Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Then and Now: West side of Penn Square, Philadelphia


For the first half of the 20th century, Broad Street veered off of its linear path at City Hall, snaking around the west side of the public buildings on what could otherwise have been called "West Penn Square." A decade after the original photograph was taken, the four buildings facing Broad Street from the left edge of the photo had been demolished to make way for the Commercial Trust Building (aka Arcade Building), a behemoth structure occupying nearly the entire block bounded by 15th St., Broad St., Market St., and South Penn Square.
The Arcade Building in 1962, photo courtesy of HABS

After the demolition of Broad Street Station in 1953, the Planning Commission envisioned an extension of City Hall's plaza from Broad Street to 15th Street. Two and Three Penn Center, the twin office buildings featured prominently in today's view, were built west of 15th Street. The Arcade Building was not demolished until 1969, paving the way for a concrete plaza and subterranean transit concourse completed in 1977, now known as Dilworth Plaza. If the Center City District has its way, the oft-maligned public space may receive a dramatic makeover in the next few years.

Center City Reports: Transforming Dilworth Plaza
[Center City District]

Source: Philadelphia Architects and Buildings
Original photographs:
1. "PDCL00160." 1903. Free Library of Philadelphia - Historical Images of Philadelphia. PhillyHistory.org. Philadelphia Department of Records. 10 May 2010. http://www.phillyhistory.org/PhotoArchive/MediaStream.ashx?mediaId=166729.
2. Boucher, Jack. "PA-1493-1 - General view, from east." 1962. Historic American Buildings Survey. Library of Congress. 10 May 2010. http://memory.loc.gov/pnp/habshaer/pa/pa1000/pa1083/photos/139988pv.jpg.

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