Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Then and Now: Northwest Center City viewed from City Hall tower, Philadelphia


In Philadelphia's collective memory, Broad Street Station seems to be best remembered not for the station building itself, but for its massive elevated viaduct which ran along toward Filbert Street toward the Schuylkill River, infamously known as the "Chinese Wall." Indeed, the railroad viaduct posed an enormous physical and economic barrier between Logan Square and the fashionable Rittenhouse Square area south of Market Street. Apart from the completion of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Northwest Center City saw relatively little development before 1950s.

After the Pennsylvania Railroad's rerouting of intercity trains to 30th Street Station and commuter rail lines to Suburban Station in the 1930s, Broad Street Station was made nearly obsolete, and its days were numbered. The demolition of the station and its accompanying tracks in 1953 opened a large swath of centrally located, high-value downtown land for redevelopment. In accordance with the city's plans, the corridor was to become a showpiece modern office district of the sort very in vogue among planners at the time. Over 60 years later, the Penn Center/Market West area remains downtown Philadelphia's premier office district.

The area has been so completely transformed that the only major building that survives from the original view is the John T. Windrim-designed Bell Telephone Building at 1613 Arch Street, seen under construction in the original photograph.

Original photo: Rolston, N.M. "Department of City Transit-969-0." 1915. Philadelphia City Archives. Philadelphia Department of Records. 6 Sep. 2009.

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