|Philadelphia City Hall|
Northwest corner from JFK Plaza, 2012
|Tallest in the world from 1894 to 1908[I]|
|Preceded by||Ulm Minster|
|Surpassed by||Singer Building|
|Location||1 Penn Square|
Philadelphia, PA 19107, USA
occupied from 1877
|Antenna spire||548 ft (167 m)|
Philadelphia City Hall
Philadelphia City Hall c. 1899
|Area||630,000 ft2 (58,222 m2)|
|Architect||John McArthur, Jr.|
Thomas U. Walter
|Architectural style||Second Empire, other|
|NRHP reference #||76001666|
|Added to NRHP||December 8, 1976|
Philadelphia City Hall is the seat of government for the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The building was constructed from 1871 to 1901 within Penn Square, in the middle of Center City. John McArthur Jr. and Thomas Ustick Walter designed the building in the Second Empire style. City Hall is a masonry building whose weight is borne by granite and brick walls up to 22 ft (6.7 m) thick. The principal exterior materials are limestone, granite, and marble. The final construction cost was $24 million.
At 548 ft (167 m), including the statue of city founder William Penn atop its tower, City Hall was the tallest habitable building in the world from 1894 to 1908. It remained the tallest in Pennsylvania until it was surpassed in 1932 by the Gulf Tower in Pittsburgh. It was the tallest in Philadelphia until 1986 when the construction of One Liberty Place surpassed it, ending the informal gentlemen's agreement that had limited the height of buildings in the city to no higher than the Penn statue.
In 1976, City Hall was designated a National Historic Landmark.
The building was designed by Scottish-born architect John McArthur Jr. and Thomas Ustick Walter in the Second Empire style, and was constructed from 1871 to 1901 at a cost of $24 million. City Hall's tower was completed by 1894, although the interior wasn't finished until 1901. Designed to be the world's tallest building, it was surpassed during construction by the Washington Monument and the Eiffel Tower. Upon completion of its tower in 1894, it became the world's tallest habitable building. It was also the first secular building to have this distinction, as all previous world's tallest buildings were religious structures, including European cathedrals and--for the previous 3,800 years--the Great Pyramid of Giza.
With almost 700 rooms, City Hall is the largest municipal building in the United States and one of the largest in the world. The building houses three branches of government: the city's executive branch (the Mayor's Office), its legislature (the Philadelphia City Council), and a substantial portion of the judicial activity in the city (the Civil Division and Orphan's Court of the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas for the First Judicial District are housed there, as well as chambers for some criminal judges and some judges of the Philadelphia Municipal Court).
The tower features a clock face on each side that is 26 ft (7.9 m) in diameter. The clock faces are larger in diameter than those on Big Ben which measure 23 ft (7 m). City Hall's clock was designed by Warren Johnson and built in 1898.
City Hall's observation deck is located directly below the base of the statue, about 500 ft (150 m) above street level. Once enclosed with chain-link fencing, the observation deck is now enclosed by glass. It is reached in a 6-person elevator whose glass panels allow visitors to see the interior of the iron superstructure that caps the tower and supports the statuary and clocks. Stairs within the tower are only used for emergency exit. The ornamentation of the tower has been simplified; the huge garlands that festooned the top panels of the tower were removed.
In the 1950s, the city council investigated tearing down City Hall for a new building elsewhere. They found that the demolition would have bankrupted the city due to the building's masonry construction.
Beginning in 1992, Philadelphia City Hall underwent a comprehensive exterior restoration, planned and supervised by the Historical Preservation Studio of Vitetta Architects & Engineers, headed by renowned historical preservation architect Hyman Myers. The majority of the restoration was completed by 2007, although some work has continued, including the installation of four new ornamental courtyard gates, based on an original architectural sketch, in December 2015.
