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Did you know Philadelphia City Hall was once the tallest building?

By March 10, 2019 No Comments
Philadelphia City Hall 1

This offseason I broke my tradition and did not travel overseas. Instead I took a two and a half week road trip in America. I started off by flying into Philadelphia and then rode the train to New York City. My goal for the first part of the trip was to see all the building in America that were once called the tallest in the world (minus Sears Tower in Chicago, I’ll see that another time).

Philadelphia City Hall 2This means Philadelphia City Hall is first up and it was designed by John McArthur Jr. and Thomas Ustick Walter and constructed from 1871 to 1901 in the center of the city. Philadelphia City Hall is a masonry building with granite and brick walls up to 22 ft thick with an exterior of limestone, granite, and marble. It cost $24 million to build.

Philadelphia City Hall 3Philadelphia City Hall is 548 ft tall, which includes the statue of city founder William Penn at the top of the tower. This made Philadelphia City Hall the tallest building in the world from 1894 to 1908 and the first secular building to have this distinction, all previous building deemed the world’s tallest buildings were either European cathedrals or the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Philadelphia City Hall 4Even though the Singer Building in New York City became the tallest in the world in 1908, the Philadelphia City Hall remained the tallest in Philadelphia until 1986 when One Liberty Place was constructed. This ended the informal gentlemen’s agreement that had limited the height of buildings in Philadelphia to no higher than the 37-foot-tall Penn statue, which is still the largest statue atop a build in the world.

Other interesting fact of Philadelphia City Hall are:

-The statue is hollow and there is a small staircase within it that comes out on top of the hat.

-There are almost 700 rooms making it the largest municipal building in the United States.

-The building houses almost all the city government including the Mayor’s Office), the City Council, courts, and judge’s chambers

-There is a 26 feet wide clock face on side of the tower, making them than those on Big Ben in London (23 ft)

-The observation deck is right below the statue and is about 500 ft above street level. It is reached in a glass panel elevator allowing visitors to see the interior of the iron superstructure that caps the tower and supports the statue and clocks.

-In the 1950s, the city council investigated tearing down City Hall for a new building elsewhere but found the demolition would have bankrupted the city due to the building’s masonry construction.

I absolutely loved this building and all the wonderful artistic details and I can not recommend a tour enough. The tours are two hours long and given Monday through Friday at 12:30. It cost $15 and include a trip to the top of the tower. Get more info at the official website.

Now it is time to head to NYC to see the next six tallest buildings in the world.

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