In the early 1900s, skyscrapers of ever-increasing heights began to rise all over the world, including in Philadelphia. By the late 1920s, the Philadelphia Savings and Fund Society was looking for extra space in the city and was looking to construct a new building for their needs. The PSFS selected architects George Howe and William Edmond Lescaze to design a skyscraper that would stand at 1200 Market Street. Upon its completion in 1932, the PSFS Building not only dominated the skyline with its height of 491 feet and 36 stories, but was also notable as one of the first major International-style skyscrapers in the world.
The PSFS scouted various sites around Center City, and the final choice would replace the William Penn Charter School on Market Street. James M. Wilcox, the president of the savings society, had finalized the architects’ selection by November 1930. The school and the surrounding structures were under demolition by March 1931, with the work finishing just as summer approached. Foundation work then continued for the next few months as two tall basement levels were constructed.
In 1931, steel erection had started at the bottom of the foundation. The superstructure rose above ground by August, and three massive cranes put together the larger first seven floors. One crane was eventually removed for the construction of the typical floors that stands above the large base. The tower was put together incredibly fast and had topped out by December, with the cladding eventually reaching the top later in the same month. The PSFS Building was completed on August 1, 1932. The tower received the addition of an antenna in 1948, which brought its total height to 794 feet.