Essential Architecture- the North East

30th Street Station


Graham, Anderson, Probst & White


Philadelphia, PA;




Stripped Classical


Stone with steel frame


Utility Transport

30th Street Station is the main railroad station in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is the heart of Philadelphia's passenger rail network.

The Chicago-based architectural firm of Graham, Anderson, Probst and White designed the structure, originally known as Pennsylvania Station-30th Street (as with other Pennsylvania Stations), which is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Its design was influenced by the Northeast Corridor electrification, which allowed the tracks to pass beneath the main body of the station without exposing the passengers to soot from the steam engines of earlier times. The station itself also included a number of innovative features, including a pneumatic tube system, an electronic intercom, and a reinforced roof with space to allow the landing of small aircraft.[2]

It was opened in 1933 by the former Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR), which was headquartered in Philadelphia, to replace Broad Street Station when the latter became too small to handle Philadelphia's growing passenger-rail traffic. The PRR sought a location on its main line between New York and Washington. Broad St. Station was a stub-end terminal in Center City and through trains had to back in and then out again to continue on their journey. As Broad St. Station handled a very large commuter operation, an underground Suburban Station was built as part of the 30th St. Station project to handle it. Because of the depression and World War II Broad St. Station continued in operation until 1952, at which time 30th St. took over all its operations.[3]

 "Ben Franklin Station"
On December 25, 2005, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the Philadelphia based Pew Charitable Trust had asked Amtrak to change the name of 30th Street Station to Ben Franklin Station [4]. The change of the station name would coincide with the celebration of Ben Franklin's 300 birthday in January 2006. A subsequent report by the Inquirer on January 13, 2006 stated that Philadelphia Mayor John Street has thrown his support behind the name change; at the time of the initial report the mayor’s office stated that it was unaware of the request [5]. In the same report, though, fellow Philadelphia charity manager H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest stated that Pew had abandoned its plan for the name change, yet Pew and Amtrak (officially) stated that conversations were still underway. From the two reports by the Inquirer, reaction to the name change by Philadelphians has been mixed, with even former Philadelphia mayor and current Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell expressing a lukewarm reaction to the report. It had been estimated that to replace all the signage at the train station to reflect the new name would cost approximately $3 million. Though some Philadelphians supported the change, others preferred the straightforward geographic name of the station that was currently in use. Amtrak also raised concern about confusion between "Ben" station and its other three "Penn" stations.

On January 25, 2006, the Pew Charitable Trust announced that it was abandoning the campaign to have name of the station changed. Pew gave no reason for its change of stance[6].

The building is currently owned by Amtrak and houses many Amtrak corporate offices (although Amtrak is officially headquartered in Washington, D.C.). The 562,000 ft² (52,000 m²) facility features a cavernous main passenger concourse. Prominently displayed is the Pennsylvania Railroad War Memorial, which honors Pennsylvania Railroad employees killed in World War II. It consists of a statue of the archangel Michael lifting the body of a dead soldier out of the flames of war, and was sculpted by Walker Hancock in 1950. Also found in the station are multiple shops, a McDonald's restaurant, a Dunkin Donuts, and a large food court. The station was featured in the 1983 film Trading Places, the 1985 film Witness starring Harrison Ford and M. Night Shyamalan's 2000 release Unbreakable.

Currently, trains from SEPTA, Amtrak, and New Jersey Transit (usually known as NJ Transit) serve this station. Amtrak intercity trains and NJ Transit's Atlantic City Line run through the station's lower level, while SEPTA Regional Rail lines serve the upper level. In addition, SEPTA's Market-Frankford Line (also known as the "El") and all of SEPTA's Subway-Surface Lines stop at the 30th Street subway station, 1/2 block from the southwest entrance to 30th Street Station. There is a tunnel between the underground subway station and 30th Street Station, but it has been closed off due to crime and vagrancy concerns. A number of the SEPTA system's bus lines also include stops at the station on their routes.

The station is one of the busiest intercity passenger railroad facilities in the United States. In Federal Fiscal Year 2006, it had 3,555,646 Amtrak boardings plus alightings, making it the 3rd busiest Amtrak station in the U.S. It ranks behind New York Penn Station and Washington Union Station in Amtrak passenger volume [1]. The station also has extensive locally and regionally-generated passenger volume; it is one of SEPTA's 3 primary regional rail hubs and is located within walking distance of various attractions in West Philadelphia, most notably the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University in University City.

The Station's art deco main waiting roomMany important highways and streets pass next to or near the station. Vehicles and taxicabs can easily access the station from various major routes, including Market Street (PA Route 3), Interstate 76 (more commonly known as the Schuylkill Expressway in the Philadelphia area), and Interstate 676 (more commonly known as the Vine Street Expressway in the city of Philadelphia).[2]

Cira Centre, a 28-story glass-and-steel office tower opened in October 2005, is across Arch Street to the north and is connected by a skyway at the station's mezzanine level next to the upper level SEPTA Regional Rail platforms. The tower is owned by Philadelphia-based Brandywine Realty Trust, was designed by architect César Pelli, and sits on land leased from Amtrak. César Pelli is best-known for the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Because Amtrak's service to Newark Liberty International Airport is codeshared with Continental Airlines, the station has the IATA Airport Code of ZFV.