pennsylvania historical architecture contemporary
001 Philadelphia City Hall 002 Philadelphia Museum of Art 003 Wanamaker's Department Store
004 Fisher Fine Arts Library 005 30th Street Station 006 Barnes Foundation
007 Pennsylvania State House (Independence Hall) 008 Kaufmann Residence (Fallingwater) 030 St. James The Less
012 Christ Church 013 Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts 014 Provident Life and Trust Company
015 A. Newton Richards Medical Building, U. of Penna. 016 Guild House 017 Vanna Venturi house, Chestnut Hill
023 "The Woodlands," William Hamilton house 024 Bank of Pennsylvania 025 Second Bank of the United States
026 Eastern State Penitentiary 027 Girard College 028 Philadelphia Savings Fund Society
Pittsburgh, PA and Baltimore, Maryland.
010 Oriole Park at Camden Yards Baltimore, Maryland 011 Gettysburg National Park and Cemetery Gettysburg PA 018 Richard L. Ashhurst house, Overbrook, PA
019 Saal (chapel) and Sharon (sisters' house), Ephrata, PA 020 Chase-Lloyd house, Annapolis, MD 021 Hammond-Harwood house, Annapolis, MD
035 Chatham Village, Pittsburgh, PA 009 Allegheny County Courthouse Pittsburgh, PA 029 Baltimore Cathedral/Cathedral of the Assumption Baltimore, Maryland
031 Designs by A.J. Downing 032 "Lyndhurst," William Paulding house, near Tarrytown, NY 033 Arthur Newbold house, Laverock, PA
036 Greenbelt, MD    
Notes- Philadelphia architectural history.
Buildings and architecture of Philadelphia

Center City, looking towards City Hall.

The buildings and architecture of Philadelphia are a mix of historic and modern styles that reflect the city's history. The first European settlements appeared within the present day borders of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the 17th century with most structures being built from logs. By the 18th century brick structures had become common. Georgian and later Federal style buildings dominated much of the cityscape. In the first half of the 19th century Greek revival appeared and flourished with architects such as William Strickland, John Haviland, and Thomas U. Walter. In the second half of the 19th century Victorian architecture became popular with the city's most notable Victorian architect being Frank Furness.

Steel and concrete skyscrapers appeared in the first decades of the 20th century and glass and granite skyscrapers towards the end of the century. Construction continued into the 21st century with the city tallest building, the Comcast Center. Philadelphia made significant contributions in the architecture of the United States. The row house was introduced to the United States via Philadelphia in the 19th century, the United States' first International style skyscraper was built in Philadelphia, and one of the most important examples of Postmodern architecture, Robert Venturi's Guild House, is located in the city.Contents [hide]

17th and 18th centuries

Georgian style homes in Philadelphia.

The earliest houses in Philadelphia were built with logs, with the new English settlers being taught by the Swedish settlers already living in the area. Early inhabitants had also dug out caves on the Delaware riverbank which were reportedly places of "clandestine looseness". The Philadelphia settlers soon began constructing buildings with wood and brick with the first brick house being built in 1684. By 1690 four brickmakers and ten bricklayers were working in the city. In 1698 construction of the Old Swedes' (Gloria Dei) Church, the oldest surviving building in Philadelphia, began. Construction of the church was completed in 1700. Philadelphia was founded by Quakers and as a result many early buildings were plain and simple, the largest building being the Great Meeting House.

Library Hall on the east side of Fifth Street.

Buildings soon became more elaborate and in 1724 the Carpenters' Company of the City and County of Philadelphia was formed to help instruct builders. As in London, Georgian architecture soon became the popular design in Philadelphia. In 1730 statesman and businessman James Logan was one of the first in Philadelphia to build a country home outside the city. The mansion, which he called Stenton, was the first Queen Anne-style building in the Delaware Valley.[2] One of the most ambitious Palladian structures of the time was the Christ Church. Christ Church was completed in 1744 with a steeple added in 1754. Starting in the 1730s construction began on the Pennsylvania State House. The Georgian style State House, now known as Independence Hall, was designed by Andrew Hamilton with construction supervised by Edmund Woolley.[3]

The change away from the traditional red brick Georgian style began with the construction of Library Hall in 1790. Library Hall was the first building designed by William Thornton. The Palladian Library Hall was designed similar to the Robert Adam style popular in England at the time with four pilasters and an ornamental balustrade. The similar Federal style also became popular with one of the city's best examples being David Evans, Jr.'s Central Pavilion of the Pennsylvania Hospital completed in 1805. Around the same time Classicism became popular with the creation of the Woodlands estate in 1788 and the First Presbyterian Church in 1793.[4]

