Philadelphia City Hall

Interesting Facts About Philadelphia’s City Hall

The City Hall Building in Philadelphia held the record for the tallest habitable building in the world from 1894-1908. It remained the tallest building in Pennsylvania until 1932. It was the tallest building in Philadelphia until 1986. 

Believe it or not, there was an informal gentleman’s agreement in place which limited the height of new buildings in Philadelphia to below that of the Penn statue which sits atop the city hall. That was until the construction of One Liberty Place ended the agreement. 

City Hall is made up of over seven hundred individual rooms, which makes it the largest municipal building in the United States. It also qualifies as one of the largest municipal buildings in the world.

Sitting atop the City Hall building is a bronze statue of William Penn. Penn was the founder of the city of Philadelphia, and the statue is the tallest statue on any building in the world. 

During the 1950s, the city council floated the idea of tearing the City Hall building down and moving it to a new location. There was a large percentage of people who viewed the building as overly lavish and a vulgar display of wealth. Ultimately the move never happened as they determined that it would bankrupt the city due to the solid and heavy masonry construction of the historic building. Now, it is considered by many people to be one of the most remarkable architectural constructions in the United States. 

The City Hall building houses three separate branches of government, including the Mayor’s office, the Philadelphia City Council, and the Civil Division which includes many of the city’s judicial houses. 

The popular building has been featured in a variety of different films including Rocky, Blow Out, Trading Places, 12 Monkeys, National Treasure, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and Limitless to name a few. 

With restoration work recently completed, the City Hall building will hopefully be around for visitors to enjoy for another one hundred years!

Directions from City Hall to Cibik & Cataldo Law Offices

1400 John F Kennedy Blvd, Philadelphia, PA 19107

History of City Hall

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. Wikipedia

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.

City Hall became a National Historic Landmark in 1976. In 2006, it was also named a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

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