547 feet: 1871 Philadelphia City Hall

KorbenDallas

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Philadelphia City Hall
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.
  • City Hall is a masonry building whose weight is borne by granite and brick walls up to 22 ft (6.7 m) thick. The principal exterior materials are limestone, granite, and marble. The final construction cost was $24 million.
  • At 548 ft (167 m), including the statue of city founder William Penn atop its tower, City Hall was the tallest habitable building in the world from 1894 to 1908. It remained the tallest in Pennsylvania until it was surpassed in 1932 by the Gulf Tower in Pittsburgh. It was the tallest in Philadelphia until 1986 when the construction of One Liberty Place surpassed it, ending the informal gentlemen's agreement that had limited the height of buildings in the city to no higher than the Penn statue.
  • Philadelphia City Hall - Wikipedia
They got him to the top somehow
Philadelphia City Hall 1.jpg

The below image made me put this up for a discussion. Together with 22 foot sick walls, this 1871-1901 structure is impressively amazing.

KD: I can almost see how it went in 1871, 6 years after the Civil War.
  • Gentlemen, we have 548 leftover horses. Let’s build us a 548 foot tall City Hall.
By the way. Nimrod got smacked for less.

Skyscrapers_of_Philadelphia,_1898_1.jpg

Figured it would be a good building for a freeflow discussion. There appears to be plenty of construction, and all other sorts of photographs pertaining to this structure. Considering that it still exists, we could be facing an interesting investigation.

cityhall-phillyhistory.jpg

Source + Source
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KD: I'm truly wondering what the heck they needed this building for in 1871.
  • City Hall is situated on land that was reserved as a public square upon the city's founding in 1682. Originally known as Centre Square - later renamed Penn Square - it was used for public gatherings until the construction of City Hall began in 1871.
    • That means there should be no buildings it was built on top of.
  • It was "under construction" for 30 years, so there should be hundreds of photographs, right?
I will have a question pertaining to the number of stories below the ground level. Who knows how many are out there? To kick off the intrigue, I will post this photo here. What do we need them underground windows in the brick foundation for? @ISeenItFirst
  • This rare photograph shows the foundation of City Hall, as it's under construction. Railroad cars use to run past the Masonic Temple, which is in the background.
1873
city_hall.jpg

Source

Let's see where this discussion takes us to.
 

aceofarms

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I'm always confused at the underground/above ground phenomenon we keep running into. it seems like some of these Universal Architectural buildings are always around underground(but of way less quality) buildings. So did the previous civilization build again, on top of a another one?
So then we are the third inhabitants of a place? Its real confusing not even sure if I'm asking the right question but.
e.g
how the hell did we 'build' those insane buildings
'but why is there underground brick buildings being dug out at the same time'
did we not build either of those things?

Also for the capital hall, Its an obvious rebuild unless they for some reason just love to maintain the top part of the building a different material and colour.
 
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KorbenDallas

KorbenDallas

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Found this site with tons of construction photos. Though I still do not understand why they are building windows under ground. Is brick a normal choice for the foundation?

There are some cranes in the photographs, but that is about it for equipment. Would be interesting to find out what they used to deliver all them marble, granite and other blocks.

horses.jpg

They give us horses ones again. Wondering whether they were making granite and marble blocks on the spot?

phil_con.jpg
 

jd755

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Red Bird

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How could he work there all that time and not find out where that passageway goes? Women are just naturally nosey. We would've checked that out the first week. LOL.
I though the same thing! Yeah, right.
Also those old record books. Why are they still there just lying about? Are they on microfiche or digitized? Are they decoys? How far back do they go?
 

jd755

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I cannot see any walls 22 feet thick in this photo of the foundations.

From here: Source
large.jpg

Notes: "Looking southward across the newly laid foundations of City Hall, one can see here on the left the freight depot of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Next right is the United States Mint, and facing Broad Street is the Penn Square Presbyterian Church. Across Broad along South Penn Square are residences, one of which seems to have been converted to a taproom."--OPEP, p. 160.
Notes: The construction site. Excavated area with foundation structure beginning; men standing at edge; construction materials and large pile of barrels in excavated area. Railroad cars on tracks behind construction site. More construction behind train with wooden fence surrounding it. Buildings and row homes in background; on one of the row homes: "Lager, wine house."
Bibliography: Reprinted in: Old Philadelphia in early photographs, 1839-1914/edited by Robert F. Looney. New York: Dover Publications, c1976.


Other than the date on the stereograph is there anyone who recognises any of the buildings in the background who knows when they were put up or could go check in person?
 
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KorbenDallas

KorbenDallas

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Interesting that portions of the tunnel walls were made with white stone. For something like that brick was always the preferred choice. At least from what we can see in the other similar tunnels. With white stone it’s more like a roman style.

 

jd755

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Skydog

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Fun fact Friday:

1) "The materials were the finest – marble, granite, bronze, sandstone, glazed Minton tile and cast iron," says Michael Holleman, AIA, director of historic preservation and principal at VITTETA, Philadelphia-based multidisciplinary historic preservation studio. "The quality of the construction was the best possible, there has been relatively little work completed on the building in over 100 years, the materials selected provided fireproof construction, and every office and assembly space had abundant ventilation and light. It was a state-of-the-art building when it was completed. If completed today, these aspects of daylighting, natural ventilation and individual controls for each occupant at Philadelphia City Hall would be considered ‘green design.’ "

2) “Along with the Penn statue, more than 250 sculptures were created by Alexander Milne Calder and his son, Alexander Stirling Calder, for City Hall. Nine of the statues were cast in bronze, while most were started in clay, cast in plaster, and finished in marble. There are nods to naturalism and animals, Swedish settlers, mythological creatures, Native Americans, a group of cats chasing some mice, and four eagles with 15-foot wingspans near the top of the tower.”

3) “Sculptural decor on a building designed today may be something all but archaic. Those sculptors, however, were creating technical feats. They actually had to wait for technology to meet their needs. Technology wasn’t ready to deliver what would supposedly become the world’s largest bronze sculpture.”

4) “The seemingly flying marble staircases at each of the building’s four corners are a thing of breathtaking wonder. Philly-born architect Thomas Ustick Walter, designer of the cast-iron dome atop the Capitol Building, designed these cantilevered stairways too. Each of which was carved using a single slab of Cape Ann granite. Their lack of visible means of support demonstrates the real scientific component of architecture.”
 

Recognition

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I've been in the masonic temple, before, (over 10 years ago) and they only let us view some rooms on a single floor, however you could look down over the edge of a staircase/square opening and see at least 7 or 8 floors below ground. I remember getting really freaked out because each of the rooms we viewed were set up very similarly, and you got the sense of room after room after room stacked on top of each other, filled with masons sitting in identical locations doing identical rituals. I kept thinking 'simulacra!' Also said it multiple times to my friend to bug him,😂 but i was actually very creeped out. That building is huge and goes deep into the earth.

You know, i'll add to this! Perhaps the reason i got so freaked out was that (not knowing about mudflood, etc., i was in love with the beauty of the structure, and probably intuitively sensed its power, but was made almost seasick by the sense that the current uses of this building and these room arrangements and rituals were created to manifest a simulacra of power- a disconnect/dissonance. It felt legit evil in there, wonder what it feels like, across the street in city hall. What an exquisite structure city hall is😍 check out all the mud on the entrance! That is a LOT of mud.
 

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