19th century

At the beginning of the 19th century the row house was introduced to Philadelphia. William Sansom had bought a block of land between Seventh and Eighth Streets between Walnut Street and Sansom Street. Along Walnut Street Sansom built Union Row and along Sansom Street Thomas Carstairs built Carstairs Row. The rows, now part of Jewelers' Row, were block long rows of houses similar to row houses in the United Kingdom. The row houses were new to the United States as well and when built elsewhere in the country were called "Philadelphia rows".[5] In the 1820s and 30s old buildings along the Delaware River were turned into tenements and factories, while houses a few blocks west were turned into stores. Several story high, brick row house continued to be built, many by Stephen Girard. At the same time granite fronts became popular in the city and marble mansions were constructed.[6]

Second Bank of the United States.

Greek Revival began in the United States with Benjamin Latrobe's Bank of Pennsylvania Building in 1801. The building was made of white marble with Greek Ionic temple porticos on two sides of the building, and was topped with a low dome. Latrobe left Philadelphia to design the United States Capitol, but others continued with the style. Robert Mills designed Octagon Unitarian Church in 1813 and a 6,000 seat auditorium called Washington Hall in 1816. However, all of Mills' Philadelphia buildings have since been demolished. William Strickland's first major commission was the Second Bank of the United States. One critic said the Second Bank "excels in elegance and equals in utility, the edifice, not only of the Bank of England, but of any banking house in the world."[7] Among Strickland's other buildings were the Naval Asylum completed in 1824, the Arch Street Theater built in 1828, the Mechanics National Bank and the Merchant's Exchange completed in 1834. John Haviland's first major building was the Philadelphia Arcade. Built in 1827, Haviland based the design of Arcade on the Burlington Arcade in London. In 1829 Haviland's Eastern State Penitentiary was completed. Other buildings include the former Franklin Institute (now the Atwater Kent Museum) and the Walnut Street Theater, along with St. George's Episcopal Church and the Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb, now the University of the Art's Hamilton Hall. Another significant architect was Thomas U. Walter. Walter's most significant Philadelphia building is Girard College which was completed in 1847. Along with numerous churches, Walter also built the now demolished Gothic Philadelphia County Prison and the Egyptian-style debtor's prison in Moyamensing.[8]

Fisher Fine Arts Library of the University of Pennsylvania.

In the 1840s and 50s many old buildings were replaced by larger business structures. Built from red sandstone, granite, and iron, the buildings varied in designs including Greek Revival, Gothic, and Italianate. One of the tallest buildings was the eight-story Jayne Building. Designed by William L. Johnston, the building had a Venetian Gothic façade and an observation tower designed by Thomas Walter. The Jayne Building was completed in 1850 and demolished in 1957. The city's first entirely cast-iron building was built in 1850. Built for Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company, the building was designed by G. P. Cummings.[9]

Victorian architecture became popular in the second half of the 19th century. Philadelphia's most prominent Victorian architect was Frank Furness. Furness designed numerous buildings including the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Broad Street Station, the Fisher Fine Arts Library of the University of Pennsylvania, the Knowlton Mansion, and the First Unitarian Church.[10] The Centennial Exposition was held in Philadelphia in 1876. Over 200 buildings were constructed for the Exposition including the Main Exhibition Building which was the largest building in the world at the time. Most buildings of the Exposition, including the Main Exhibition Building, were temporary. Two significant exceptions were Horticultural Hall and Memorial Hall, both designed by Hermann J. Schwarzmann. The now demolished Horticultural Hall was a glass and iron structure styled after Moorish architecture and a tribute to London's Crystal Palace.[11][12] The Beaux-Arts Memorial Hall was made of brick, glass, iron and granite.[13] Designed by John McArthur Jr., Philadelphia City Hall began construction in 1871 and wasn't completed until 1901. City Hall is a square building surrounding a central courtyard. Each side has an arched walkway leading inside and the north side includes a 548 ft clock tower. Designed in Second Empire style and influenced by the Tuileries Palace and the Louvre, City Hall is the largest all-masonry, load bearing structure without a steel frame.[14]

20th century

Houses in West Philadelphia.

