In the mid-1980s, the Philadelphia skyline rose as an even, roughly 500-foot plateau, particularly when viewed from the north and south. Though the skyline spanned a great expanse length-wise, it remained at a low profile, in great part thanks to the “Gentlemen’s Agreement” to not build above the 548-foot-tall pinnacle of the City Hall, which sat just beneath the 37-foot-tall statue of William Penn, the state’s founder. Philly YIMBY presents exclusive massing renderings of the city skyline just as it appeared in 1985, just before One Commerce Square and One Liberty Place both broke ground, starting their challenge to the skyline in the summer.
The visuals provided show clearly that City Hall is the tallest structure in the city, as the William Penn statue stands above a lot of the towers from many views. The only structure that stands higher than City Hall is the antenna of the PSFS Building, standing at 794 feet tall though the height is not included. The Architects Building, now the Kimpton Hotel, used to have an antenna that brought the building to a height of 600 feet. Multiple highrises were built in the last five years as well, with most having floor to ceiling glass and stone.
One of the last towers built in the timeline was the 491-foot PNC Bank Building at 1600 Market Street, which features an all glass exterior that is black. Since the tower was completed in the same year Return of the Jedi released, the building had obtained the nickname “Darth Vader building” from the public as it was also inspired by its dark shiny glass. But just a year after, the 412 foot tall Jefferson Center, first known as One Reading Center, had just completed construction as it was clad with glass and stone as the structure features flat and curved faces as the building steps up to the roof that supports the company logos. But in the same year of the visuals, the 425-foot skyscraper at 1835 Market Street had just completed construction just to the north of 1818 Market Street.
The skyline shown in the visuals is what people of older generations rather prefer as they believe William Penn deserves more respect as he would stand above all of the structures to watch over the city. But, developers in the mid 1980’s rushed to plan their own skyscrapers as the proposal of One Liberty Place erased the Gentleman’s Agreement, as developers and the city though William Penn would rather have the city grow and progress for the future. Though the 500-foot limit is long gone, these visuals provide a great look at how the skyline has previously looked when the height restriction had City Hall at the top of the Philadelphia skyline.