It's no surprise that the East Coast houses some of the most well known architecture of the United States. With European colonization starting in the East and slowly creeping it's way West, buildings on the East Coast have the advantage of being conceived and built at an earlier time in history than most of the buildings in other parts of the country. "Why would their age matter?" you ask? Well as with most things that involve an aspect of design (clothing, furniture, art, ect.) trends of the time often make their way into the construction of an object. The same thing happens with Architecture. While some things have withstood the test of time to become classic features (crown molding, herringbone tile), others instantly date the building and are usually referred to with a wince (popcorn ceilings, glass blocks, and random chandeliers). So to cut my round-about explanation short, the East Coast is home to a higher percentage of historical buildings, and those that are still standing have already weathered the tests of time, and have often been found worthy of cultural relevance. The building featured today suffered from both the misfortune (and luck) to be built for the trends of the time, and the advantage of being too culturally valued (and expensive) to tear down.
PHILADELPHIA CITY HALL
So to create this awe-inspiring building the city (and other city patrons) poured approximately $25 million dollars (I don't even want to try and adjust for inflation) into the project. This building is the third (and final - hopefully) structure to house the municipal offices for the city of Philadelphia. The need for new offices was realized in 1838, but there was never a solid choice on issue of the location of the new building until the debate was finally settled with a popular vote in 1871. John McArthur was awarded the commission for the project after multiple competitions had been held, both to gather architectural talent and to drum up more interest for the project. It took nearly 30 years for the building to finally reach completion in 1901.
So some of you may be looking at this and thinking "this is amazing and wonderful, why would this even be in danger of being torn down?" Well, due to its 30 year construction timeline, styles that were popular at the conception of the plan - such as the French Second Empire style the building is blessed with - had fallen from grace. By the time the City Hall was opened it was already plagued with a reputation of needless extravagance and outdated style. To add insult injury it was bumped out of the competition for tallest building in the world by the Washington Monument and the Eiffel Tower (both of which were finished in the 30 year gap). So by the time the 1950's rolled around city government was considering cutting their losses and moving to yet another structure. Luckily, the cost of demolition actually matched up with the projected price of a new structure, and a public outcry involving the American Institute of Architects forced the city to abandon that plan.
Today the City Hall is still standing tall. Its been embraced as the architectural marvel it was meant to be and deservedly has a place on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as being surveyed as one of the 150 most important buildings in the United States. Though it may not come close to being the tallest building in the world, it still holds some impressive stats:
- Largest Municipal building in the country
- The 548-foot tower is the largest masonry structure in the world without a steel frame
- The first floor is built of solid granite, and is 22-feet thick in some places
Now you know the story of Philadelphia City Hall, undoubtedly one of our nation's architectural gems. Hopefully you found the history behind this massive structure as interesting as I did, and thanks for reading!