Numerous steel and concrete skyscrapers were constructed in the first two decades of the 20th century. In the 1920s construction continued with skyscrapers such as the Aldine Trust Building, the Lewis Tower, the Drake, the Ben Franklin House and the Rittenhouse Plaza. In the early 1930s 30th Street Station, Convention Hall, and the Franklin Institute were constructed. In 1932 the United States' first International style skyscraper was built. The PSFS Building, which was designed by George Howe and William Lescaze, was topped with the Philadelphia Savings Fund Society's initials in 27 ft red neon letters and is decorated with custom made interior detailing.[15]

Rowhouses in the Fairmount neighborhood

Numerous houses, many of them row homes, were in poor condition. In a 1934 United States Department of Commerce survey of 433,796 houses found that eight in every thousand homes lacked water, about 3,000 homes lacked heating, and that 7,000 homes were unfit for habitation. By 1939 conditions had only improved slightly. One development was the low cost housing development named the Carl Mackley Apartments. Constructed between 1933 and 1934, the apartments were commissioned by the American Federation of Hosiery Workers and designed by Oskar Stonorov. The way the apartments were laid out, with gardens, lawns, play areas, underground garages, and space for public art were new architectural designs at the time.[16]

Centre Square (left) and Penn Square (right).

After World War II new development projects appeared all around Philadelphia. In Center City modern office buildings were constructed including the Penn Center, and the Municipal Services Building. Around Independence National Historical Park a new U.S. Mint building, a new federal courthouse, and the Rohm and Haas Building were built. Just east of Chinatown the circular Police Administration Building was built. Historic buildings were renovated and neighborhoods underwent urban renewal. One of the earliest was Society Hill where many old buildings were rehabilitated and I. M. Pei's Society Hill Towers were built.[17] Outside the revitalized neighborhoods blight, vacancies and vacant lots remained a problem. In 1990 Philadelphia had around 40,000 vacant properties and by 2006 that number had dropped to around 20,000.[18]

While Philadelphia neighborhoods changed architecture continued to evolve as well. Architect Louis Kahn, grew up, studied and worked in Philadelphia and is considered one of the most important architects of the second half of the 20th century. In Philadelphia Kahn's designs includes the University of Philadelphia's Richards Medical Center and Esherick House in Chestnut Hill.[19][20] In 1964 one of Robert Venturi earliest works, the Guild House, was built. The Guild House is considered one of the most important examples of post-modernism.[21]

Row houses in West Philadelphia.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s large glass and granite skyscrapers were built in Center City. The largest skyscraper was Liberty Place. Consisting of the 945 ft (288 m) One Liberty Place, the 848 ft (258 m) Two Liberty Place and a smaller hotel, Liberty Place were among the first buildings taller than City Hall. Before construction began, the Philadelphia City Council had given permission for buildings to be taller than City Hall to encourage skyscraper development along Market Street. Liberty Place was designed by Helmut John who combined historical architecture style with post-modern style. In the case of Liberty Place John was influenced by the art deco Chrysler Building.[22] According to the curse of Billy Penn, which appeared sometime after Liberty Place was constructed, no Philadelphia sports team will win a championship as long as there is a building taller than the statue of William Penn on top of City Hall.[23]

21st century

Baltimore Ave towards Center City.

Tax breaks created in 1997 and 2000 helped create a condominium boom in Center City. In the first years of the 21st century old buildings rehabilitated into condominiums and new luxury condominium towers appeared all around Center City and the surrounding neighborhoods.[24] New office towers also appeared, the most notable being the Comcast Center which became the tallest building in Philadelphia in 2007 and is expected to be completed in 2008.[23] More skyscrapers, mostly condominiums, are under construction or in-planning such as the Murano, Waterfront Square, and Mandeville Place.

Tallest buildings

The tallest buildings above 500 feet (152 meters) in Philadelphia are:[25][26]

One Liberty Place (left) and Mellon Bank Center (right).Rank Building Name Height
feet/meters Floors Year
1 Comcast Center 975 / 297 57 2007
2 One Liberty Place 945 / 288 61 1987
3 Two Liberty Place 848 / 258 58 1990
4 Mellon Bank Center 792 / 241 54 1990
5 Bell Atlantic Tower 739 / 225 55 1991
6 G. Fred DiBona Jr. Building 625 / 191 45 1990
7= One Commerce Square 565 / 172 41 1992
7= Two Commerce Square 565 / 172 41 1987
9 Philadelphia City Hall 548 / 167 9 1901
10 1818 Market Street 500 / 152 40 1974    the architecture you must see