Among the most noted public institutions… is [the] Public Buildings [City Hall], we have told but little of the gigantic marble pile itself bearing this designation. It is, in truth, Philadelphia’s modern architectural moment – the largest edifice for municipal purposes in the world. Its tower, when completed, will rank as the third highest edifice in the world, the Washington Monument and the Eiffel Tower at Paris being the other and taller structures. Certainly no city in the United States has anything to show in comparison with it.
– regarding the first stone of the foundation of City Hall, laid on August 12, 1872, from Illustrated Philadelphia, Its Wealth and Industries, 2nd ed. (1889), pp. 96-97
The first settlers arrived in the Philadelphia area in the 17th century and lived in log dwellings. By the 18th century, bricks replaced logs as building materials. Georgian architecture – boxy, 1-2 stories, symmetrical, paneled front door in the center of the building, multi-paned rectangular windows, and decorative moldings – became the norm. But it shared the cityscape with Federal style, which is characterized by plain, smooth, and flat surfaces and rarely used pilasters.
Thomas Jefferson introduced Greek Revival to the U.S., and its influence was seen in buildings built in the beginning of the 19th century. As its name implies, Greek Revival imitated Greek designs and ornamented details. Majestic facades, porticoes, and heavy pilasters graced buildings of this time period. In the latter half of the 19th century, Victorian architecture prevailed.
David and I enjoy taking note of the different types of architecture that we see when we visit other cities and other parts of the country. We both like to photograph them as we wander around the city. I found the city’s architecture charming and I loved turning a corner in the Old City District and seeing a historic building or a row of older homes. Here’s a little sample of favorite architectural photos.