In the 1940s, development in Philadelphia progressed at a slow pace as over the previous four years the United States of America was engaged in World War II after Japan’s surprise attack on Pear Harbor on December 7, 1941, further slowed down by the Great Depression, which lasted through the 1930s. However, in the preceding decades, many ornate buildings rose into the skyline with fantastic masonry designs. Most of the largest buildings were built around the City Hall in Center City, which created a hub of development when the Second Empire style building was completed in 1901.
City Hall, topped by the William Penn statue, was one of the oldest developments that formed high-rise canyons around the area, primarily along Market Street and Broad Street, which converge at the building. One structure that does not stick out in the skyline, yet still has a massive presence is the so-called “Chinese Wall” that took up several blocks and ran west from City Hall to the Schuylkill River. The elevated rail line split Center City in half as it rose approximately 30 feet above the street.
The largest skyscraper in the visuals is the PSFS Building, which, as you may have noticed, does not yet feature the 301-foot-tall antenna at the top, as it was erected three years later in 1948. At the time, the tower stood 491 feet high, with the PSFS signs illuminated with neon, lighting up the skyline at night. Another building that does not feature its tall antenna is the Architects Building, which had its antenna installed some time in the 1950s. The Girard Trust Building, which was completed in 1931, is prominently visible to the south of City Hall, along with One East Penn Square, which was recently constructed to the east of City Hall.