The building is topped by a 37 ft (11 m) bronze statue weighing 53,348 lb (24,198 kg) of city founder William Penn, one of 250 sculptures created by Alexander Milne Calder that adorn the building inside and out. The statue was cast at the Tacony Iron Works of Northeast Philadelphia and hoisted to the top of the tower in fourteen sections in 1894. The statue is the tallest atop any building in the world. Despite its lofty perch, the city has mandated that the statue be cleaned about every ten years to remove corrosion and reduce deterioration due to weathering, with the latest cleaning done in May 2017. Penn's statue is hollow, and a narrow access tunnel through it leads to a 22-inch-diameter (56 cm) hatch atop the hat.
Calder wished the statue to face south so that its face would be lit by the sun most of the day, the better to reveal the details of his work. The statue actually faces northeast, towards Penn Treaty Park in the Fishtown section of the city, which commemorates the site where Penn signed a treaty with the local Native American tribe.Pennsbury Manor, Penn's country home in Bucks County, is also located to the northeast.
By the terms of a gentlemen's agreement that forbade any structure from rising above the hat on the Penn statue, Philadelphia City Hall remained the tallest building in the city until it was surpassed by One Liberty Place in 1986. The abrogation of this agreement supposedly brought a curse onto local professional sports teams. Twice during the 1990s, the statue was partially clothed in a major league sports team's uniform when they were in contention for a championship: a Phillies cap in 1993 and a Flyers jersey in 1997--both teams lost. The supposed curse ended 22 years later when the Phillies won the 2008 World Series, a year and four months after a Penn statuette had been affixed to the final beam of the Comcast Center during its topping out ceremony in June 2007. Another Penn statuette was placed on the topmost beam of the Comcast Technology Center in November 2017, and the Eagles won the Super Bowl a few months later.
City Hall is a masonry structure with load-bearing walls up to 22 feet (6.7 m) thick. The principal exterior materials are limestone, granite, and marble. The only structural and exterior metallic parts of the building are the upper portion of the clock tower and the bronze statuary.
City Hall was the tallest habitable building in the world from 1894 to 1908, measuring 548 ft (167 m) to the top of the statue of William Penn. It is the 16th-tallest building in Pennsylvania, and was the tallest building in the state from 1894 until 1932 when it was surpassed by the Gulf Tower in Pittsburgh. It was the tallest building in Philadelphia from 1894 until 1986 when One Liberty Place ended the gentlemen's agreement which had limited building heights to no higher than William Penn's hat.
The tallest statue atop any building in the world is the 37 ft (11 m) tall statue of William Penn, sculpted by Alexander Milne Calder. Approximately 88 million bricks and several thousand tons of stone were used in construction. There are four bronze eagles, each weighing three tons with 12 ft (3.7 m) wingspans, perched above the tower's four clocks. The building was voted #21 on the American Institute of Architects' list of Americans' 150 favorite U.S. structures in 2007.
City Hall is situated on land that was reserved as a public square upon the city's founding in 1682. Originally known as Centre Square--later renamed Penn Square--it was used for public gatherings until the construction of City Hall began in 1871. Centre Square was one of the five original squares of Philadelphia laid out on the city grid by William Penn. The square had been located at the geographic center of Penn's city plan, but the Act of Consolidation in 1854 created the much larger and coterminous city and county of Philadelphia. Though no longer at the exact center of the city, the square remains situated in the center of the historic area between the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers; an area which is now called Center City.
Penn had intended that Centre Square be the central focus point where the major public buildings would be located, including those for government, religion, and education, as well as the central marketplace. However, the Delaware riverfront would remain the de facto economic and social heart of the city for more than a century.
City Hall has been a filming location for several motion pictures including Rocky (1976), Blow Out (1981), Trading Places (1983), Philadelphia (1993), 12 Monkeys (1995), National Treasure (2004), Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009), Limitless (2011),Birdy (1984), Prison Song (2001), and Law Abiding Citizen (2009).
City Hall Dilworth Plaza (Christmas, 2005)
Note: click the 'Trivia & Fun Facts' link at left, then the 'Tower' link at top.
...hardly anyone lived west of Fourth Street before 1703 ... Not until the mid-nineteenth century ... was the Schuylkill waterfront fully developed. Nor was Centre Square restored as the heart of Philadelphia until the construction of City Hall began in 1871.