Philadelphia architecture

I snapped this earlier this week walking to the train from my office. It’s just off the Ben Franklin Parkway, and you see the Comcast tower on the left. I’m not sure of the name of the building in the middle. The building with the balconies is called The Windsor, I think.

This scene stood out to me because it captures three eras of Philadelphia architecture in one scene. You see the early 21st century on the left, the late 20th century on the right (maybe the 1970s, specifically), and probably the early 20th century in the middle. It reminded me of Broad Street Station. I grew up hearing stories about it from my grandmother; it was built in the 1881 by Frank Furness, and it was a Center City masterpiece. Peter Clericuzio shared this watercolor of Broad Street Station from the Athanaeum’s exhibit, information on the exhibit below:


The introduction of railroads in the 1830s initiated a revolution in the development of American industry, land use, and social patterns. The new technology challenged the nascent American professions of architecture and engineering to create entirely new building and structural types to meet railroad needs— passenger waiting stations, bridges, train sheds, repair shops, grand downtown depots, and even bedroom suburbs. For more than 100 years, Philadelphia’s most important designers met this challenge, including William Strickland, Thomas U. Walter, John Notman, Theophilus P. Chandler, the Wilson Brothers, Frank Furness, Horace Trumbauer and Paul P. Cret. This exhibit features drawings, prints, photographs, and manuscripts that document how these Philadelphia architects and engineers transformed not only their own city, but much of the American landscape.

Broad Street Station was demolished in 1953, just three years after my grandmother graduated from Penn. It was a part of her life for her first ~20 years, and then it was gone. Replaced with far worse architecture, in the same bargain that destroyed New York’s Penn Station and replaced it with what’s there at present: a corrosive force on public life and anyone’s experience of entering the city. That’s what Suburban Station’s underground chambers do today in Philadelphia. We still have 30th Street. Jefferson Station isn’t terrible.

Something I learned recently was that the Spirit of Transportation in 30th Street was just one of four grand reliefs that were a part of Broad Street Station. I suppose the other three were probably destroyed, but I wonder…