But instead of letting workers clock out early, Barnes devised an experiment in education and put on voluntary “seminars.” These lessons covered philosophy, psychology, educational theory and art appreciation.